Butterscotch Pot de Crème
232 Meeting St.
Most fine dining restaurants choose to have some sort of custard on their dessert menu, and it makes sense. The dish makes for an elegant presentation, and the decadence of this rich treat seems apropos while dining out. My only complaint would be that the same old vanilla crème brûlée can seem a bit mundane after a while, and that's why the Butterscotch Pot de Crème at FIG immediately caught my attention.
Chef Mike Lata says they always have room for a custard dessert and simply vary it every few months, and he chose butterscotch because it seems to have a "cult following." Well, let me be the first to admit — I'm a member of the cult. Since childhood, butterscotch stole my heart. The now antiquated tin cans of Hunt's pudding seemed so precious, especially since my favorite flavor — butterscotch — was a rare gem, hidden amidst row after row of chocolate and vanilla.
Oftentimes childhood memories disappoint when revisited as an adult, and so it was with me and that pudding. When I finally broke down a few years ago and dove into the now plastic container for a taste of nostalgia, I could not believe the overwhelming artificial flavor. And so I gave up on the whole idea.
Consequently, the Butterscotch Pot de Crème at FIG caught me off guard. The delicate, almost nutty flavor, velveteen finish, and that certain shade of orangey-brown took me back to a food memory that probably never existed. There is no way the Hunt's pudding ever tasted so good, but the mind is a funny thing.
Nostalgia aside, the pot de crème has a well-earned place in history. As stated earlier, it belongs to the custard family, and these desserts date back to the Middle Ages. The French created the term pot de crème or pot au crème (meaning "pot of cream") since they don't have a word for custard. The French phrase can refer to the dessert or to the serving vessel itself, which traditionally has a handle and a lid.
At FIG, they serve the pot de crème in a ramekin and garnish with a quenelle (small spoonful) of crème Chantilly (sweet, vanilla-flavored whipped cream.) They have been nice enough to share the recipe — feel free to join the cult!
Butterscotch Pot de Crème
4 ½ Tbs. unsalted butter
¾ cup plus 2 Tbs. dark brown sugar
2 c. heavy cream
1 c. milk
¼ tsp. salt
1 ½ Tbs. Scotch whiskey
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Heat the butter in a small pot over medium heat and cook, stirring, until it begins to brown. Add the brown sugar and cook, stirring, until melted and glossy. Slowly stir in heavy cream and begin whisking until smooth. (Beware the butterscotch mixture will initially seize up when the cream is added, but it will melt again.) Add milk and salt and stir to combine.
In a separate bowl whisk yolks until frothy. Gradually add about ¼ cup of hot butterscotch mixture to yolks and stir to combine. (This will temper yolks and prevent them from cooking.) Now add tempered yolks to creamy mixture and whisk to combine. Remove from the heat. Add Scotch, stir to combine, and strain through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Place this bowl in an ice water bath and let rest until completely chilled. (Alternatively, you can whisk the mixture while in the bath to accelerate cooling.) Divide custard among ramekins. Arrange ramekins in a small roasting pan and bake in a water bath, uncovered, until custards are set around the edges but still tremble slightly in centers, about one hour. Transfer ramekins to a rack with tongs and cool to warm or room temperature. They will continue to set as they cool. Refrigerate until ready to serve. YIELD: About six servings