Lynda Balslev: A not-so-classic creme brulee

Rhubarb and rosemary are surprising bedfellows in this creme brulee.
Photo by Lynda Balslev

Rhubarb and rosemary are surprising bedfellows in this creme brulee.

Upright stalks of brilliantly hued rhubarb are always the first to arrive in the spring produce parade. Rhubarb’s natural astringency may overwhelm at first bite, but with a little sugar and fruit, its tartness is successfully tamed. For this dessert, however, I chose not to rely on rhubarb’s dependable sweet partner, the strawberry, because I did not want additional sweetness or liquid in the compote, which is spooned into the bottom of the custards.

I preferred a subtle background flavor that would tickle the tongue and ground the sweet creaminess of the custard. So, I added a sprig of rosemary — yes, rosemary — to the compote and the custard while they cooked, infusing them with a hint of lemon and pine. The result was subtle but notable, producing a creme…

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