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Asparagus Vanilla Crème Brûlée

Chef Lau Young,
Provence Bistro

Chef Lau has paired this classic French dessert with an unusual partner: asparagus. The sweetness of the vegetable plays nicely with the rich sweet cream flavour. Chef Lau says you could also substitute carrot.

1 lb green or white asparagus, ends trimmed off and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

1/2 piece vanilla bean
2 cups whipping cream
2 cups milk
9 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar

1 tsp sugar per ramekin
Strawberries, sliced
Star fruit, sliced
Mint sprigs
Coconut rum ice cream (vanilla can be substituted)

1. In a saucepan, add asparagus, sugar and water. Bring to a boil.
2. Reduce heat and simmer gently until asparagus is tender.
3. Set aside and let steep and cool.
4. In a blender, add asparagus pieces and 1/4 cup of the simple syrup. Purée until smooth. Strain and set aside.
Note: This step can be done 1-2 hours beforehand.

1. Preheat oven to 250˚F.
2. Split vanilla bean in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. In a saucepan, at medium high heat, add cream, milk, vanilla seeds and bean. Stir occasionally.
3. In a mixing bowl, lightly whisk egg yolks with sugar until slightly pale.
4. When cream mixture comes to a boil, slowly ladle into the egg mixture, a little at a time while constantly whisking. Strain out vanilla bean.
5. Add asparagus purée to custard. Mix well and ladle into ramekins.
6. Place ramekins in pan and fill 1/3 with water.
7. Put pan in oven and cook for 1-1 1/2 hours. The custard is done when the centre moves slightly when gently shaken (similar to baking a cheesecake).
8. Carefully remove from oven and slide ramekins onto cooling rack. Once cold, transfer to fridge.

To serve
1. Sprinkle 1 tsp sugar over each ramekin. Caramelize under broiler at high heat or with a blowtorch, making a thin, brown topping.
2. Arrange garnish fruit, ice cream, biscotti, and ramekin of crème brûlée on plate. Serve immediately.

Yield 18 (2 oz ramekin) servings

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