When CHOW editors first tasted this dish at Claudine restaurant in San Francisco, we loved the combination of creamy custard served alongside a crisp salad dressed with a mustardy vinaigrette. It looks complicated, but the recipe is fairly simple: Blanched peas are blended with cream, eggs, milk, and a touch of Parmesan, then baked in a water bath until just set. Asparagus is shaved, tossed with dressing, and set atop a bed of dressed butter lettuce. Serve the custard warm or chilled alongside the salad for an elegant first course full of spring flavors.
Game plan: The pea custard can be made and chilled up to 1 day ahead.
For the custard:
Cooking spray or vegetable oil, for coating the ramekins
1 cup fresh or frozen peas (about 4 1/2 ounces)
3 large eggs
3/4 cupheavy cream
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 ounce)
3/4 teaspoonkosher salt, plus more as needed
For the salad:
2 tablespoonschampagne vinegar
2 tablespoonswhole-grain mustard
1 large egg yolk
1/3 cupvegetable oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound thick asparagus, ends trimmed
1 headbutter lettuce (about 8 ounces), washed, dried, and torn into large pieces
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
For the custard:
Heat the oven to 325°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Bring 8 cups of the water to a simmer in a large saucepan over high heat; keep at a simmer. Spray 6 (6-ounce) ramekins with cooking spray or coat them with vegetable oil. Arrange them 1/2 inch apart in a large roasting pan; set aside.
Bring the remaining 1 cup of water to a boil over medium-high heat in a small saucepan. Season with salt, add the peas, and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the peas are tender, about 5 minutes.
Drain the peas and place in a blender. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth, about 20 seconds. Place a fine-mesh strainer over a large measuring cup or a bowl with a spout. Pour in the custard, gently pushing on it with a rubber spatula to work it through the strainer. Remove the strainer and discard the solids. Evenly divide the custard among the ramekins. Tap each ramekin a few times to break any bubbles that appear on the surface.
Being careful not to get water inside the ramekins, add enough of the simmering water to the roasting pan so that it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Carefully transfer the pan to the oven and bake until the outer 1 inch of each custard is set (the centers will still be slightly jiggly), about 30 to 40 minutes.
Using tongs, carefully transfer each ramekin to a wire rack and let cool at least 20 minutes before serving. If serving the custard chilled, let cool to room temperature, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
For the salad:
When ready to serve, place the vinegar, mustard, and egg yolk in a clean blender and blend until smooth. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil and continue blending until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed; set aside.
Using a vegetable peeler, slice the asparagus lengthwise into thin strips and place in a medium bowl. (If you have trouble peeling the final portion of an asparagus spear, lay it on the flat wooden handle of a spatula or spoon. This will raise it just high enough to allow the peeler to move freely.) Add 2 tablespoons of the dressing to the asparagus and toss to combine; set aside.
Place the lettuce, chives, and parsley in a large bowl and toss to combine. Add 1/4 cup of the dressing and toss to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
To serve, run a thin knife around the perimeter of the ramekins. Invert each ramekin onto a plate. Divide the lettuce mixture among the plates next to the custard. Divide the asparagus over the lettuce. Serve, passing the remaining dressing on the side.