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By "Today" Food Editor
updated 9/18/2008 1:01:14 PM ET 2008-09-18T17:01:14

In this special weekly feature, “Today” food editor Phil Lempert brings you recipes “stolen” (with permission) from notable restaurants across America. See how much fun you can have (and money you can save) by cooking these dishes at home!

THIS WEEK: Pumpkin Pot de Crème, from Pair of 8's in New York City

Just in time for Halloween, we’ve “tricked” chef Bill Peet from Pair of 8’s in New York into giving us his recipe for this sweet treat! It is said that the pumpkin became a traditional Halloween symbol back in the 1800s. The Irish originally carved out turnips to make jack-o'-lanterns as a symbol for the souls of the dead. When they emigrated to America, they couldn’t find any turnips to carve, so they used pumpkins! Good thing … We’re not sure turnips would make sweet desserts like this baked pumpkin custard with spiced crème fraiche!

About the chef:
Bill Peet attended the Culinary Institute of America, and after graduation he ventured to New York City to break into “French Kitchens." While there, Peet worked at various restaurants from Clos Normand to Lutèce, where he rose from line cook to sous chef and pastry chef. In 1995 Peet opened his own restaurant, La Petite Rose in Westfield, N.J. In just under a year, the restaurant garnered many outstanding reviews, including the prestigious AAA Four Diamond Award.

Bill Peet
Peet went back to New York City, where he took on the Merlot Bar & Grill/Iridium Jazz Club. The restaurant complex had two themes: A wine-inspired restaurant and a critically acclaimed jazz club with top performers, including Les Paul. In December 1998 he took the role of executive chef at the acclaimed Asia de Cuba Restaurant in the Morgan Hotel. In just under two years, Zagat Restaurant Survey rated the restaurant in the “Top 50 Restaurants in NYC” and the food rating continued to improve every year. Peet then moved to “44” at the Royalton Hotel as executive chef. “44” featured American cuisine with French influences.  

Peet was then called by ARK Restaurants, a restaurant company with 26 restaurants in various cities, to become their corporate chef. The corporate world was a nice change of pace, but Peet longed for a kitchen of his own again. That is when the famed restaurateur George Lang tapped him to run his venerable Café des Artistes. The James Beard Foundation wrote “If ever a restaurant had fine, aristocratic bone structure it is Café des Artistes … one step inside, and the tumultuous New York world outside disappears in a flash, replaced by lush floral displays, flattering lighting and Howard Chandler Christy’s pastel murals of naked beauties prancing through romantic landscapes. If ever there were a chef who could produce the fine aristocratic French cuisine to match the resplendent setting, it’s Bill Peet.” As of November 1, Peet will be the head chef at Pair of 8’s on the Upper West Side.

Over the years, Peet has taught gourmet cooking in several New Jersey school systems, and led various cooking demonstrations, including two appearances at the James Beard House, one which was covered on WABC-TV. Peet lives in New Jersey with his wife, Anna, and their two sons, Will and Tim.

Pumpkin Pot de Crème is served at Pair of 8's for $7. This recipe is meant to serve 2.

Recipe: Pumpkin Pot de Crème (on this page)

Pair of 8's
568 Amsterdam Ave.                                  
New York, NY 10024

Want to nominate your favorite restaurant dish for a "Steal This Recipe" feature? Just e-mail Phil at Phil.Lempert@nbc.com (or use the mail box below) with the name of the restaurant, city and state, and the dish you would like to have re-created. Want to know more about Phil and food? Visit his Web site at www.supermarketguru.com.

Recipe: Pumpkin Pot de Crème

  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 yolk
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon dark rum
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree

Steal This Recipe® step-by-step instructions:

1. Pre heat oven to 325º.
2. Bring the half and half, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla, rum and pumpkin puree to a simmer over a medium heat.
3. Cover and set aside 15 minutes.
4. Whisk the egg, yolk and salt together in a large bowl.
5. Bring the mixture from Step 2 back to a simmer and combine with the eggs. Pass it through a fine strainer.
6. Ladle the mixture into 2 (8-ounce) ramekins.
7. Place in a shallow pan larger than the ramekins, fill the pan with hot water halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
8. Cover and bake 40-45 minutes, lightly covered with a sheet of aluminum foil.
9. Bake until they are just set, with a uniform “jiggle area” about the size of a dime.
10. Allow the ramekins to cool in the pan.
11. Remove and chill overnight to set.
12. Serve with a spoonful of lightly sugared whipped cream.

Serving Size

Serves 2


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