IMBB #17, Tea: Assam Creme Brulee Recipe
July 31, 2005

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Teacreme3Living in Chinatown means never having to say that you're out of tea.  In fact, we have so much tea that for this month's IMBB, we decided to create a whole tea menu rather than a single dish!  Even so, one of the dishes stood head and shoulders above the others.  I've provided the recipe for it below; it's the last of the three dishes, so if you're feeling impatient and want to get to the good parts, you can just skip to the end right now.  Hey, that's okay, I won't be offended.  No, really, I'm sure you're very busy.

Cold Corn and Honeydew Soup with Lobster

I've made this dish several different ways, and I've been happy with it every time, but I'm convinced there's an even better soup in here waiting to get out.  It usually draws raves, but I know I can do better.  You'll have to wait until I'm completely satisfied with it before I give you the recipe.  I'll outline the general procedure, however, if you want to experiment with me.

Here's what I did this time:  Begin with six ears of corn.  Cut the kernels off of four of them and throw them in a blender or food processor.  Turn it on and leave the room for a few minutes.  Throw the corn liquid through a strainer.  A wet mass of corn will stay in the strainer.  Don't be afraid.  Roll the corn mass around in the strainer with a deft wrist motion and more of the liquid will strain.  Eventually you will wind up with a relatively dry mass of corn mush in the strainer. Put this back in the food processor.  Core half of the honeydew melon. Throw this in the blender along with the corn mush.  Blend this for a few minutes as well.  Strain this in the same fashion.

Pour the liquid into a saucepan along with 1/2 cup of white wine.  Add the core of four or five lemongrass stalks and some fresh ginger.  Bring to just below a boil.  Add a handful of good quality white tea (we used Drum Mountain White Cloud) and let steep according to the tea's instructions.  Refrigerate until cool.

In the meantime, remove the kernels from the remaining two ears of corn.  Add commensurate amounts of cucumber and honeydew melon in very small dice.  Salt to taste.

Remove the cool soup base.  Add freshly ground cardamom, white pepper, and a dash or two of cayenne pepper.  Whisk in 1/2 cup or more of plain yogurt.  Add lemon juice and a judicious amount of salt.

To serve, pour the soup in the bottom of a wide, flat bowl.  Mound the vegetable mixture in the middle, and top with chunks of lobster.

Everyone seemed to like this incarnation very well, but I couldn't help but feel that it didn't quite live up to its potential.  I remember liking the original version, which doesn't add tea or cook the soup at all, a little better than this one.  I think cooking removes this soup's freshness, which is one of its primary assets.  It seems to kill the color as well.  The hints of white tea in the soup were definitely interesting, however.  Maybe I can figure out a way to add tea flavor to the soup base without cooking it.

Duck Bastilla

Bastilla1Bastilla is a perfect dinner party dish.  It's unusual, impressive-looking, tastes great, and though it requires a fair amount of preparatory work, much of it can be done ahead of time, and it doesn't take long to cook once assembled.

The filling of a bastilla consists of meat (traditionally pigeon; we usually use chicken) and scrambled eggs along with ground almonds and spices.  For this variation we added ground Lychee Black tea and cut back on the sugar a bit.  In the end, the tea flavor didn't come through as much as we wanted, however.

Assam Creme Brulee

Ingredients:

4 egg yolks
2 cups whipping cream
1 tablespoon rum
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup Assam black tea
Raspberries

Directions:

To begin with make sure you are using a good quality Assam tea.  We used Assam Sessa Estate, Second Flush.

Mix cream and sugar in a saucepan.  Heat the mixture to just below a simmer.  Add the Assam and let steep for 7 minutes.  Strain out the tea and pour the mix back into the saucepan.  Whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl.  Add the cream mix to the yolks a bit at a time so that the yolks don't curdle, whisking as you do.  Add the rum and the vanilla.

Pour the mixture into five ramekins.  Put the ramekins into a shallow baking pan and fill the pan with water halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  Bake 30 minutes or until the center of the custard is nearly solid.  Refrigerate for at least two hours.  Press brown sugar through a strainer to create a thin layer of sugar on top of the custard.  Broil until the sugar melts and covers the custard -- this shouldn't take but a minute or so.  Refrigerate another hour or two.  Serve topped with raspberries.

Evaluation:

The Assam adds an incredibly rich flavor to the custard that is difficult to describe.  It's surprisingly coffeelike, actually, but it's where it's different that it's most interesting.  The musky, earthy flavors are quite beguiling.  When such a simple variation can make an old saw like creme brulee be described as "beguiling", it's definitely worth taking notice.

July 31, 2005 in blog_events, main_dishes, recipes, soups_stews | Permalink

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