Pudding makes a comeback

Some chefs call them budinos. Others would say pot de creme. But in America, we just say pudding.

If you're like me, that means a box of jell-o brand dry mix. But these days, several chefs are making them from scratch, and they're featuring a flavor a lot less popular than chocolate.

What happens when you set butter and brown sugar up on a blind date? You get the basis for butterscotch, actually. But at the Purple Pig, just off Michigan Avenue, they also add milk and egg yolks to this tasty pairing, and get a budino.

"A budino is just another name for pudding in Italian... usually the budinos are, the way we make it, just a little bit more firm than you are use to seeing in jelly pudding... but it's pretty much the same thing, just a prettier name," said Jimmy Bannos, Jr., chef of The Purple Pig.

Cornstarch thickens the budino, and after it's chilled, a dollop of fresh whipped cream and some hazelnut brittle add both richness and crunch.

"No one is doing butterscotch, so eventually we will switch it around a lot, but Massimo just did an awesome job making it over the summer before we opened, and we loved it," said Bannos.

Just a few blocks away, inside Sable at the new Palomar Hotel, there's a butterscotch pot de crème on the dessert menu. A cousin to the budino, perhaps?

"Essentially it is a fancier word for pudding and really the concept came about home-cooked pudding, childhood memories and turning that into something a little bit upscale," said Heather Terhune, chef of Sable Kitchen.

Terhune makes the pudding without cornstarch.

"It's cream, egg yolks, there's no thickener to bind it. We make our own caramel with sugar and caramel. A little bit of scotch; It's got dark brown sugar in it as well as vanilla bean and we just cook it like a pudding essentially," Terhune said.

On the side, brown butter pecan shortbread is embedded with toasted pecans.

"And then we serve it with a kumquat compote so that kinds of gives that sweet, savory, kind of tart bitterness to it and it really balances the flavor of the butterscotch well," said Terhune. "We serve it in a little jar so it is like a pot of cream, essentially. You know we could call it a pudding; yes, make it a little more pedestrian but this seems to fit a little bit better with our concept."

Another recent discovery of a butterscotch pot de crème at Hub 51 in river north, where they sell a shot glass-sized version on their regular dessert menu.

The Purple Pig Chicago
500 N. Michigan Ave.

Sable Kitchen and Bar
505 N. State St.

Also mentioned:
Hub 51
51 W. Hubbard St.

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