Milk chocolate lemongrass custard:
3 stalks fresh lemongrass
1 vanilla bean, cut crosswise into 1/2" chunks
3/4" slice fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
3 cups heavy cream
9 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
6 large egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon salt
Granulated sugar for caramelizing tops of custards
1. Make milk chocolate lemongrass custards: Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 300°F. Place ramekins in large baking pan. Pour enough water into pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins. Remove ramekins and place baking pan with water in oven to preheat for about 15 minutes.
2. To prepare lemongrass, use only white, bulbous 6"-8" base of stalk. Remove tough outer leaves from base and with sharp chef’s knife, cut base crosswise into very thin slices.
3. Place sliced lemongrass, vanilla bean pieces, chopped ginger and 1/2 cup sugar in bowl of food processor fitted with metal chopping blade. Process until ingredients are finely minced and sugar is moist.
4. Transfer sugar mixture to large heavy saucepan. Add cream and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is melted. Raise heat and bring cream mixture to just under boil.
5. Remove from heat, then cover pan and set aside for 15 minutes to infuse. Return saucepan to medium heat and again cook cream mixture to just under boil.
6. Remove from heat and add chopped chocolate. Swirl pan to cover chocolate with cream mixture. Let stand for 3 minutes to melt chocolate. Whisk gently until smooth, making sure to incorporate as little air as possible into mixture.
7. In medium bowl, whisk egg yolks, salt and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar until blended. Whisking constantly, gradually add hot chocolate mixture to yolk mixture.
8. Strain chocolate custard through fine mesh sieve into medium bowl.
9. Ladle custard into ramekins. Place ramekins into baking pan and bake for about 1 hour, or until just set. Center of custards should still quiver slightly. (Do not over-bake.) Custards will set completely after chilling.
10. Using tongs, carefully remove ramekins from water bath and place them on wire rack, leaving pan of water in oven to cool. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, preferably overnight.
11. Caramelize tops of custards: Broiler method: Position rack near top of oven and preheat broiler. Place chilled ramekins in baking pan. Sprinkle top of each chilled custard evenly with about 11/2 teaspoons granulated sugar. Place roasting pan under broiler and broil for 1-2 minutes until sugar melts and turns into a dark amber caramel. Refrigerate caramelized custards for 30 minutes to set crusts. (At this point custards may be refrigerated for up to 2 hours.)
Torch method: Sprinkle top of each chilled custard evenly with about 1 1/2
teaspoons granulated sugar. Using household propane torch, caramelize top of each custard by heating sugar with flame until sugar melts and turns into a dark amber caramel. Refrigerate caramelized custards for 30 minutes to set crusts. (At this point custards may be refrigerated for up to 2 hours.)