Makes 8 custards

A hot, puffy custard combined with fresh corn is one of life's many pleasures. These light custards can be a special appetizer or side dish. My husband loves them with meatloaf. My mother-in-law loved them for Thanksgiving. You choose!

-- Nathalie Dupree

Ingredients

6 to 9 ears of fresh corn

3 large eggs

1/3 cup milk

1 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Thyme, marjoram, or fennel leaves, finely chopped (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil or butter 8 (4-ounce) ramekins and set aside.

To scrape and "milk" corn, hold a shucked ear of corn on its end in the center of a low Bundt pan, a shallow bowl or pie dish. Using a sawing motion, slice the tips of the corn kernels from the cob with a sharp knife, turning as needed. Slice down a second time to remove all the corn and its milk. Use the blunt side of a knife to press and scrape down against the cob, turning as needed, to remove the remaining corn and "milk" next to the cob. Repeat with each ear of corn.

Whisk the eggs, milk, cream, butter, sugar and salt lightly just until well mixed. Season to taste with pepper. Stir in the corn and its "milk." Ladle into the prepared ramekins, distributing corn and batter evenly. Leave a 3/4-inch space at the top of each so the custard can rise; do not overfill. (If any liquid is left over, make more small custards, or one larger one.)

Add a clean tea towel to the bottom of a large shallow baking pan. Move the filled ramekins to the tea towels and pour boiling hot water into the pan until the water reaches halfway up the side of the ramekins. Carefully move the water bath with the ramekins to the preheated oven. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the custards are set and lightly brown and a toothpick inserted through the center comes out clean.

Remove the custards from the roasting pan and serve immediately, garnished with the herbs if desired.

Variations:

If corn is out of season, use a 1-pound bag of frozen white corn instead.

Separate eggs, whisking egg whites until stiff and folding in before adding corn.

Whip the cream and fold in after adding corn.