I have a habit of frequently falling head over heels in love. In love with people, places, things, genres… At least my life is never lacking passion. The latest object of my undying affection is the South. Southern music, southern people, southern literature, and best of all - southern cuisine. When I got the itch to host another dinner party, I became giddy at the thought of turning my southern predilection into a southern comfort theme. With visions of burlap and mason jars dancing through my head, I scoured the internet for the latest in southern hospitality.
It’s practically sacrilegious to throw a southern dinner party without a little bit of chicken fried, so I based my menu around the archetypical fare. To up the ante, I combined Tyler Florence’s recipe, which calls for a spicy buttermilk-sriracha marinade and rosemary/sage/thyme/garlic perfumed oil for frying, with Barefoot Contessa’s healthier method of baking the chicken post-fry.
To accompany the chicken, I made Park Tavern’s jalapeno-bacon deviled eggs, Fat Apple’s corn muffins with fleur de sel honey butter, truffle mac and cheese, and an arugula and cherry tomato salad. But the dessert course plagued me for weeks… What is southern, delicious, and can be made ahead of time for twelve guests?
I contemplated making bourbon vanilla ice cream to serve with some sort of pie, but dismissed the idea when I realized that my guests wouldn’t eat something so hearty following the aforementioned menu. I also considered making coconut cake, but decided that the cream cheese frosting would be similarly heavy. Finally it dawned on me – while my menu was decidedly southern, it was also representative of the best restaurants in the Bay Area. I’d included recipes from Park Tavern, Fat Apple’s, and Wayfare Tavern, so why not recreate a dessert from one of my favorite spots?
I often daydream about Town Hall’s decadent butterscotch pot de crème. The sweet treat features a dark chocolate base topped with a uniquely savory butterscotch mousse. The combination is complex, but not so rich that it overshadows an already substantial meal. Luckily, 7x7 magazine featured Town Hall’s recipe on its website, so I didn’t have to figure it out from scratch. I was excited to learn that the butterscotch flavor came from actual scotch and brown sugar (which sounds extremely southern if you ask me).
To make the recipe more accessible, I used a pre-packaged vanilla pudding mix and added high-quality chocolate chips for the base. I also skipped the homemade buttercrunch candy topping in favor of store-bought seasalted chocolate squares. The result was so close to the original that I am tempted to let the restaurant know how much simpler it would be to skip fancy chocolate custard and use Jello pudding instead. As I watched my guests lick their bowls clean, I knew that they felt the same way. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect ending to my southern inspired evening. Yeehaw! xx tt
Recipe – adapted from Town Hall (makes 12 servings)
· 2 packages Jello Cook and Serve vanilla pudding (NOT instant)
· 6 cups whole milk
· 1 bag Guittard semisweet chocolate chips
· 7 cups, plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
· 1 teaspoon salt
· 1 vanilla bean, split open
· 12 extra-large eggs
· 1 tablespoon scotch
· 1 tablespoon water
· 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
· Half-bag butterscotch chips (6 ounces)
· Individual chocolate squares for topping
· Follow instructions for Jello pudding (remember to use two packets)
· When pudding is starting to thicken, pour all of the chocolate chips in, and continue stirring until the pudding thickens
· Pour pudding into individual bowls, and refrigerate until chilled
· Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
· Separate the egg yolks, discarding the whites, in a big bowl - then set aside
· In a small bowl, whisk together scotch, water, brown sugar, and one tablespoon of cream - then set aside
· Pour remaining seven cups of cream into a medium sauce pan, and add split vanilla bean and salt
· Heat cream mixture until almost boiling BUT DO NOT BOIL (you want your milk to be scalded)
· Turn the heat off the saucepan, and stir in the scotch mixture and butterscotch chips, whisking to melt the chips
· Slowly pour the mixture into the egg yolks, while whisking
· Strain this mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a small casserole/baking dish
· Wrap the dish in aluminum foil
· Put the dish into a larger dish and pour water around it (disposable roasting pans are useful here, and can be found in your local supermarket for a few dollars)
· Bake in the water bath for 50 minutes
· If the custard doesn’t jiggle, put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes
· Remove the dish with the custard from the water bath, and let cool
· Spoon butterscotch custard on top of chocolate base
· Top with chocolate squares
t+tDECOR: My favorite dinner party DIY project is to make a placecard that also serves as a napkin ring. After I pick a color scheme, I buy cardstock in different shapes from Paper Source, and glue them together. Then I punch a hole in the corner, and thread a ribbon through it so that I can tie it around a cloth napkin. For this party, I used rubber stamps for the lettering, but handwriting is equally chic.
t+tCOCKTAIL: I am notorious for running behind schedule in the kitchen, so I begged my friend Colby to come up with a fun beverage to serve with my deviled eggs for cocktail hour. An added bonus - I found mason jars at Cost Plus to keep the feeling southern.
Colby’s Blackberry Bourbon Smash (served over ice):
- 2 shots bourbon
- half-cup ginger beer
- fresh mint (two sprigs muddled, plus extra for garnish)
- fresh blackberries (4 per drink - muddled)
- twist of lime
- splash of soda water
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