Very Vanilla, Lemongrass Pots de Crème

I cannot deny that our friends hold my cooking skills in high esteem. I am a very good cook. But I do have my days where things don’t go exactly as planned. The resulting food may be fine, but I’m my harshest critic and feel disappointed when things don’t turn out right.

Yesterday was one of those days, on several fronts. My 100% sourdough bread turned out flat and dense. The rolls from the dough were a bit more successful. The dinner I made was Lobster Fra Diavolo with homemade pasta. It was fine, but maybe not the best use of lobster. The spicy flavorful sauce muted the lobster flavor. It was good, but not special dinner good. The pasta was perfect though, so something did go right.

Then there was these pots de crème. I turned my back on the custard on the stove and I came close to having scrambled eggs. I strained and whirled in the Blendtec blender to get back to a smooth custard. The end product was OK, but once again far from perfect. I should have started over. The other disappointment was that the lemongrass flavor was very subtle. Served with lots of sauce and all troubles were effectively covered up. I might try these again with a second stalk of lemongrass or just some lemon extract instead. They do have a really strong vanilla flavor. Abby’s original recipe is here.

Very Vanilla, Lemongrass Pots de Crème

Makes 4 servings and 1 1/3 cup sauce
For the pots of heaven:
1 vanilla bean split or 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or paste
1 cup half & half
3/4 cup whole milk
2 stalks of lemongrass, chopped OR 1/2 tsp lemon extract
5 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon table salt
For the blueberry strawberry sauce:
10 ounces frozen blueberries, thawed
1/4 cup strawberry jam (I use seedless)
1/4 – 1/2 cups (1 to 2 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
Pinch of table salt
To make the pots:
1. Measure the half & half and milk in separate microwaveable containers.
2. Position the vanilla bean on a cutting board and, using the tip of a sharp knife, split the bean lengthwise down the middle. Slide the edge of the knife down the cut side of each piece of the bean to release the seeds. Add the seeds and vanilla bean pieces to the half & half. Put the chopped lemongrass into the milk. Heat the mixtures in the microwave until very hot, 2 to 3 minutes. Cover and let the mixtures steep 30 or up to 2 hours. The longer the half & half and the vanilla bean and seeds steep, the more pronounced the vanilla flavor. Strain the lemongrass stalks out of the milk and combine with the half & half.
3. Position the oven rack on the middle rung. Heat the oven to 325°F. Arrange four 6-ounce ramekins in a baking pan with 2-inch high sides. I use my 8-inch square baking pan.
4. In a small saucepan, whisk the yolks, sugar and salt until well blended.(Don’t let them sit or the eggs will begin to break down.)  Uncover the half & half and, whisking, slowly pour the half and half (with the vanilla bean pieces) into the yolk mixture. Whisk until well blended. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a spoon or heat-proof spatula, until thickened and coats the back of a spoon or spatula (170-172°F on an instant read or candy thermometer), about 4 to 5 minutes. DO NOT LEAVE UNATTENDED FOR EVEN 5 SECONDS!
5. Slide the pan from the heat and fish out the vanilla bean and scrape any custard from the pod back into the custard. Stir in vanilla extract or paste, if using.  Pour the custard into the ramekins (for a super-clean pot filling, I like to pour the custard back into the 2-cup measure and then pour it from there into the ramekins – the pour spout makes it so easy.) Carefully fill the baking pan with hot tap water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins and cover the pan loosely with foil.
6. Bake until the pot de crèmes wiggle like jello when nudged, 35 to 45 minutes depending on thickness of the ramekin walls. Transfer the baking pan to a rack let cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to 2 days before serving.
To make the blueberry strawberry sauce:
1. Combine the thawed blueberries, jam, 1/4 cup (1 ounce) confectioners’ sugar and the salt  in a food processor or blender. Whiz until pureed and well blended. Taste and add a touch more sugar if needed. Press through a fine-meshed sieve if you want a seedless sauce.
To serve:
1. Spoon a little of the custard out  of the center  -don’t go for perfect – and pour a little sauce into the cavity. Serve the remaining sauce on the side.

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