I would be a lot skinnier if not for cheese. Yes, I like my sweets, and I love my baking, but when it comes to temptation, cheese is what tears down all of my defenses. Especially gooey, melted cheese combined with a creamy cheesy custard.
This week, the Doristas made a cheesy crème brûlèe.
That’s really all you need to know, isn’t it? Those three little words. What else needs to be said?
Wait, you want more? You want to know more about this delicious, creamy concoction of culinary wonder? Right now? When I’m trying to eat a leftover cheesy crème brûlèe for breakfast?
Alright, fine. But only because it would be cruel not to share this little marvel with you.
What is a crème brûlèe? It means “burnt cream,” which is a decent approximation of what it is: cream and eggs (and some sort of flavor base, such as vanilla), baked until set, and then given a layer of sugar, which is then broiled until caramelized, looked ever-so-slightly burnt. Like so many shockingly delicious things, it’s deceptively simple.
Dorie does everyone a remarkable service and brings this delectable dish out of the realm of dessert and into the main meal. She suggests it as a starter dish. I’m not sure how much I agree with that, because anything that comes after this had better be damned terrific or it will never match up. I made a crab-asparagus salad to go with our cheesy crème brûlèes, and it was just disappointing. Maybe it was a bad salad, or maybe the cheesy crème brûlèe just blew it out of the water in terms of flavor and texture and cohesiveness and otherwise downright awesomeness. Had I not been concerned with losing weight, I’d have happily scarfed down another crème brûlèe. I would not have eaten more salad.
Although the cheesy crème brûlèe is easy to make, it does take a bit of time. Not a lot. Just a little. Fortunately, it requires little real effort and a limited amount of ingredients.
Not for the faint of heart. But as a dairy fiend, this was like a dream come true for me.
The cream and milk are poured into a small saucepan and heated up a little on the stove. In the meantime, the eggs are separated (we only use the best parts for crème brûlèe, the yolks) and whisked with a little salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Once the milk-cream has started to simmer, it’s added ever-so-slowly to the egg yolks, whisking all the time to make sure the yolks don’t cook any. This is the only tedious part of this recipe, and even so, tempering eggs isn’t that tedious, especially when you know the results are totally worth it.
With the egg custard ready to go, it is time to assemble the ramekins. A little cheese (a combination of Irish cheddar and Parmigiano-Reggiano, in my case) goes into the buttered ramekins. This is then topped with the egg custard, and that’s it as far as assembly goes.
Mine took a little over an hour to cook – I don’t think they were as shallow as they should have been, and that added a little to the cooking time. They should have been able to cool completely to allow the custard to set properly, but we could only wait so long. I threw together the crab-asparagus salad, which gave the crème brûlèes enough time to cool enough to handle easily.
Ah, but we’re not quite finished yet. What’s a crème brûlèe without a burnt top? Obviously, sugar’s not going to work here – but more cheese will! Yes, another half-ounce of cheese is grated over the ramekin, and under the broiler they go. And when they come out?
Heaven in a ramekin, obviously.
If you hadn’t already guessed, I loved this. Loved it. Geordie enjoyed it too, but I don’t think he loved it the way I did. I could happily eat this once a week. The crunchiness of the cheese topping, the creaminess of the custard hiding beneath that beautiful cheese crust, the way the whole thing just melts in your mouth. It’s nothing short of amazing. I immediately wanted to try it with other cheeses, just to play with flavors and sensations.
I’m a proponent of saving the best for last, and there is no way I could enjoy a meal if this was the first course. I’d serve this in place of dessert, a final exclamation point to a light but flavorful meal. It’s rich and decadent, but it’s not heavy. The custard doesn’t weigh you down. It’s too silky and melty for that. And this was the perfect size. I loved it, but I couldn’t eat any more that that small serving. It’s enough.
It’s grand. It’s possibly my favorite French Friday dish at this point in time.
This was a dish well-received by the Doristas (how could it not be?), and you can check out their beautiful cheesy brûlèes at the French Friday blog. Happy cooking!