Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Scarborough Fair Crème Brûlée

It was April, 2011. My boyfriend and I had just bought ice cream and were taking a walk around town. The trees in New Haven were bursting with pink blossoms. While I thought to myself "could life get any better?" my boyfriend trudged next to me, despondently. I couldn't figure out what was eating him until I realized that it was Easter. Although he was never religious, it was his first Easter where he didn't go home and celebrate with his family.

We got back to the apartment around 2pm, and I made an excuse that I needed something from the pharmacy. From there I frantically drove to four different grocery stores, desperately trying to find one that was open. Finally I discovered a budget grocery store that wasn't closing for another 20 minutes. My time and my options were limited, but I found 10+ pound ham, potatoes, mostly edible green beans, a massive bag of shredded cheese, etc. Three hours later a passable Easter dinner was on the table and our friends gathered round.

The boyfriend didn't last, but the tradition of making Easter dinner for my friends did.

I've since added giving my friends small Easter baskets like this:

(Almost) completely edible flower pots!
And the meals have become more elaborate, consisting of multiple courses and wine pairings.
Food Porn
But I'm wandering away from the point. The point is, I made an awesome crème brûlée this year. It was inspired by a cocktail that my super-talented friend Ed created. (For those of you that live in New Haven, Ed bartends at Heirloom. Do yourself a favor and order a drink from him. You won't regret it.)

Scarborough Fair Crème Brûlée

yield: 8 servings

     1 tsp. chopped rosemary
     1 tsp. thyme leaves
     1-2 tsp. chopped sage
     1 tbsp. chopped parsley leaves
     2 large lemons
     3 cups heavy cream
     Pinch of salt
     10 tbsp. turbadino sugar (like Sugar in the Raw)
     6 large egg yolks
     1/2-1 tsp. vanilla

     8 (4-oz) flameproof ramekins
     Blowtorch (preferable)
     Fine-mesh strainer

1) Preparation.

     a) Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.
     b) Grate the skin of each lemon using a zester and reserve.
     c) Juice your lemons and reserve juice.
     d) Chop your herbs.
2) Make the custard.

     a) In a heavy 2 or 3 quart saucepan, stir together cream, lemon zest, and herbs. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring.
     b) Once cream is warm, add in 7 tbsp. sugar and a pinch of salt. Keep stirring.

     c) Heat and stir until the cream is almost boiling. It will be 180 degrees F. Remove from heat, cover, and steep 10 min.
     d) After cream has steeped, strain the cream into a large bowl and throw away the herbs.
     e) Lightly beat egg yolks in a separate bowl.
     f) Add a tablespoon of the warm cream to the yolks and mix. Repeat two or three more times to temper the eggs.
     g) Add the beaten yolk and cream mixture to the strained cream and whisk.
     h) Add in 1 tsp. lemon juice and vanilla. Whisk some more.

3) Cook the custard.

     a) Divide the custard among the 8 ramekins.
     b) Place the 8 ramekins in a deep cake pan or roasting pan. They should not touch.
     c) Boil some water and pour it in the pan about halfway up the ramekins. Be careful not to get water in the ramekins.
     d) Bake until the custards are set around the edges and only wobble a little in the center when the pan is shaken, 30-40 min.
     e) Let the whole pan (water and everything) cool for 20 minutes or so.
     f) Remove ramekins and chill (uncovered) in the refrigerator 4 hours or overnight.

4) Fire it up!

     a) Place ramekins on a flame-retardant surface.
     b) Evenly sprinkle 1 tsp. sugar over each custard.

     c) Carefully move a blowtorch set at a medium-low flame across each ramekin, slowly and evenly, until all the sugar is caramelized. If you don't have a blowtorch, you can put the ramekins on a pan and stick them under the broiler in your oven, watching them carefully to keep from burning. If you don't have an oven, a basic torch lighter (like what you use to light a grill) will work too, although much more slowly and much less evenly.

     d) Allow custards to sit for 3-5 minutes to harden the candy shell.
     e) Garnish with an herb sprig.

Too much company wore this puppy out!

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