Butterscotch Pots de Creme

First, a promise: Your Valentine will inhale this custard.

This recipe for Butterscotch Pots de Crème from In My Kitchen:100 Recipes and Discoveries for Passionate Cooks (Clarkson Potter, 2012) by Ted Allen does an expert job of commingling the sweet and savory. As this luscious concoction shows, those worlds have never been completely separate. So treat your special someone with a combination of flavors that will surely blow their mind!

Butterscotch Pots de Crème with Scotched Pecans
Recipe from In My Kitchen by Ted Allen

Serves 8

Pots de Crème
3 cups heavy cream
3 (2-inch) strips lemon zest
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
¾ teaspoon table salt
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons Scotch whiskey
6 large egg yolks

1 cup pecans
2 tablespoons Scotch whiskey
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
Lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving (optional)

1. Make the pots de crème: Preheat the oven to 300°F.

2. Put the heavy cream, lemon zest, vanilla bean and seeds, and cardamom in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil, remove pan from the heat, and set aside to steep.

3. In another saucepan, heat the butter and brow n sugar over medium heat until the mixture starts to bubble. Stir in the Scotch, and cook until the whiskey has evaporated, about 1 minute.

4. Put the egg yolks in a mixing bowl and add a little bit of the butter and brown sugar mixture, whisking to temper the yolks. Add more, bit by bit, and whisk until it has all been incorporated. Strain the cream mixture into the bowl and whisk to combine.

5. Put 8 (4-ounce) ramekins in a large roasting pan, leaving space between them. Fill the ramekins all the way up with the cream mixture. Pour hot tap water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the ramekins. Cover with foil and place in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil, and bake until they are just set, about 35 minutes.

6. While the pots de crème are in the oven, make the pecans: Put an ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat and add the pecans, Scotch, butter, granulated sugar, and salt, and cook until the Scotch has evaporated. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast the pecans until deep golden, 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, and let cool.

7. Carefully remove the pots de crème from the oven-watch for sloshing, as that water is obviously very hot-and let them cool in the roasting pan for at least 40 minutes. When the pots de crème are cool, wrap each one in plastic wrap and chill until ready to serve.

8. To serve, place a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream on each pot, if desired, or just top each with 2 or 3 pecans.