Hidden at the bottom of each ramekin of this creamy custard from star chef Ludo Lefebvre is a caramelized sautéed shallot; it adds delicate sweetness to the dish. Slideshow: Vegetarian Appetizers
Preheat the oven to 275°. Using a sharp paring knife, very thinly slice the shallots lengthwise, leaving the slices attached at the root ends. Using your palm, gently flatten the shallots, fanning out the slices.
In a medium skillet, melt the butter. Add the shallots and season with salt and white pepper. Sprinkle the sugar and a pinch of nutmeg on top and cook over moderate heat, turning once, until nicely browned and very soft, about 15 minutes; let cool slightly.
Fan out the shallots in the center of four 10-ounce ramekins. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with the cream, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper and a pinch of nutmeg and pour into the ramekins. Cover the ramekins with plastic wrap and set in a glass or ceramic baking dish.
Pour enough hot water into the baking dish to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Transfer the baking dish to the middle of the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the custards comes out clean, 40 minutes. Remove the baking dish from the oven and let the custards stand in the water for 5 minutes, then carefully remove the ramekins from the water bath and let cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.