I have writers’ block, probably because I’m sick, haven’t been able to talk for two days and haven’t been out of the house.
But you know what quasi-semi-professional wannabe writers do when faced with writers’ block. They POWER THROUGH. Plus, these pots de creme turned out too good not to tell you about, and I need something to do since I’m clearly not getting off the couch.
We held a game night for some friends last night; usually we dork out completely with Dungeons and Dragons, but last night we only dorked out about 95% and played Magic: The Gathering because the Dungeonmaster hadn’t prepared a storyline. Which arguably makes the whole thing even dorkier, but at this point I say NO PRIDE, NO SHAME.
So: whenever we have game night I try to make something sweet. Other people usually bring some munchies and beer, and I make dessert because (1) they eat anything, so they’re good test subjects and (2) I have a desperate need for the adulation of others, and adulation is easily won through dessert.
I had some leftover egg yolks from Thursday night’s macaroons and a bunch more dark chocolate from the BlogHer Food conference swag bags, so there was really only one option: pots de creme. There’s usually some kind of interesting beer or scotch at these dorkenannies, and I figured some dark chocolate infused with some other interesting flavors would be a great complement to either of those beverages.
Actually, I didn’t think that at all. I just wanted some pudding. The whole flavor-foil thing, which ended up totally happening, was an accident of luck. I routinely skip 30% of the steps in any given recipe because I forget to read them; did you really think I could plan ahead to that extent? If so, I find your naïvete endlessly refreshing. Also: get with the program.
Aside: when you’re home sick, you have the opportunity to see what has become of the actual cooking shows on the Food Network, which has turned into the MTv of food television, at least at night. My advice to you: stay away. Between what’s on now (Paula Deen deep-frying a chicken pot pie*) and what was just on (Sandra Lee teaching me to make dinner for a family of four for only $20. ONLY $20, you say? Astounding!), it’s a televised clusterfuck. How is Paula Deen not dead? If not from heart disease, then from a freak deep-fryer accident?
I’m sorry I had to tell you all that.
I wanted something more interesting than a plain chocolate pot de creme, although I certainly would not kick one out of bed. I have chocolate-brown sheets; no one would have to know. But I decided to infuse the heavy cream and milk for the pots with something more interesting than espresso*: curry and orange. More specifically, curry powder, green cardamom pods, cloves and orange oil. (I would have used orange rind, but all the oranges at the store just looked so damn sad.)(Actually, I have no idea how they looked. I couldn’t force myself to go to the grocery store. But knowing my nearest grocer, it’s a safe bet that they would have been some sorry-ass oranges.)
Aside #2: Down Home with the Neelys also kinda sucks. I’m going to have to watch an Ingmar Bergman movie marathon to scour the residue of their relentlessly cheerful down-hominess from my mind. I get it, you have a vital marriage. Get a room.
The beauty of pots de creme is the ratio of delicious to hard work. That is, very little work for a lot of delicious. Heat cream and milk, use the hot dairy to melt the chocolate, temper some eggs into the chocolate mixture and shove that shit into the oven. There was the interim step here of straining the spices out of the cream but that’s so minimal, it’s really more like one-third of a step.
I used relatively small ramekins since pots de creme are so rich and the flavors in these so intense. I have these small ramekins because I found them at the Salvation Army a few weeks ago and bought them despite not really having any room for them in an already-overcrowded kitchen. These pots were so good that I now feel completely justified and will have no future qualms about buying additional kitchenware for which I technically have no room. I can always turn the den into a prop closet. I’m sure Brian won’t mind.
The ramekins went into a roasting pan with a dishcloth on the bottom (keeps ’em from sliding around all willy nilly) and a teapot’s worth of hot water, enough to come a third to halfway up their sides. The pan went into the oven, I set a timer and flopped down on the couch, realized five minutes in that the pan should be covered, pulled the boiling pan out and wrapped it in foil with some steam vents and put the pan back into the oven for reals. And sustained only minor steam burns!
By this point, I had gained three of the five pounds merely my being in such close proximity to the chocolate, cream and egg yolks. I love my metabolism.
About 45 minutes later, I pulled the pan out of the oven to find ramekins full of chocolate love with perfect jiggly centers. Brian pulled them onto a cooling rack using his magical nerve-less fingers, and they instantly started cooling
Okay, can I say one more thing about the Neelys? It creeps me out that they call one another “momma” and “daddy” AND refer to themselves in the third person using those terms. A cultural thing, you say? My relativism only extends so far. It’s fricking creepy.
I was a little scared of these pots, because I was worried they’d be intense to the point of being unpalatable. Judging by the scraped-clean ramekins that now fill my kitchen sink, I assume that either that wasn’t a problem or my friends have terrible palates. I wasn’t actually awake while dessert was being eaten, because I’d taken some NyQuil and passed out 17 seconds later.
Most importantly, I didn’t find them unpalatable – quite the opposite. This is a grown up dessert; it’s not overly sweet, has a bitter edge and brings complex flavors that bloom in progression on the tongue. First sharp chocolate, then a hit of cardamom with a curry background, morphing into orange, then back into chocolate with a lingering clove finish. A spoonful of slightly sweetened whipped cream on top helps even the whole thing out. It would be lost on children, who are normally pretty stupid and become agitated if you switch out the jam flavor on their PB&J.
It’s not their fault, it’s just how they are. You were stupid once too, and would not have appreciated this dessert. Thank god you’ve grown.
Curry-Orange Chocolate Pots de Creme
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. whole milk
6 green cardamom pods
2 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. orange oil (or a tablespoon or so of orange rind – I’m just guessing here)
6 oz. good dark chocolate
6 egg yolks
3 tbsp. sugar
Pre-heat your oven to 300.
Heat the first six ingredients together over low heat, so the milk and cream heat up gradually and the spices have a chance to steep a bit – 10 minutes or so.
While the cream is heating, chop the chocolate and put it in a large measuring cup or bowl with a spout. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and salt. Heat a pot of water to a simmer.
When the cream hits a simmer, pour it through a strainer over the chocolate; you don’t want the cardamom pods or cloves in your pots. Let the chocolate sit for a few minutes, then whisk until the chocolate is fully melted and the mixture is smooth. Slowly pour the chocolate mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly, then pour the complete batter (Is it a batter? I don’t really know.) back through the strainer into your measuring cup/spouted bowl.
Fill 6 6-ounce ramekins with the chocolate mix. Put a kitchen towel in the bottom of a large baking dish large enough to hold the ramekins with an inch or two between each once. Fill the pan with enough of the hot water to come about halfway up the ramekins. Cover the pan tightly with foil and put it into the oven.
Bake for 45 minutes. When you pull them out, they should still be jiggly. Remove them from the water bath, let cool on the counter for an hour and then refrigerate for at least 3 or 4.
Serve with some lightly sweetened whipped cream. And be warned: this shit is RICH.