For the Tribune Cooks feature, I have largely been trying to replicate dishes I have tried at restaurants. This is mostly because I don't get to go out to eat that much, especially at fancy-schmancy places, and partially because the dishes I have at said fancy places linger in my memory long after my teeth are brushed for the night.
One dish I've had recently that I couldn't stop thinking about eating, imagining eating, wishing I had delivered right to my door, is the popcorn pot du creme from Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland. It is a sweet, salty custard-type dessert that melts in your mouth and stays burned into your taste memory for days.
I've attempted recipes from this place before. Of course, nothing is better than the real thing, especially when you don't have to do the dishes. But this dessert seemed too intricate to attempt by guesswork alone, as desserts rely more on exact measurements and whatnot. Luckily, shortly before Christmas, the restaurant released the coveted recipe, and I gave it a whirl.
One dish I’ve had recently that I couldn’t stop thinking about eating, imagining eating, wishing I had delivered right to my door, is the popcorn pot du creme from Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland. Luckily, shortly before Christmas, the restaurant released the coveted recipe, and I gave it a whirl.
Tribune Chronicle / Sarah Sepanek
Baking in a water bath was something I hadn't done before, and the only trick is to get the water-filled dish out of the oven without spilling. Be careful. Another trick was procuring ramekins; some mismatched mugs will do in a pinch. Custard relies on good timing, so make sure you keep an eye on the oven so the pots don't curdle.
The result is a savory dessert that's perfect for a cold day. It wouldn't seem that sauteing popcorn would leave much of a flavor, but it does. Just make sure you don't use any burnt kernels, or that's what you'll taste. It's like a rich caramel corn toffee.
The published recipe calls for homemade caramel, but I used some I had in the fridge. Don't tell. Butterscotch would work too. You can also use microwave popcorn instead of popping the kernels in butter. The Food Network Police won't come to your house.
Popcorn Pot du Creme
2 cups cream
3 oz. milk
2 1/4 oz. (about 4 tablespoons) sugar, divided
6 egg yolks
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup popcorn kernels or 1/4 bag microwave popcorn
Caramel or butterscotch for topping
Sea salt for topping
Pop one bag microwave popcorn according to directions. Or, to make stovetop popcorn, dice butter and place into a pot along with the popcorn, then place on high heat. Pop the kernels until the pops come about three seconds apart. Immediately remove from the pot and place into a bowl.
Add cream, milk, half the sugar, salt and popcorn to a large pot, stir, and place over medium high heat. Once the mixture reaches a simmer, turn heat off and strain it into a pitcher to remove popcorn. Add vanilla and stir to combine.
Place egg yolks into a bowl with the remaining sugar and whisk to combine. Using a ladle, stir one third of the cream into the yolks while constantly whisking. Then return the egg and cream mixture back into the remainder of the cream and stir to combine.
If baking immediately, place ramekins in baking pan - as many as will fit so that each lies flat on the bottom of the pan. Fill each cup with the base - about one quarter of an inch from the top. Fill pans with water until the ramekins are halfway submerged. Cover with parchment paper and foil, set in an oven preheated to 325 degrees and bake for 50 to 55 minutes.
Base can be refrigerated and baked within two days. If baking base from a cold state, allow to bake for at least one hour.
Remove from oven and once the custard has set, place on a sheet tray in the refrigerator to cool. Once cool, cover each pot du creme with plastic wrap and return to fridge until ready to plate.
When set, the custard will still wiggle in the ramekins slightly, but not appear watery. If pulled too soon, continue to bake, checking every five minutes until the custard is set. If pots appear swollen they have been overcooked, have curdled and should be discarded.
To serve pots de creme, remove from refrigerator and top with about 1 tablespoon of caramel or butterscotch, or until top is completely coated. Sprinkle a small amount of sea salt on top and serve.