1 qt. heavy cream

1 cup vanilla sugar, divided
6 large egg yolks
1 stalk lemongrass, rough chop
1 kefir lime leaf
2 Tbsps. ginger, cleaned and sliced

For the Mango and Papaya Salsa:

¼ cup mango, diced
¼ cup papaya, diced
1 tsp. sugar
6 sprigs fresh mint

1. For the salsa: combine all salsa ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.

2. For the crème brulee: Place the cream in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add lemongrass, lime leaf and ginger. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat, cover and allow to sit for 15 minutes.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together ½ cup sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color. Strain cream through a fine mesh chinois to filter ginger and lemongrass. Add the cream a little at a time, stirring continually. Pour the liquid into 6 (7 to 8 oz.) ramekins. Place the ramekins into a 200 half hotel pan. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake in a 325°F oven until the crème brulee is set, but still trembling in the center, approximately 45 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the pan and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.

3. Remove crème brulee from refrigerator for at least 30 minutes prior to browning the sugar on top. Divide the remaining ½ cup vanilla sugar equally among the 6 dishes and spread evenly on top. Using a torch to caramelize sugar and form a crispy top. Allow the crème brulee to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.

5. Top with fruit salsa and mint garnish. For added dimension of flavor and presentation, sprinkle finished brulee with 4 or 5 grains of Red Hawaiian sea salt.

Recipe: Vaughn Vargus, CEC, CCA, UC San Diego

Photo: Tara Fitzpatrick