Lavender Crème Brûlée
"So, where's your favorite place to eat in Provincetown?" is a frequently asked question. People stop me on the street to ask, friends coming for vacation ask, people writing food and travel stories ask, locals ask. Of course, the answer depends on your budget and on whether you are looking for "from the beach" casual or "grown-up" dining (read: leave the kids with a sitter).
If you are looking for divine food in a magical yet totally relaxed setting, if you want to feel completely welcome by restauranteurs who understand what world-class dining is all about, then look no further than the white-columned Greek Revival building that houses Chester Restaurant, where John Guerra and Jay Coburn have created the place to eat in town.
It was hard to choose which special recipe to include from the dozens that appear each season on the ever-evolving menu at Chester. This very special crème brûlée with its lavender-perfumed custard and burnt sugar toppic will transport you to the south of France, while keeping Cape Code Bay practically within view.
For the custard
2 cups (1 pint) heavy cream
2 tablespoons dried lavender, or 1/4 cup fresh lavender leaves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
8 large egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
Food for topping
1/2 cup granulated sugar
To make the custard: Add the cream, lavender, vanilla, and salt to a heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan set over moderate heat. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon or whisk. When the mixture begins to simmer (tiny bubbles will form around the edge of the pan), remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture sit at room temperatur for at least 1 hour to allow the flavor of the lavender to steep into the cream. Or, to extract the maximum flavor, cool the mixture to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, with the rack in the center position. Reheat the infused cream to a bare simmer, stirring once or twice. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until light yellow and slightly thickened. Pour in the hot cream, whisking to mix completely. Strain the custard through a fine sieve into a large measuring cup or spouted pitcher, and skim off any bubbles.
Fill six 8-ox. ramekins or brûlée dishes almost to the top with the custard, and place them in a shallow roasting pan or heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet, so that the edges are not touching. Add hot water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the pan loosely with foil and bake for 35 to 45 minutes (depending on the density of the ramekin or dish), or until the custards are set up and the tip of a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Transfer the ramekins to a wire rack to cool to room temperature, than refrigerate, uncovered, to cool completely.
To make the topping: At least 30 minutes before serving, sprinkle the top of each custard with a generous amount of sugar. Using a kitchen blowtorch (available from a hardware or kitchenware store), melt the sugar by moving the flame slowly back and forth over the surface until the sugar bubbles and has liquefied. Return the brûlées to the refrigerator to allow the topping to harden (about 15 minutes).
The Cape Cod Table
by Lora Brody
Photographs by Susie Cushner
240 pp; 45 color photographs
Recipe reprinted by permission.
The Cape Cod Table
This page created October 2003