A Life Too Short

The Monday before Thanksgiving I slipped and fell backwards on our front steps. I was holding Lilli at the time, but she was in her car seat and escaped unscathed. I, on the other hand, really, really, really hurt my back. So in order to simplify cooking, we’ve been roasting just about everything, from Brussels sprouts tossed with Sriracha, honey and lime, to sweet potatoes with a chickpea rosemary dressing. Thankfully it’s the wintertime, so roasting is the natural way to go.

lilli's first chanukah

What we haven’t yet roasted is a chicken. More specifically Judy Rodgers’ beloved roasted chicken which she always served atop bread salad. The food world lost one of its greats last week when Rodgers passed away. On this blog alone I’ve shared her recipe for panade, boiled kale and spicy broccoli and cauliflower pasta. I actually lent the James Beard award winning Zuni Café Cookbook to a friend a few months back; then she moved to New York City. About a month ago, I stumbled across a cookbook giveaway on a blog and ended up winning the cookbook of my choice. For me, the choice was simple: A replacement Zuni cookbook. When I heard the news about Rodgers’ death, I grabbed the cookbook and started flipping. I’ve always been as impressed by her writing as her recipes.

“A truly good meal depends on a cavalcade of sound judgments, many of which occur well before you lift a knife. When you decide what you want to cook, you are deciding whether a meal can be really good or not. If you choose to do a dish you can’t get good ingredients for, one you are completely unfamiliar with, or one you don’t have the time or proper equipment to prepare, you may be setting the stage for a mediocre meal that will be no fun to produce.”

To celebrate a life too short, we enjoyed one of the last recipes in the cookbook, one I realized might be overlooked by some: chocolate pots de crème. When we were on our trip to Spain, Holland and Bruges, we actually spent an afternoon in Antwerp. We packed a lot in during those hours, including a trip to one of the world’s best beer bars. I found mini spoons which I declared were to be used for pot de crème. Well, we finally used the spoons to enjoy this extraordinary dessert. Hat tip to Rich for the execution of this recipe. We had Frangelico in the house but forgot to use it. If you’re worried about wasting egg whites, go make yourself a nice jam-filled omelet with them.

Chocolate Pots de Crème from The Zuni Café Cookbook by the late great Judy Rodgers


3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

¾ cup heavy cream

¾ cup whole milk

2 Tablespoons sugar

4 egg yolks

A splash of Cointreau or Frangelico (optional)


Preheat the oven to 300F.

Melt the chocolate with ½ cup of the cream in a small pan or bowl poised over simmering water, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat.

Warm the remaining ¼ cup cream, the milk, and sugar in a small saucepan, stirring just to dissolve the sugar.

In a medium bowl, whisk the yolk, then slowly stir in the warm milk mixture. Pour the mixture through a strainer into the melted chocolate and stir to combine. Stir in the liqueur if using.

Pour the mixture into four 4-to-5-ounce ramekins or custard cups and place them at least an inch apart in a baking pan. Add hot water to come to barely ½ inch beneath the lip of the cups. Bake until the custard is just set at the edges but still quite soft in the center, about 45 minutes. To check, life a pot and tilt; the center should budge. The eggs will continue to cook after you pull the custards from the oven and the chocolate will harden as it cools. If the custard is already firm when you first check it, then remove from the oven and set the cups in a shallow bath of salted water to stop the cooking. Cool, cover and refrigerate. They will keep well for several days, although I prefer their texture when only hours from the oven.

Serves 4


7 thoughts on “A Life Too Short

  1. I made the roast chicken, finally, last week when she passed away (as I think I told you) and it was so good we had it again tonight–we even managed to get all four of us at the table for it (though not all four of us ate it). Anyway, thanks for pointing me to some other recipes in this book I have yet to make. With all this Christmas baking I should probably postpone a bit before the pots de creme. Hope your back is better!

    • I thought about meringues, and then I decided that an omelet would be much, much easier. Now, that shouldn’t stop others from making meringues, of course.

      On Mon, Dec 16, 2013 at 10:12 AM, Cheap Beets

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