As a child I just didn’t like custard, or any thing like, flan, or tapioca, etc. Then, one day, My Mother Louise and I were invited, by her long time friend Douglas Madsen, my nick name for Douglas (fittingly) was “God Mother”, and he was a trip and a half, funny, and flamboyant!  After this first dining experience with he, and my Mom, it became a tradition, of sorts, for us all to go to Ventana in Big Sur for “Mothers Day Dinner”, this lasted a long time, many, many, years, and whether Douglas new it, or not, he was about to turn me on to one of the best desserts I have ever had, to this day, Cremé Bruleé. He ordered it for me, against my better judgement, and I politely bit my lip, thinking only of what I was going to do with it once it arrived, maybe the waiter was a mind reader, I thought, and will bring me what I wanted, which was Chocolate Mousse! Not likely since even then, the service at Ventana was all about impeccable!
Mind you, this was way back in the day, when there was still a Ventana General Store, up on the side of the road on Hwy 1, that used to show Movie’s, on a reel to reel, every Sunday. We would find someone old enough to drive, and all of us Esalen, and South Coast kids, would get a ride to go to the “Movie’s” in the “Valley”as we referred to it, and it was almost, as big a deal as when, my Mom’s friend Lolly Fassett the owner and founder of Nepenthe’s, would let us go on the “Town Run” on Friday’s, when she would drop us at the State MovieTheater, while she did her shopping for the restaurant and her home.
 Ahh….. the life of a Big Sur kid….pretty much let the wind blow you, where it would go. I recently received a present in the mail, which reminded me of some of these old stories, My very sweet Brother Bill sent me a copy of “My Nepenthe” Bohemian Tales Of Food, Family, and Big Sur. by Romney Steele, (Lollys Grandaughter)  known to us as Nani, and at one point, was even my sister in law, but that’s a whole other recipe/story, as she actually catered my wedding as a present, and everything was wonderful, of course!!! Nani was always so sweet, and nice, to me, and, well….just “raised right” as they say here in the south. I’m thrilled to have the book, and had to pry it out of my paws to get back to work, blogging.
It may not pay well, blogging, (like at all), but it sure does remind me of so many good times, and it keeps me in the kitchen where I am at my most comfortable, competent, and at home. Creating things that taste good for the people I love. Anyways, I digress.
So meanwhile back at Ventana (which was alot smaller at the time) dessert has been delivered….and it’s not Chocolate Mousse, and with all eyes on me, I’m just breaking the hard caramelized sugar shell, on top of this strange new dessert, and as I tap it open, the scent of sweet vanilla, and  heavenly cream, and pure, unadulterated, olfactory love, came wafting up and tickled my nose, I felt like I was opening a really good christmas present. And indeed I was, it’s my favorite to this day, and I always save it for special occasions, in order to recall all those wonderful dinners, with the ones I loved.
So this is for all of you….and the beautiful memories, and the ones we all have yet to make!!!!
And so it goes……
On a very low heat, bring 2 cups of heavy whipping cream, almost to a simmer. When I say almost, that’s what I mean, this should never boil.
In a medium bowl mix 9 lg egg yolks
1/2 cup finely ground granulated sugar
until blended, and be sure to do this right next to the heating cream, so you can stir it, and make sure it’s not boiling.
When the cream is up to almost simmer, turn off and start very slowly incorporating the cream into the egg mixture(see pic1), about a tablespoon at a time until the mixture is temperate, (add it to fast and you’ll have scrambled eggs), slowly add all of cream to egg/sugar mixture, until well mixed.(see pic 2)
Add 1 1/4 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract, mix, and strain though a fine sieve in to a pourable container.(see pic 3/4)
Pour into 4 six oz. ramekins, fill to 1/4″ from top (see pic 5). Preheat the oven to 325º, have ready a medium pot of simmering water.
Make a water bath, by using a 13x9x2 ” glass baking pan, line with a clean kitchen towel, to fit in the bottom and place the ramekins so that the sides are not touching each other, or the side of the pan, fill the ramekins with the cream/egg/sugar/strained mixture, and place on the center rack of the oven. Carefully, with a pourable measuring cup, start to fill the pan until the hot water is  2/3’s to 3/4 up the sides of the ramekins.(see pic 6) Carefully push the rack back into oven, being very careful not to splash any water in to the filled ramekins. Close the oven and do not disturb for 30 minutes, at which point, give or take five minutes, till the Bruleé is set but still quivers slightly when gently shaken, remove, and cool completely.
Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate over nite.
When ready to serve, remove plastic wrap,  carefully dabbing any condensation that has formed, sprinkle
with Raw or Light brown Sugar (sifted),  I am generous with this because I like a thicker shell, it’s a matter of taste, but trust me on this one, more is better but don’t OVER due, now, with a propane torch,
start to sweep, gently at first, across the top of the dessert, until you see it start to bubble and melt, turning a amber color, do not burn, slow, and steady, until you get used to doing it! When all sugar is melted and has a nice color, you my friend have before you a Cremé Bruleé, let it sit for just a moment, to harden, and serve.
 A nice touch for a fancy event or whenever is to place it on a paper doily, on a plate, and place some fresh Berries of choice, around the sides of the dessert! And as always Enjoy!

© Jennifer Green Alger 2009