I am a lover of Crème Brûlée and was thrilled to learn that the quintessential Catalan dessert, Crema Catalana was very similar in structure to the Crème Brûlée…now to figure out how they are different! Where Crème Brûlée is a cream flavored with Vanilla Beans (check out my recipe for Crème Brûlée here!), Crema Catalana is steeped with a combination of citrus zests and cinnamon.
Most of the recipes I have seen for Crema Catalana call for a cream cooked on the stove top with cornstarch, and I gave several versions a try…they were ok…but I prefer a baked cream, so I incorporated my technique for the Crème Brûlée, for beautiful and consistent results.
Ever since our trip to Barcelona last December, I have been planning and daydreaming about cooking Catalan food for our friends. After a month of menu-planning and experiments, I was ready!
We had a bunch of friends over for a four course Catalan dinner this Saturday, and I think it was one of our best efforts. In traditional Spanish fashion, we did not want to serve the main course until late, so we served the courses slowly and did not finish dessert before midnight. Doesn’t everyone love a good 5 hour dinner every once in a while?
I loved eating Manchengo and Iberico Ham in Barcelona, so I made sure to include them in our first course, with an assortment of olives, of course! We had the opportunity to try a variety of fish stews in Barcelona. The weather was scheduled to be quite chilly this weekend, so a stew sounded just right, I decided to serve it on toasted Ciabatta with our Catalan Sardines on Toast with Susquet. Seafood is a really important element in Catalan dishes, since the Northern Spain region harvests seafood and relies on it.
To keep the seafood starters going, we also served Mussels in Escabeche, a mixture of seafood, veggies, and acid. Delicious!
For our second course, I am proud to say that we hosted our own traditional Calçotada! Calçots are similar to green onions and leeks and are in season in the Catalan region for a short time during the winter. From January to April, Catalans feast and celebrate these mild green onions by grilling them up on a fire and serving them with a delicious Romesco sauce made of fire roasted peppers, tomatoes, almonds, and toasted bread.
Our main course, served at 10:30pm in Spanish fashion was a pretty impressive effort, if I do say so myself. We had a Rabbit and Artichoke Paella, a Squid Ink Rice with Prawns, an Escalivada of beautiful veggies, and Sea Bass roasted in a salt shell served with a delicious citrusy salad of Oranges, Radicchio and Pickled Red Onions.
At midnight, we finished our meal with a traditional Crema Catalana, a Brazo de Gitano filled with Persimmon Jam and Whipped Cream, and a simple but delicious Homemade Fresh Cheese with Honey (Mel & Mato).
I am incredibly proud of this meal and look forward to sharing the rest of the recipes with you in the coming days, so stay tuned and enjoy the Mussels in Escabeche recipe below!
- 2 cups half and half (or heavy cream)
- zest from 1 orange
- zest from 1 lemon
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 5 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup sugar, plus extra for the crust
- Combine orange zest, lemon zest, cinnamon stick, salt, and cream together in a small pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to steep for 1 hour.
- Whip egg yolks with sugar until light and fluffy.
- Strain cream mixture and remove cinnamon and zests.
Add 1/4 of the cream mixture to the eggs, whip to combine, add the remaining citrus cream cream.
- Pour into four dishes or one large flat dish and carefully place those dishes onto a high sided cookie sheet.
- Pour cool water halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
- Preheat oven to 325°F.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes (up to 55 minutes for a single dish) until the centers are set.
- Remove from water bath, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 2 hours to fully set.
- Add about 1 tablespoon (4-5 for large) sugar evenly to the surface of each custard and brûlée with a butane torch. If you do not have one, you can broil for a few minutes, but check on it regularly to make sure you don’t burn too much.