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Daniel Boulud’s Crab-and-Corn Custard and Corn Salad with Yellow-Tomato Vinaigrette

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Chef Daniel Boulud
Here’s to the ladies who lunch!  Between sips of Rosé, they eat delicately practicing both self and portion control.  Take this wonderful take on a late summer riff on farm-stand flavors: Sweet corn, ripe tomatoes and fresh basil are combined with fresh crab meat in a custard with just a hint of heat. To complement the richness of the custard, these same ingredients make their way into a salad. Here the corn, tomatoes and basil make a refreshing contrast.  Served side by side, they make a great entrée at brunch or lunch for our ladies. But don’t rule out serving this dish as an appetizer at dinner. The recipes are the work of the great Daniel Boulud who knows a lot about the ladies and everyone else who lunches for that matter.
         The great Lyonais chef who trained in France but made his reputation in New York, has restaurants here at every price point.  From his stand-up Epicerie across from Lincoln Center to DBGB on the Bowery to his two Michelin Star Daniel on the East Side, the chef hits every price point with his inventive menus and great food.  But you can no longer keep a great chef around a single stove.  So Boulud has restaurants in Las Vegas, Palm Beach, Miami, Montreal, Toronto, London, Singapore and Boston.  Somehow Boulud also finds time to contribute monthly to Elle Décor magazine.  His Daniel’s Dish is must-reading for me and that’s where I found the recipe.
         At first glance, it looks slightly daunting.  Perhaps its pedigree would lead you to believe it is complicated.  In reality, it’s actually quite easy to make and the reward is well worth the effort.  You cook a quantity of fresh corn for both custard and salad.  That’s likely the most labor-intensive part of the dish. If you use my method for shucking corn, even that is easy.  You make the custard in a blender. You wilt Romaine lettuce and basil, stack layers of ingredients in a 7 oz. soufflé dish, cover them with custard then bake for a good 45 minutes.  The salad is made while the custard cooks.  The yellow-tomato vinaigrette is a delicate dressing that looks as pretty as it tastes.   Adding to the appeal of this dish is that you can serve the custard warm or at room temperature so you can make this dish far in advance of your guests arrival if you wish.  One note:  I could not find the harissa called for in the original recipe. A quick check revealed that Sriracha sauce was a good substitute.  And a note about substitutes stated you could also use hot sauce.  Whatever you do, do not leave this out.  It adds inestimably to the flavor of the custard.  Here is the recipe:
Daniel Boulud’s Crab-and-Corn Custard and Corn Salad with Yellow-Tomato Vinaigrette.  Makes 6 servings using 7-oz. Soufflé cups.

For the custard:
2 T butter
3 cups fresh sweet yellow corn kernels, from about 6 ears
1½ cups heavy cream
1 T harissa
2 tsp. salt
4 whole eggs
Greenest outer leaves of 3 heads romaine, roughly chopped
½ bunch fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
6 oz. fresh, good-quality lump crabmeat
6 oz. heirloom grape tomatoes, halved
For the Salad:
8 oz. yellow tomatoes, quartered
1 tsp. sugar
2 T white balsamic vinegar
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
1½ cups fresh sweet yellow corn kernels, from about 3 ears
12 oz. heirloom grape tomatoes, halved
1 small shallot, finely minced
1 jalapeño, quartered, seeded, and finely minced
½ bunch fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
Hearts of 3 heads romaine
First, prepare the custard:
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
2. To easily shuck corn, place three ears of corn in a microwave oven for 4 minutes. The corn silk will easily separate from the corn and you’re left with a perfectly silk-less ear of corn.  To cut the kernels from the corn, take a bundt pan and position the end of the corn in the bundt pan’s center.  Cut the corn from the cob and it should all fall into the sides of the bundt pan. 
3. In a medium sauté pan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and add the corn; cook until the kernels are soft and colored bright yellow, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove half of the corn and set it aside.
4.  In a blender, combine the rest of the corn, the cream, the harissa or sriracha, and the salt; puree until smooth. With the blender running on low, add the eggs one at a time. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a pitcher or large measuring container and set it aside.
5. Wipe the pan clean and melt the remaining butter over medium heat. Add the romaine and the chopped basil; cook until just wilted, less than a minute. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels.
6. Place 6 small ramekins or soufflé cups into a casserole dish. Divide the greens evenly between the ramekins and spread to create a layer on the bottom.  (Note: I made this for two hence on two ramekins)
7. Layer with the crabmeat, followed by a layer of cooked corn kernels. Pour the custard mixture evenly into each ramekin and top with a layer of the halved tomatoes, cut sides up. Fill the casserole dish with hot water up to 1 inch from the top. Place in the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the tops are firm. While the custard is baking, make the salad.
Prepare the salad
1. Toss the yellow tomatoes with 1 teaspoon salt, the sugar, and the white balsamic vinegar. Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate in a warm place for about 20 minutes. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Pass through a fine-mesh sieve and refrigerate. This can be done several days in advance.
2. In a medium sauté pan, heat the olive oil and add the corn. Cook for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until the kernels are soft, then let cool in a large bowl. Add the grape tomatoes, shallot, jalapeño, and basil, and season with salt. Toss in 2 tablespoons of the yellow-tomato vinaigrette and chill.
3. To serve, cut the lettuce hearts in half and trim and discard the cores if you like. (See the comments section where a reader familiar with the recipe has said that they core is the best part of the lettuce). Spoon 1 tablespoon of vinaigrette over each half and top with the tomato-and-corn mixture.
4. Serve the crab-and-corn custard warm or at room temperature alongside the chilled salad.

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