These small savory flans are a great side dish to serve with grilled meats or fish; alternatively, they can be plated as a delicate first course, surrounded, if you like, by lightly sautéed greens or grilled vegetables.
Heat the cream, milk, Parmigiano Reggiano, and garlic to a boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and let cool for 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 225°F. Lightly butter four 2-ounce stainless-steel timbale molds or oven-proof ramekins.
Gradually whisk the beaten egg and yolk into the cooled cream mixture. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl. Season with the salt and cayenne. Divide the mixture equally among the molds. Put the molds into a shallow baking pan and pour hot water into the pan so that it comes halfway up the outside of the molds. Cover everything tightly with foil, poke a few holes in the foil (to prevent condensation), and bake until the custards are set—about 45 minutes.
Run a small butter knife along the inside edge of each custard to loosen it. To serve, invert each custard onto a serving plate and remove the timbale mold.
DO-AHEAD: The flans can be made 24 hours in advance, then covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated. When ready to serve, set the molds in a baking pan, fill the pan with warm water halfway up the sides of the molds, and bake in an oven preheated to 300°F to just warm the flans, 12 to 15 minutes.
By Chef Terrance Brennan
Photography by Bill Milne