Heat cream with vanilla bean or vanilla in heavy saucepan over low heat. Beat eggs and yolks adding white sugar gradually; beat until light and thick. SLOWLY pour CREAM into egg mixture, mixing well.
Return mixture to heavy sauce pan and cook on low heat, stirring with wooden spoon until mixture coats back of spoon. Do not boil. Remove vanilla bean.
Pour into shallow 1 ½ quart casserole or individual porcelain ramekins (ovenproof), and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
At serving time, sieve brown sugar over top, covering custard completely (to about 1/4-inch thickness). Place casserole in pan of crushed ice and place under hot broiler until sugar melts and caramelizes. This may take less than a minute, so watch constantly.
Chill about 5 minutes in refrigerator to harden sugar crust. To serve, crack crust with back of serving spoon and spoon over bowls of chilled strawberries.
POACHED PEARS WITH CRÈME BRULEE VARIATION: 6 medium winter pears, 1 1/3 cups sugar, 1/4 cup lemon juice.
Pare pears, leaving stems on. In 5-quart saucepan, mix 2 cups of water with sugar and lemon juice. Bring to boil, stirring to dissolve sugar.
Place pears on their side in syrup. Simmer, covered, 15 minutes. Turn pears, simmer, uncovered for 15 minutes longer. Refrigerate overnight in syrup.
To serve, place pears in individual serving dishes. At table, spoon Crème Brulee over top of pears.