Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Slower Plate: Roast Chicken and Chocolate Pot Du Creme

I am wishing for a slower pace of life.

I'm taking a class to become a certified Maryland Master Gardener. The group meets on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9am-12pm, so as you might expect it's comprised of lots of young people who work full-time.

Just kidding, I'm the only one.

The makeup of the rest of the class is approximately: stay-at-home moms (1), part-time worker (1), and recently retired (30). Everyone seems genuinely nice and certainly passionate about gardening. The problem is that on Wednesday at 12pm sharp, while I was stressed about getting to work as quickly as possible to accumulate the proper number of weekly hours without resorting to heroics like staying later than 6, the nice gentleman sitting in front of me had yet to rise out of his seat. In fact, he looked quite comfortable, and he said that since he retired he takes his time and does things at a leisurely pace. Some of that slow-down may be due to age, but I see it mainly as a conscious improvement in habits and lifestyle.

I am well aware that everyone in that room earned their retirement, probably working at far more demanding jobs than mine. But isn't it a shame that in life you have to wait until you are in your 50s or 60s to have the time to properly travel or care for a garden or cook truly wonderful meals? I do my best to sneak in bits of ambitious cooking (and traveling and gardening) here and there, but I am eagerly awaiting a day when life allows for more.

My latest "ambitious meal" was quite a feast! It included hearty crock-pot vegetarian minestrone soup, roasted (cage-free, organic, humanely raised, $17-but-so-worth-it) whole chicken, and for dessert? Chocolate pot du creme. For the roast chicken I followed Jamie Oliver's recipe strictly, and I cannot recommend it heartily enough. It was delicious. I'm sure Henry felt like the lucky dog he is when I shared a bit with him.

Without consciously slowing down a bit, it's unfortunately easy to end up eating something like this instead.

The chocolate pot du creme (that's "pot" pronounced as in Edgar Allan, not as in Pol) is what I truly wanted to share in this post. It's a dessert that's simple enough to make; it's rich and really leaves an impression with it's eater. I'm still thinking about a Belgian chocolate pot du creme I had two years ago at a restaurant. But it's another one of those fancies you wouldn't make unless you had all day to indulge your cooking whims.

For the Pot:
3/4 cup half and half
2.5 oz bittersweet chocolate (around 70% cacao, as close as you can get), chopped
1 Tbsp natural cane sugar
2 egg yolks
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
2 oven safe dishes/ramekins

For the homemade whipped cream topping (optional):
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp natural cane sugar

For the Pot:
Preheat your oven to 300F. Bring half-and-half barely to a simmer in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and add the chocolate and sugar. Stir this until the chocolate and sugar dissolve into the mixture.  Let stand 2 minutes.

In a medium bowl, stir together egg yolks, vanilla, cocoa powder, and salt. Gradually stir the half-and-half mixture into the yolk mixture, whisking as you combine them. Pour this chocolate mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a measuring cup for the smoothest result.

Place 2 ovenproof cups or ramekins in a shallow roasting pan and divide the chocolate mixture among them. Pour hot water into the pan so it reaches halfway up the sides of the cups.

Bake in the oven until the custards are almost set in the centers, about 30 minutes. They will firm as they cool. Carefully remove the cups from their hot water bath and let them cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

For the topping:
This is nothing more than a tutorial on how to make your own whipped cream. You can look up plenty of other websites for directions if you don't like these.

You'll need a mixing bowl and some electric hand beaters. Put your mixing bowl in the freezer along with the beaters (not the part with the motor, just the removable beaters themselves) for at least 10 minutes. Once the equipment is cold, pour in the heavy cream. Beat it until "stiff peaks" are just about to form. You'll know it when you see it. Add in the sugar and continue beating until peaks do form. Do not overbeat. Cover this and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Shared At: Simple Lives ThursdayFull Plate Thursday, and Food Renegade's Fight Back Friday


  1. this looks SO good! I may try this for Valentine's day :)

  2. Yes! This would be PERFECT for Valentine's Day! I would love to know how it turns out for you.

  3. Hi Katy,
    That is great that you are in a Master Gardener Program. My friend just graduated from a Texas master Gardener Program. Your Roasted Chicken looks beautiful and a perfect dessert to go along with it. Great recipes! Hope you are having a great week end and thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen


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