For my friend Ashley's lightly Asian-themed dinner party last week I decided (surprise, surprise) to make a dessert. Passion fruit crème brûlée immediately came to mind, but after 5 markets (from high-end grocery to Mexican produce marts to the dregs of Thai Town) and still no fresh passion fruit, I grabbed a big knob of ginger and called it a night. Arriving at Ashley's the following evening, she was a hummingbird above a stove top filled with sizzling woks while a rice cooker peufed steam from the full counter nearby. On top of that, she said she had various Japanese jellies she found at her neighborhood Asian market chilling in the fridge. A visual treat as much as palatable, the creamy-sweet grey and dark graphite layered black sesame jelly was the clear exotic winner. In the end, all of our Eastern-inspired dishes and desserts tasted wonderful together, especially paired with Nicolette's delicious Kobai Plum Martinis (one part Kobai plum wine, one part vodka, shaken with ice and strained - floated with an orchid blossom!)
Ginger Crème Brûlée
3 cups whipping cream
2 tablespoons (packed) coarsely grated peeled fresh ginger
10 large egg yolks
1 cup plus 4 teaspoons sugar
Preheat oven to 325°F. Combine cream and ginger in heavy medium saucepan. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat; let stand 20 minutes. Strain cream into small bowl, pressing on ginger solids in sieve. Seperate eggs. Whisk yolks and 1 cup sugar in medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in warm cream. Divide custard among eight 3/4-cup ramekins or custard cups. Place ramekins in large roasting pan. Pour enough warm water into pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins.Bake custards just until set in center when pan is gently shaken, about 45 minutes. Remove custards from water bath; chill uncovered until cold, at least 3 hours. Cover and chill overnight.Sprinkle each custard with 1/2 teaspoon of remaining sugar. If you have a butane kitchen torch, use per manufacturer's instructions. Use a flame-retardant glove or oven mitt to hold the ramekin (or else set on a fire/heat proof surface). Caramelize sugar working tip of the flame from the outside in towards the middle keeping the torch in constant circular motion. Sugar should be golden brown. If burnt, let the sugar layer cool a few minutes than peel it away with a paring knife and begin again. May take a bit of practice, but WARNING: Torch is addictive! Torchless? No matter. Preheat broiler and place custards on baking sheet. Broil until sugar melts and caramelizes, turning sheet for even browning. Serve immediately, or refrigerate custards until topping is cold and brittle, about 1 hour and up to 2 hours. Enjoy!