The other day my wife took our daughter to see one of my wife’s clients, who she had become good friends with. Her friend has a small farm and my wife took Genevieve to ride the horses. Genevieve (aka Gigi) is 4 1/2 years old and just recently told us that she wants her own horse. This has created no end of amusement for my wife because ever since Gigi was born I have been writing letters to Santa that Gigi has “dictated” to me. Most of them revolve around the idea that she wants a horse by the time she is five, so needless to say when she exclaimed that she wanted a horse my wife considered it cosmic justice.

So Gigi got to ride a horse, learn a little about horsemanship and help brush her. As an added bonus, Kate sent Wanda home with 2 dozen eggs, from the hens she owns. They varied in size from a standard large egg to ones about the quarter of that size and in colors from off white to various shades of brown and even to a pale green (yes that picture above is color corrected-it’s not your monitor). I was thrilled and set about coming up with an idea to really showcase the eggs. While simply poaching them or hard boiling them might showcase the eggs in all their simple glory I wanted to do something a little more adventurous and seasonal. Our rhubarb is growing quickly and I knew I wanted to incorporate that into something so I decided to make custards and top them with a rhubarb compote. I was also keen to use up some of the tarragon I grow and thought about infusing the custard with tarragon. While not often used in desserts, tarragon’s anisy, licorice flavor lends itself well to many dessert presentations. The only concern is not to overpower the other flavors with tarragon, which can quickly take over if used with too heavy a hand. The flavor combination, at first, might sound a little strange, but trust me it works well, with the tarragon adding a nice subtle flavor to the custard and complementing the simple rhubarb compote.

Herb Pot de Crème

makes 6 servings

3 cups half and half
9 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
1/ tsp. vanilla extract
3-5 sprigs fresh tarragon (feel free to try other herbs also such as thyme, mint, lemon balm, even rosemary)

Pre heat the oven to 350°F. Bring the half and half to a simmer. Add 3 sprigs of tarragon and allow to steep for 10 minutes, off of the heat. Taste the mixture. The herb flavor should be just a little stronger than you want it to be in the final product as this will be diluted with other ingredients. If it isn’t strong enough add a few more sprigs, return to a simmer, remove from heat and steep a few minutes longer. Remember, it’s easier to add more flavor than take it away so don’t go over board in the beginning. As the herbs are steeping combine the egg yolks, sugar, salt and vanilla, stirring until most of the sugar is dissolved. Add 1/2 a cup of the hot half and half to the egg mixture and stir to combine. Add another 1/2 cup and stir. Now that the eggs are tempered you can add the remaining half and half. Stir until well combined then strain. Skim off any foam on top of the mixture and pour 3/4 cup into 6 ramekins. Place ramekins into a large baking dish and add hot water to come about 1/2 way up the ramekins. Cover with foil, adding 4 or 5 small vent holes and carefully place in the oven. Bake for 25 minutes and check for doneness. The custards are done when the center still slightly jiggles like jello. If not done yet, replace cover and bake 5-7 minutes longer and check again. Continue doing this until custards are done. Don’t overcook or your custards will “souffle” and instead of a silky, smooth texture it will more closely resemble scrambled eggs. Still tasty but not quite as appetizing. These will take anywhere from 25-50 minutes depending on the size and depth of your ramekins. When done carefully remove from the oven then remove from the water bath. Cool on a rack until room temperature then chill. Serve topped with a couple tablespoons of Rhubarb Compote (recipe below).

Rhubarb Compote

makes about 1 /2 cups

3 cups rhubarb, diced
2/3 cups sugar
1/4 cup water

Add all ingredients to a nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook, at a hard boil, for about 10 minutes, stirring often. Test for doneness on a chilled plate. Allow a small spoonful to chill on the cold plate. It is done if it holds together like a softly set jam with just a bit of liquid separating out. Once done chill for 2 hours to allow time for the compote to set up.