SMOKY CRÈME BRÛLÉE
Note: Remove the chipotle chile seeds or, for a spicier dessert, keep them in. (Leave out the chiles entirely for a more traditional approach, but trust me, they add an interesting counterpoint to the sweet dessert.) You can make it a day ahead of time, as it is usually served at room temperature. Turbinado sugar is coarse raw sugar that is blond in color with molasses flavor.
• 3 c. heavy cream
• 2 dried chipotle chiles (see Note)
• 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
• 1 cinnamon stick
• 8 egg yolks
• 1 whole egg
• 1/3 c. granulated sugar
• Turbinado sugar to finish (see Note)
• Berries and/or mint sprigs for garnish, optional
In a saucepan, combine cream, chiles, vanilla bean and cinnamon. Heat to a very gentle simmer and simmer about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
In bowl, whisk egg yolks, whole egg and sugar together and then whisk in the cooled cream. Strain mixture to remove whole seasonings, then divide evenly among crème brûlée dishes or ramekins. It will make about 6 servings. (I recommend something other than white ramekins, as they will get a little smoke on them and can discolor.) Place the dishes in a roasting pan. Bring a pan of water to a boil.
Set up your grill for indirect heat by building up the coals on either side of the grill and leaving the middle empty. Place the roasting pan in the middle of the grill and carefully pour about half an inch of water in the roasting pan. Be careful not to get water on the ramekins or the fire.
Put a cup of wood chips on the coals (a fruit wood like cherry or apple works well). Cover grill and cook until custard sets, about 25 to 30 minutes. To test for doneness, tap one of the dishes. The custard should wiggle. Put the ramekins on a cooling rack and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until ready to finish.
Here is the fun part. To create the signature caramelized covering of sugar, carefully sprinkle a thin layer of the turbinado sugar on the finished custards. Caramelize the sugar using a blowtorch. You can buy a fancy kitchen torch, but a hardware-store torch works just as well and costs a lot less. Pass the torch over the sugar until it heats up and begins to turn brown. Keep the flame moving for an even crust. Try it slowly at first until you get the hang of it.
Garnish finished brûlées with a few berries and maybe a sprig of mint, or serve plain.
DUTCH OVEN CHERRY CLAFOUTI
Serves 6 to 8.
Note: This also can be baked in the oven, uncovered at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes.
• 2 oz. fresh or frozen sweet cherries
• 2 eggs
• 1/4 c. sugar
• 1/2 c. whole milk
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
• 1/2 c. flour
• Butter for the Dutch oven
Prepare charcoal for grilling. I prefer to start them in a chimney starter and heat them until they are hot and ashy. Build up your fire so it is very close to the cooking grate.
Butter the sides and bottom of a 5-quart cast-iron Dutch oven. You are going to put this in the fire -- you do not want to use a fancy enameled pan for this.
For fresh cherries, rinse and pit them. For frozen cherries, thaw them and drain off the juice. Spread the cherries evenly over the bottom of the Dutch oven. In bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together until they are frothy. Add the milk, vanilla and flour and whisk until you have a smooth batter. The batter should be about the consistency of pancake batter. Pour the batter over the cherries.
Place the Dutch oven over the coals, cover, and place 20 to 25 hot coals on top of the oven. Cook covered for 25 minutes. Remove the lid and cook another 5 minutes or until the clafouti is golden on top and a knife comes out clean when inserted into the middle.
Let it stand for a half-hour before removing it from the pan. Dust it with powdered sugar, slice it and serve plain or with a scoop of ice cream. It is best served slightly warm.
GRILLED PINEAPPLE RINGS WITH SUGAR, CINNAMON AND COCONUT
Serves 6 to 8.
Note: This can be done with fresh pineapple or canned rings, though the fresh is much better. Other fruits work well, including bananas, plums, peaches and nectarines. Turbinado sugar is coarse raw sugar that is blond in color with molasses flavor.
• 1 ripe pineapple
• 1 1/2 c. turbinado or granulated sugar (see Note)
• 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
• 1 (about 14 oz.) can unsweetened coconut milk
Cut off leafy top and bottom of pineapple. Stand it up and cut off the rind as if cutting corn off the cob. Slice fruit into disks about 1/2 inch thick. Remove core of slices with a melon baller.
In shallow bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon. Pour coconut milk into another shallow bowl.
Dredge both sides of pineapple slices in the coconut milk and then the sugar-cinnamon mix. Place slices on the grill over direct heat until they are golden brown on both sides, about 5 minutes per side depending on how hot your fire is.
Eat plain or serve over ice cream. They can be served hot or cold.