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Originally published Wednesday, December 6, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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Recipe: Maria Hines' Porcini Crème Brûleé

Serves 8 to 10

- 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

- 1 pint heavy cream

- 1 teaspoon kosher salt

- 1 whole egg

- 3 egg yolks

- 3 tablespoons sugar

- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

- 3 heads baby frisée, broken into leaves, washed and spun dry

- 1 tablespoon minced chives

- 1 tablespoon minced parsley

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1. In a saucepan, combine the mushrooms, cream and salt, and heat slowly to a simmer. Turn off heat and steep for 30 minutes. Let cool, then process in a food processor or blender until mushrooms are finely pureed. Add egg and egg yolks, and pulse in to combine well. Strain mixture through a fine sieve; you should have about 2-½ cups.

2. Adjust oven rack to the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place 8 to 10 (1-½ — to 2-ounce) ramekins in a baking pan large enough to hold them without touching. Divide the mushroom mixture between the ramekins. (Pour the mixture from a pitcher or measuring cup or ladle it in carefully.)

3. Very carefully, pour cold water into the pan until the water is a third of the way up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the pan with foil and carefully push into oven.

4. The custards will take about 30 to 45 minutes to cook, depending on the size of your ramekins and what they are made of. The custard is done as soon as they are just set around edge and the centers are barely set. Using a timer, start checking after 20 minutes, then check every 5 to 10 minutes. Some may be done before others, so check the ones in front and back. Pull them out individually if necessary. Do not overcook. When done, let ramekins cool on a rack. If made ahead, cover tightly when cool and refrigerate.)

5. Right before serving, blot any moisture off the custard tops with paper towels then sprinkle about ¾ to 1 teaspoon sugar evenly over the top of each custard. Moving a kitchen blowtorch evenly back and forth about 2 inches from the surface, melt and caramelize the sugar. Let the ramekins stand for 3 to 5 minutes for the sugar to harden while you toss the greens.

6. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the oil and vinegar. Add frisée and herbs and toss well. Set the ramekins on dinner plates, and place a pouf of the salad beside each ramekin.

Chef's note: Blowtorches are available at Sur La

Table, Mrs. Cooks and other cooking shops.

From Maria Hines, Tilth Restaurant

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