Chocolate & Orange Pot de Creme

Winter desserts often rely on apples, pears or other fruits that store well for long periods of time. Yet at this time of year in the Bay area, as we are moving into citrus season, a variety of seasonal fruits are available to make even cold weather desserts sparkle.

pot de creme

Pot de crème is one of those easily adaptable desserts. Once you master the basic custard portion of the recipe, tweaking it to match the season is quite easy. Here we are putting chocolate and oranges together. We grabbed some mandarins at the Farmers Market and then nudged the flavor a little more with some orange extract. We’re also using a higher ratio of chocolate to give it a deeper richness. This recipe also scales up or down well for different sized portions. When we served this at a dinner party recently, we served these with sweet butter biscuits and encouraged everyone to scoop the custard with the biscuits. There was a satisfying silence as everyone ceased talking to relish in the richness and complex flavors. You will too.

Makes 4.

2 cups heavy cream
½ tsp orange extract
½ tsp vanilla extract
4 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
¼ tsp salt
Zest of one mandarin orange
5 oz semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 300F.

2. Bring cream and extracts to a simmer in a saucepan.

3. Whisk eggs, sugar, salt and zest together until pale yellow.

4. Melt chocolate either in a double boiler or the microwave. Mix into cream mixture and whisk until fully incorporated.

5. Slowly drizzle cream mixture into egg mixture in small amounts to slowly bring temperature up without cooking the eggs.

6. Bring a kettle of water to a boil.

7. Arrange 4 4-ounce ramekins in a roasting pan and then pour custard into them. Skim any foam off.

8. Place roasting pan in oven and then slowly pour boiling water into roasting pan so water comes about ½ way up the sides of the ramekins. Be careful no to splash water into custard. Tent loosely with foil ensuring that the foil does not touch custard. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until edges are set but the centers are still slightly jiggly.

9. Remove ramekins from water bath and chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Garnish with mandarin orange segments and whipped cream if desired.

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Braised Beef Cheeks with Mushrooms and Polenta

One of the intriguing recent trends in food is the whole animal movement. While it usually focuses on offal, it also encompasses some of the less popular cuts, including the cheeks. Since they are full of tissues that can be very tough, they do well in braises that allow the connective tissues to melt into the sauce. Using dense flavorful liquids for the braise accents their texture while reducing down to a thick sauce that pairs well with hearty starches. The hard part is locating beef cheeks. We found ours at the Marin Sun Farms stand at the Ferry Building Farmers Market, but we also recommend talking with your local butcher. Don’t be put off by the time commitment of this recipe, but instead jump in and enjoy the results. We serve them on polenta but pasta or hearty rice would do also.

Braised Beef Cheeks with Mushrooms and Polenta

Recipe follows