Savory carrot flan with carrot-top walnut pesto and feta. © Ryan Schierling
We've finally gotten with the CSA program, and our bi-weekly delivery of the Austin-area's finest farm veg is a welcome challenge to eat more locally-grown produce, and who doesn't like getting a super-secret-surprise box delivered to their doorstep every once in while?
Grocery stores offer every fruit and vegetable you can think of – even if it's not in season – when you think you want it... which is always right now. With our CSA box, we're delighted (forced) to use what's currently ready to be harvested, and sometimes it's very nice to be filled with wonder (dread) at how we're going to use our very-perishable bounty. Kidding, kidding. The quantities are small enough that we haven't had too many issues with things getting lost in the crisper (rotter).
There were some beautiful little carrots in our last delivery, with the most delicate, lacy, bright-green tops I've seen in a while. The easy way out is salad. Boring, big ol' salad. A better option (fate) would be Julie's crowd-pleasing carrots on the side, and this would have been entirely appropriate but I wanted something a little different and a little fancier than the last recipe I offered up, which was Krab enchiladas. Oh, I may occasionally put Slim Jims and gas-station cheese inside a jalapeño and deep fry it, but I know what the hell a bain Marie is. This is penance, perhaps redemption, and I'm using the carrots nose-to-tail. Errr, root to leaf.
It's a simple, savory custard, full of right-out-of-the-earth carrots, topped with a pleasantly-grassy (and very complimentary) carrot-top and walnut pesto and some sheep's-milk feta. First course, last course, it doesn't matter.
13-ounces fresh carrots with tops removed (about 2 1/2 cups chopped carrots)
4 cloves roasted garlic
4 medium eggs, separated
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 good pinches kosher salt
Roast 6 cloves of garlic with a little bit of olive oil, wrapped in foil, in a 325-degree oven until fragrant and soft. Peel and roughly chop the carrots. In a medium saucepan, add a few inches of salted water and bring to a boil. Boil/steam carrots until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and purée in a food processor with 4 cloves of roasted garlic (set aside the other two cloves for the pesto) until very smooth. Let cool.
Separate four eggs. When the carrot and garlic purée is cool, add the egg yolks, cream, salt and mix well. Using a whisk, whip the egg whites in a mixing bowl until soft peaks form (read as: your arm hurts). Fold the egg whites into the mixture and let settle until there are no large air bubbles on the surface.
Your oven is already at 325-degrees. Leave it. Butter four 3/4-cup ramekins and find a casserole dish large enough to hold all four and deep enough to allow water to come halfway up the side of the ramekins. Your ramekins will not be as full as the flan in the photo, but I made main-course dinner for two, with gigantic ramekins... so be it.
Pour the carrot mixture into the buttered ramekins and place them into your casserole dish. Add hot water to the casserole until it's halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the whole thing with foil and place in the oven. Bake until the custard is set on the outside and just a little jiggly in the middle, about 1 hour. I took the foil off at 45 minutes and used a toothpick to test the center. Another 15 minutes uncovered and the toothpick came out clean. Smaller ramekins might cook a little faster, so check at 30 minutes to start.
Remove from oven, carefully remove from water bath and let cool.
Carrot top and walnut pesto
2 cloves roasted garlic
1 cup carrot tops (from about 1 bunch carrots), rinsed well
1 small handful toasted walnuts
3-4 tablespoons olive oil, probably a little more
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 hefty pinch kosher salt
In a food processor, purée roasted garlic, carrot tops, walnuts, red pepper and salt. Add olive oil in a thin stream until you've got a nice pesto consistency. Adjust for salt until you've got a well-rounded flavor.
Serve carrot flan in ramekins, topped with a spoonful of pesto and a crumble of fresh feta cheese. Toasted sourdough is a nice accompaniment, toasted sourdough crusts are even better (they dip and scoop nicely).
*Don't carrot all pun inspired by/lifted from artist Frida Clements. Check out her wonderful, whimsical work.