In the spirit of April Fools Day, I wanted to experiment with making food in disguise. The first part of this recipe was inspired from my favorite Top Chef contestant, Richard Blaise (correction, recently crowned winner of Top Chef All Stars, Richard Blaise). Although molecular gastronomy is way over my comfort zone as a home chef, and foie gras ice cream is well beyond anybody’s comfort zone, I can’t help but admire his passion for cooking and enjoyment of his profession. Besides, a 38 year old with a faux-hawk has to be commended.
As for more serious cuisine, cardamom custard is a traditional dessert from North Africa and other parts of the Persian Gulf. Cardamom is best when purchased in pods and ground fresh. If fresh spices aren’t available to you, you may want to check out The Spice House. They have everything and anything you would ever want to cook with. I cannot recommend a business more highly in regards to the quality of their products.
By the way, trust your eyes at step 6. You read it right the first time. Blow torch.
- 1 large, fat banana
- 1 orange
- 1 1/4c whole milk
- 2/3c granulated sugar
- 12 green cardamom pods, bruised (cracked open, but not broken)
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves (or substitute 3 or 4 whole cloves)
- 3 large egg yolks
- chocolate sauce (for garnish)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Start your custard by heating the milk, 1/3c sugar, cardamom and cloves in a small sauce pan over medium heat (a 5 on your dial). Continue to stir until the sugar has dissolved. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
2. Place the egg yolks in a large mixing bowl. Strain the milk mixture to remove the whole cloves (if used) and the cardamom pods. While continuously whisking, pour milk mixture into egg yolks.
3. Pour egg-milk mixture into four oven proof ramekins. Place the ramekins into a baking dish large enough to hold the ramekins. Fill the pan with enough water to reach halfway up the ramekins. This will give the custard a luxurious, creamy texture.
4. Cook for 30 – 35 minutes in the oven. Remove and set on the counter to cool. If you wish, you can cover the cooled ramekins in the refrigerator with plastic wrap and chill overnight. This will allow the cardamom flavor to develop.
5. Before serving, preheat a flat top grill pan over high heat. Put the remaining sugar in a plate. Peel and slice an orange horizontally. Dip in sugar and grill for 5 minutes per side or until the sugar has caramelized. Set aside.
Note: I used a grill pan for the oranges and determined it wasn’t such a good idea afterwards. The sugar as you can see melts into the grooves the pan and never caramalizes onto the oranges. To remedy this, use a flat top grill pan, or a non stick saute pan.
Do not attempt step 6 unless under the supervision of an adult or are an adult. Using an open flame in the kitchen may result in a house fire.
Take all necessary precautions.
6. While the oranges are cooking, slice the banana into 1 inch thick slices “scallops”. Place the banana slices in a heavy pan. Pile 1/2 tsp sugar on top of the banana and spread to completely cover the top. With a blow torch, direct the flame over the sugar until it boils and caramelizes. The bananas should resemble seared sea scallops. Once cool (about 10 seconds), turn the bananas over and repeat with the other side.
Note: I use a blow torch here for two reasons: 1) a creme brulee torch is nice, but three times as expensive, relatively underpowered, and a unitasker. Why buy this when I already have a blow torch in the house? But more importantly, 2) you reach rock star status when you use a blow torch into the kitchen.
7. Build your dessert plate by brushing chocolate sauce on one side. Set the scallops on top of the sauce. Place the custard ramekin at the end of the chocolate sauce. Top the custard with the grilled orange slice.