Preparation / Directions:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Butter 8 (4oz.) ramekins. Blend the custard ingredients together thoroughly. Pour into the ramekins and place them in a baking pan. Place the pan in the oven and carefully add hot water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and leave the custards in the water bath to keep warm for up to 20 minutes.
Whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together in a small saucepan and heat gently. Set aside to keep warm. Melt the butter in a skillet and saute the hazelnuts with their seasonings until the nuts are well coated. Chop coarsely.
To serve, turn the custards out of their ramekins onto plates. Spoon warm vinaigrette over each one and sprinkle with warm hazelnuts.
Notes: This is a delightful savory custard that we serve as an appetizer or a "grazing" course. Although it stands on its own, it can be incorporated into a menu as a side dish. In place of the hazelnuts, try walnuts, pecans, or a mixture of nuts.