Crème Brûlée is perfectly classic and also very much a creation from California when it's made by Vaughn Vargus, CEC, CCA, senior executive chef, Housing, Dining and Hospitality, University of California, San Diego.
"I like crème brûlée because of the tradition, the skill involved and the types of flavors that can be infused," Vargus says. "It's important to do something the way it's supposed to be done! And then you can have fun and play."
RECIPE: Lemongrass and Ginger Crème Brulee
His sense of play comes out in the form of infusion for Lemongrass and Ginger Crème Brûlée. Using fresh lemongrass, ginger and a kaffir lime leaf, Vargus infuses Asian flavor into the classic French dessert without letting fusion turn into confusion. As he adds the aromatics to simmering cream on the stove, the air turns sharp and somehow brighter as the fragrances merge together. Using a blow torch,
it's key to "really watch the color of the sugar, to know when it's perfect," Vargus says.
Sitting down with the finished product, you crack a spoon onto the glassy golden surface and dip down into the custard, being sure to get some of the technicolor salsa, which has a whisper of heat from the red jalapeño. California at its best!