This recipe is from the Portland Farmers Market Cookbook, on sale now!
Fresh nettles, aka stinging nettles, are covered in tiny needles. If you accidentally brush against the plant’s pale-green stem or saw-toothed leaves, you won’t soon forget the sensation! Use care—and wear gloves—to avoid touching them with your bare skin.
Surprisingly, they are a fantastic addition many meals, including desserts like this recipe by Cathy Whims, Chef/Owner of Nostrana, Oven & Shaker and Hamlet. To eat them, nettles must be cooked so they lose their sting; blanching— immersing vegetables briefly in boiling water and then plunging them in ice water to stop the cooking process—is the easiest way to do that.
Makes 8 six-ounce flans
- 8 oz nettle tops (about 8 cups packed)
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 4 eggs
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup high quality extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
- Fleur de sel, for garnish
- Chervil, sage, or chive blossoms, for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.
- Cook the nettles according to the instructions below, then coarsely chop them; you should have about 2/3 cup. Set them aside. Butter 8 small (6-oz) ramekins, place them in a roasting pan or deep baking dish, and set them aside.
- In a blender or the bowl of a food processor, add the nettles, along with the cream, eggs, and salt. Blend until the mixture is smooth, then add the oil in a thin, steady stream with the blender running. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if necessary. Divide the mixture among the prepared ramekins, add warm water to the pan to reach halfway up the ramekins’ sides, and bake until just set, about 1 hour.
- Remove the pan from the oven and let the dishes sit in the water bath for about 10 minutes. When they are cool enough to handle, run a small, thin-bladed paring knife around the insides of the ramekins and invert each onto its own plate. To serve, drizzle olive oil around each flan, sprinkle it with fleur de sel, and garnish with herb blossoms.
How to blanch nettles
Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with cold water and several handfuls of ice. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil over high heat. Using tongs or gloves, add the nettles to the water for 2 minutes for delicate tops and leaves, or up to 3 minutes for larger, more mature leaves. Drain immediately and plunge them into the ice bath. When the nettles are cool, squeeze them dry using a tea towel to remove as much moisture as possible. Now they’re ready to use in your recipe.