Recipe Sleuth: CityZen’s Olive-Oil Custard with Espelette-Butter Sauce

CityZen, the modern dining room in Southwest DC’s Mandarin Oriental hotel, is home to award-winning chef Eric Ziebold, who spent eight years shaking saucepans at the revered French Laundry in California. Like his mentor Thomas Keller, Ziebold is known for his exacting style and perfectionism. Every month, the menu is completely overhauled, and even popular dishes are rarely reprised. But this olive-oil custard, served as an amuse bouche, has withstood the changes.

The custard—a mixture of milk, heavy cream, eggs, and extra-virgin olive oil—is simple enough to make at home. Just be sure to keep an eye on it while it’s in the oven. The custard’s baking time will vary depending on its own temperature and the temperature of the water bath. How can you tell it’s done? Insert a thin knife blade near the center of the custard dish. If it comes out clean, it’s ready to serve.

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CityZen’s Olive-Oil Custard with Espelette-Butter Sauce

Makes 12 servings.

Make the custard:

1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 eggs
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

In a medium pot set over high heat, bring the milk and cream to a boil. Remove from the heat. In a medium bowl, slowly whisk the milk/cream into the eggs. Pour the mixture into a blender. Add the olive oil. Blend until it reaches an even consistency, about 30 seconds. Pour about 1½ ounces of the custard into each of 12 ungreased custard dishes. Place the custard dishes in a large poaching pan. Add hot water to the poaching pan until it covers the sides of the custard dishes. Wrap the poaching pan and custard dishes in plastic wrap until completely covered. Bake until the custards are set, about 25 minutes. Insert a knife into the custard—if it comes out clean the custard is ready. Let cool slightly.

Make the sauce:

3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon white wine
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1 teaspoon espelette powder
14 tablespoons (1¾ sticks) of butter
Salt to taste
Lemon juice to taste
Snipped chives, for garnish if desired

Put the wine, shallots, and espelette powder into a small sauce pot and gently reduce until the wine has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in the butter, and if desired, adjust the seasoning with salt and lemon juice. To serve, drizzle the espelette-butter sauce over the top of each custard. If desired, add snipped chives for garnish.

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