One of the simplest recipes from "Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking" offers a savory take on a dessert classic. Instead of caramelized sugar on top, a ground mixture of dehydrated onions and brown sugar does the trick.
You will need a digital instant-read thermometer.
Make Ahead: The brulees taste best on the same day they are made, but they can be baked a day in advance and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature, then finish with the topping just before they are served.
- 1 cup heavy cream (may substitute 1/2 cup heavy cream plus 1/2 cup whole milk)
- 3 ounces (or 80 grams, precisely) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 3 large egg yolks
- Pinch salt
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar (may substitute 40 grams or about 2 tablespoons of muscat grape syrup)
- 1 tablespoon dehydrated onion
- Pinch fleur de sel (french sea salt)
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Boil a kettle of water. Place four 6-ounce ramekins in a roasting pan whose sides are at least 2 inches high.
Heat the heavy cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Just as it starts to bubble at the edges, stir in the cheese; cook for 2 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly, until the cheese has melted and the mixture is smooth. Reduce the heat as needed so the mixture does not come to a boil.
If you'd like to produce ultra-smooth brulees, push the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a large (4-cup) measuring cup.
Whisk the egg yolks and salt in a small measuring cup. Whisk in a small amount of the hot cream mixture to temper the egg yolks, then pour all of that into the large measuring cup, stirring to combine.
Divide the mixture among the ramekins. Pour enough of the just-boiled water into the roasting pan so that the water comes three-quarters of the way up the sides of the ramekins (forming a bain marie, or water bath). Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and bake for about 35 minutes or until the custards are just set, with a slight jiggle at the center. The internal temperature of the custards should register 171 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
Discard the plastic wrap; use tongs or a wide spatula to transfer the ramekins to a heatproof surface to cool. Discard the water.
Combine the brown sugar and dehydrated onion in a designated spice grinder; pulse to form a smooth powder. Distribute evenly over the surface of the cooked custards, then sprinkle each one with a little fleur de sel.
Use a culinary torch to caramelize the tops until just browned. Alternatively, position the top oven rack 4 to 6 inches from the broiler element; preheat the broiler. Place the ramekins of cooked custard (with the powdered mixture sprinkled on top) on a baking sheet. Broil for 30 seconds to 1 minute or until just browned. Watch closely, as the mixture blackens easily.
Adapted from "Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking," by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young and Maxime Bilet (The Cooking Lab, 2011) by Gastronomer columnist Andreas Viestad.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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