Crème brûlée means “burnt cream,” and is one of the all-time-great desserts. The first recorded recipe for this custard with a burnt caramel crust is in François Massialot’s 1691 cookbook Cuisinier royal et bourgeois. Last seen as crême à l’Angloise in 1740, the recipe more or less vanished from French cuisine until the 1980s. How anything so simple and so divine could have been ignored for centuries is a mystery.
Saveur credits Sirio Maccioni at Le Cirque in New York City with reviving this dessert in the 1980s. Inspired by a similar dish called crema catalana in Spain, he insisted the pastry chef, Dieter Schorner, develop a version for Le Cirque. Dubbed crème brûlée, it was an immediate hit. None other than Paul Bocuse raved about it as the best dessert he had all year, which was all that was needed to revive this forgotten classic. And so, a global trend was born.
In our recipe for two, the creamy, sweet custard is enriched with foie gras. Served as a dessert (or appetizer) with toasted brioche and Sauternes, this is a dish that could elevate your Valentine’s Day dinner into a meal of legend.
Read on for the recipe, and some photos of the process … your custard will be jiggling in no time.
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup whole milk
- 3 Grade-A Duck Foie Gras Slices
- 2 egg yolks
- 1½ teaspoons caster sugar, plus more as needed to brûlée
- ¼ teaspoon quatre epicés, or equal parts pepper, nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon fleur de sel, plus more to taste
- Toasted brioche, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
- Rough chop 2½ slices of foie gras, then pass through a fine mesh strainer or tamis into a small bowl. Add ¼ cup of heavy cream and whisk until smooth. Set aside. Cut remaining half slice horizontally into 2 thin pieces. Place slices on plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.
- In a small saucepan, heat the remaining cream and milk over medium-high flame until just before boiling. Remove pan from heat; whisk in reserved foie gras and cream mixture. Pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl.
- In a medium bowl or glass measuring cup with pouring spout, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until pale in color and sugar is dissolved. Stir in quatre épices and salt. Temper the egg mixture by adding the hot cream mixture one spoon at a time while whisking until combined. Pour the custard mixture evenly into each ramekin.
- Make a water bath: Place the ramekins on a rack or tea towel in a roasting pan; add enough water just off a boil to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover pan loosely with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until custards are just set, about 5-10 minutes more. Custards should remain jiggly but not liquid.
- Move ramekins to a cooling rack for 10 minutes then chill in refrigerator. (Custards should be removed from the refrigerator about 20 minutes before serving.)
- When ready to serve, heat a dry skillet over high heat. Remove remaining thin slices of foie gras from refrigerator. Score with a sharp knife in a cross-hatch pattern; season liberally with salt. Sear until golden on each side, about 1 minute total. Drain on paper towel.
- Evenly coat the top of each ramekin with caster sugar. Using a kitchen torch, deeply caramelize each custard. Allow to cool for about 1 minute then top with seared foie gras. Serve immediately with toasted brioche.
If you make our foie gras crème brûlée recipe, be sure to tell us how you like it. Tag @dartagnanfoods on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter – and share photos with us too! We love to see what’s cooking.