The Daily Meal’s Cookbook Club is a series where we get advice from a cookbook author about how to throw a dinner party from their book — they give us three recipes and we make it at home!
This week we got advice from Chopped’s Ted Allen about his new book In My Kitchen. He suggested starting with a Bruschetta with Homemade Ricotta, Prosciutto, and Arugula , moving onto the show-stopping Whole Striped Bass Baked in Salt Crust, and ending with the delectable Butterscotch Pots de Crème with Scotched Pecans. With our menu ready, we set out to cook a feast.
I attempted the menu for my family’s Christmas Eve dinner in Narraganset, R.I. (which proved to be a particularly great location for the meal, since the good people at The Matunuck Oyster Bar helped me procure some truly excellent whole fish). In addition to myself, The Daily Meal's Cook editor Anne Dolce and members of The Daily Meal’s Culinary Content Network also participated in the challenge, with most really enjoying every part of the menu.
The bruschetta was a crowd-pleasing starter. Patti from Comfy Cuisine was thrilled, "Three bites of delicious flavors and textures for the perfect appetizer! The fresh ricotta was simple to make and made these amazing!"
Donna of The Devils Food Advocate also enjoyed the recipe. Her take was, that "the charm of this snack lies in the combination of flavors and textures; you get crunchy garlic-scented bread, the soft dairy goodness of the ricotta, the peppery bite of the arugula, then the salty richness of the prosciutto. And watching the milk transform itself into cheese was really fun. And it looks terrific on a serving platter."
When it came to the fish, some loved it (myself included) but others didn’t find the process quite so easy. Lisa of Fresh Eggs Daily took a slightly different approach and noted that "not being able to find striped bass, or any whole fish for that matter, I was forced to improvise, as all chefs find themselves doing from time to time. Instead I used flounder fillets, which turned out perfectly. I did cut the baking time short by a few minutes for the thinner fillets, and they were moist and succulent with a subtle hint of tarragon and thyme. The method was quick and easy with cleanup merely entailing balling up the foil and tossing it in the recycle bin."
But Betsy of Desserts Required had a dfifferent take: "The fish tasted OK, but I don’t really understand why one goes through this entire process rather than just season fillets or even a side of fish and bake it. There were some bites that we all had that were disgustingly salty. I would like to attribute this to the fact that perhaps I cut the fish incorrectly; but I can’t say for sure."
The Pots de Crème were met with universal approval. Simi from Turmeric n Spice said, "It is aromatic, rich, creamy, flavorful and is very easy to prepare. Exercise patience while the butterscotch pots de crème chills — that's the hardest part of the process. The wait is worth it, once you dig in, you only want more."
Jennifer of 1840 Farm agreed: "I find that so many times a recipe deems itself to be butterscotch when really it is caramel instead. These pots de crème delivered the deep, authentic butterscotch flavor I was hoping for. The texture was smooth and silky and the flavor was fantastic. They were a hit with all the adults and children at our family table!"
And Betsy of Desserts Required enjoyed the dessert much more than the main. "Don’t get me wrong, I will not be sitting down with a scotch on the rocks, ever, but I will most definitely be making this incredibly smooth, deliciously decadent Butterscotch Pots de Crème with Scotched Pecans."
Intrigued? Try the recipes for yourself and watch the video above for tips from Ted Allen as well as our take on everything. And if you enjoy this one, you can always head over to our last Cookbook Club.