The holidays are great occasions to take time-honored recipes and make them new by turning them on their heads. Crème brulee is nearly always a sweet dessert with a melted sugar crust, but it’s so easy to turn it into savory goodness with vegetables, cheese, and fragrant herbs. These Butternut Squash Creme Brulee Pots are pure comfort food on a cold winter’s night, with the richness of the custard brightened by sweet roasted butternut squash.
Not only does the butternut squash pair beautifully with the creamy custard, it also provides a gorgeous orange color that cheers and entices. Butternut Squash Creme Brulee Pots are especially good with a smattering of fresh thyme leaves for scent appeal, and a handful of grated Parmesan cheese for added richness.
Savory crème brulee is essentially an egg custard mixed with savory ingredients instead of sweet. While butternut squash is a delicious addition to a savory crème brulee, any vegetable that would go well nestled in a cream sauce or stirred into a creamy soup will work beautifully in the dish. Asparagus tips are a great option, as are green beans, artichoke hearts, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, and baby peas. Caramelized onions or roasted garlic never go amiss, and can add a new level of flavor to the custard that pairs well with the vegetables you choose.
I like to add fresh herbs to the custard. Thyme, rosemary, and sage are good, earthy herbs, while fresh dill or basil can add a light note to what can be a rich and heavy dish.
Cheese is another essential for me. Freshly grated Parmesan is always a good choice since it works so well with most vegetables, but crumbled Greek or Danish Feta cheese are also good, and a lovely aged cheddar, grated finely, is marvelous with broccoli and cauliflower. Creamy cheeses such as Fontina, Havarti, or Brie are nice, too, and give a smooth finish to the savory crème brulee.
Sweet crème brulee is usually finished with a topping of brown sugar that is then melted with a burner until it forms a glass-like layer that shatters satisfyingly when you dip your spoon in for that first bite. That contrast of textures and flavors is an essential part of the crème brulee experience, so when I make a savory crème brulee, I make sure to add a topping that provides that delightful contrast.
For Butternut Squash Creme Brulee Pots, I like to add a spoonful of crispy fried onions on top after they come out of the oven. That savory, salty, crispy addition is magic when tasted with the smooth, creamy custard. I also like to chop and toast a few nuts such as pecans, walnuts, almonds, or, macadamia. Macadamia nuts go equally well with sweet or savory dishes, so they’re a natural partner for sweet roasted butternut squash. Next time I want to try an oat crumble topping mixed with brown sugar, salted butter, and cumin, coriander, or ginger. I think that would be divine.
Serve your savory crème brulee with a pot of Full Moon Chai. The sweet nuttiness of butternuts (the walnut variety, not the squash) and masala chai spices are the perfect pairing to the sweet-savory tones of the butternut squash.
Butternut Squash Crème Brulee Pots
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 large egg
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup steamed or baked butternut squash
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1/4 tsp salt
- few grinds black pepper
- Toppings: crispy fried onions, toasted chopped nuts
Preheat oven to 375F.
Put 3-4 cups water on to boil.
Place all ingredients in blender. Pulse 15-20 seconds until squash is pureed and mixture is smooth.
Pour into 4 individual ramekins, and place ramekins into baking dish.
Pour boiling water into baking dish until level is halfway up side of ramekins.
Place in oven and cook 30-35 minutes until just set.
Remove carefully from oven, use tongs to remove ramekins, and set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
Serve warm with an array of toppings.