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Home on the range

The creamy basics

Leah Eskin

Home on the Range

January 8, 2012

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A friend of a friend recently dined at Le Bernardin in New York. She reported that she'd spooned up creamy milk chocolate pots de creme cooked and served in the eggshell.

I was on it.

Apparently I once dined at Le Bernardin. It was the night my parents met my fiance's parents, and we were all so on edge, the only part that sticks in memory was the awkward discussion of water "with gas, or without gas." It was also so long ago that chef and menu have changed. I would have remembered milk chocolate pots de creme cooked and served in the eggshell.

The first conundrum was cracking off the egg cap neatly. My friend swears that the star-spangled restaurant employs lasers. I went low-tech, trying bread knife, egg-topper and finally the precision smash. I found the jagged-edge egg pots charming. My husband found them and tossed them in the trash.

Undaunted, I turned my consternation to creamy filling. Sensing stability issues, I whisked a thick stovetop custard and poured it into the shells — which seemed like cheating.

So I went traditional, baking a set in a water bath, with an egg carton holding everything steady. Which worked. Some of the locals admired the little chocolate-filled eggs; no one dared eat them.

I decided to focus on basics — chocolate custard — and forgo the sweet presentation, as well as the restaurant's caramel foam, maple syrup and sea salt. Maybe I'll enjoy that the next time I get engaged, which I'm hoping is never.

Chocolate creams

Prep: 15 minutes plus time to chill
Bake: About 20 minutes
Makes: 8 2-ounce creams

Ingredients:
4 ounces milk chocolate
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
Boiling water
Whipped cream, optional

Melt:
Break up both chocolates into a medium bowl. Heat cream, milk and sugar in a medium saucepan, just to a boil; pour over chocolate. Cover bowl with a pot lid. Let rest, 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk smooth. Whisk in yolks. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a 2-cup glass measuring cup.

Fill:
Set 8 2-ounce cups (espresso cups or small ramekins work nicely) in an oven-proof pan with sides at least 2-inches high (consider the lasagna pan). Pour ¼ cup chocolate mixture into each cup.

Bake:
Slide pan into a 350-degree oven. Pour boiling water into the pan, enough that the water comes half way up the sides of the cups. Bake until creams are set at the edges and still wiggly in the center, 18-20 minutes.

Cool:
Remove pan from oven. Remove cups from water bath. Let cool. Cover each with plastic wrap and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Enjoy with or without whipped cream.

Leah Eskin is a Tribune special contributor e-mail her at leahreskin@aol.com