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Tra Vigne Budine di Pecora con Asparagi

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 cup grated pecorino cheese, plus a little extra for garnish
  • 1 cup white bread crumbs from a baguette or Italian bread, crusts removed
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • 3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 18 spears small to medium asparagus, tough ends trimmed and stalks peeled
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse sea salt, to taste
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons chopped gaeta or kalamata olives

Instructions

  1. For Budino: Heat milk and cream just to simmering point. Add pecorino cheese and stir over low flame for 4 minutes. Remove and strain through a fine metal sieve. Discard the cheese solids and save the strained cream liquid. Add the bread crumbs to the warm cream liquid; set aside to allow the crumbs to soften in the cream for 30 minutes.
  2. Heat oven to 300 degrees F.
  3. Pour the cream mixture, salt and pepper into the egg yolks and gently whisk until thoroughly incorporated. Pour mixture into 6 well greased ramekins or small custard molds; set ramekins into a water bath and bake in oven for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted into centers comes out clean.
  4. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes. (The resting is not imperative, but helps in unmolding the Budine.)
  5. Blanch the asparagus briefly in boiling water. Drain asparagus; place in a bowl; toss with 3 tablespoons olive oil and coarse salt to taste.
  6. Grill over hot coals for 2 minutes to just singe the asparagus on one side. Place 3 spears on each of 6 warmed plates.
  7. Run a wooden pick pick or thin knife around outside edges of each ramekin to loosen custard; unmold each on a plate beside asparagus.
  8. Garnish with a little more extra-virgin olive oil, chopped olives, a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of grated pecorino cheese.

Yield: 6 servings