Barbuto is the restaurant that made me love kale salads. It proved daily that toasted gnocchi > any other gnocchi. The chicken is legendary, although we probably got the hangar steak more often, because it’s also the restaurant that showed me how wonderful they can be. The crispy potato side is one of my favorite formats of potatoes on earth (I’ll get to them, I promise). But little of this matters because they closed last week. We knew it was coming. The building was sold over four years ago and I know because I got panicked emails from some of you about it. [“What are you going to do??!” I felt seen.] I assume it’s just taken this long to get whatever teardown-and-rebuild plans [I’m confident that it will be affordable housing, aren’t you?] the new owners have for the spot in order. They’ll probably find a new location eventually, but I am skeptical that will have the casual charm of an old auto garage with roll-up glass doors. This unfussy charm was our favorite thing about the restaurant. There was no bread on the table, no heavy sauces, no dots of reductions, no frippery, nothing exhausting. Pretty much everything was seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice or a light vinegar, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes. Variations on salsa verdes and gremolatas abounded. It was the kind of unshowy food you could eat daily, as if they were hoping you’d notice and become regulars, and if that didn’t convince you, in the summer there were five to six different rosés by the glass on the menu, so you’d never get bored. I promise, I’m getting somewhere with this.
We probably ate six times a year for the last six years and we finished every single meal with the chocolate budino, which is a rich cold custard, the Italian take on chocolate pudding. “Seriously, when are you going to make it for us?” someone DMed me when I showed off my favorite spoonful two weeks ago, the yin-yang of cold dark chocolate custard and unsweetened cream. She had a point. Because I have Jonathan Waxman’s cookbook, it’s particularly rude that I’ve never shared it before. The thing is, the recipe was too fussy. First, there’s the fussiness inherent in decadence: Many egg yolks. A tremendous amount of heavy cream. Lots of good chocolate. Then, there’s the fussiness in the measurements: The recipe calls for 9 ounces of chocolate, 8 bittersweet and 1 ounce of milk chocolate. Nobody asked, but it’s my hunch that when a recipe calls for 9 ounces of butter or chocolate, it’s because it has a European origin, where in metrics, it’s around 250 grams. But why put this in a US cookbook when here we buy things in whole, half, and quarter-pounds? And who wants to buy milk chocolate just to use an ounce of it? Finally, there’s the fussiness of steps: Melt the chocolate. Heat the cream. Whisk the eggs and sugar. Temper in the hot cream. Transfer it to a saucepan. Heat it, strain it. Cool the chocolate and custard separately to an undisclosed temperature and then combine them and cool them further. Sure, it’s delicious. But even I, a Barbuto Chocolate Budino Superfan, haven’t got time for that.
But now that I can no longer go across town to have it, well, I suppose I do and got to work. First, I ditched the two types of chocolate, settling on a semisweet in the 60 percent range. I scaled the recipe down so that you can buy and use an even half-pound of bar chocolate. I didn’t heat the cream and it didn’t matter. I didn’t melt the chocolate, just chopped it well, and when I strained the hot custard right onto it, it melted the chocolate for me, while taking the temperature down so it takes less time to cool the dishes. Less time to cool means you get to eat it sooner — you’re welcome.
I did not, however, touch the decadence. I’m not trying to change what makes it excellent. It’s wildly rich. They served it in espresso cups at Barbuto with a cloud of whipped cream on top because a few spoonfuls is all you need, and I encourage you to do the same (rather than weakening its perfection with the goal of eating more). I suspect they use all of the spare egg whites to make the biscotti they always served it with — embedded so deeply in the thick, cold budino that you had to really yank it out — but that for another day. This is for five minutes from now.
One year ago: Garlic-Lime Steak and Noodle Salad
Two years ago: Grilled Pepper and Torn Mozarella Panzanella
Three years ago: The Consummate Chocolate Chip Cookie, Revisited
Four years ago: Crispy Frizzled Artichokes
Five years ago: Coconut Brown Butter Cookies
Six years ago: Rhubarb Cream Cheese Hand Pies
Seven years ago: Asparagus with Almonds and Yogurt Dressing
Eight years ago: Fudge Popsicles
Nine years ago: Cabbage and Lime Salad with Roasted Peanuts, Leek Bread Pudding, Oatmeal Pancakes,and Spring Asparagus Pancetta Hash
Ten years ago: Grilled Shrimp Cocktail and Graham Crackers
Eleven years ago: S’more Pie
Twelve years ago: Zucchini Carpaccio Salad
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Cosmopolitan
1.5 Years Ago: Salted Butter Chocolate Chunk Shortbread
2.5 Years Ago: Union Square Cafe’s Bar Nuts
3.5 Years Ago: Parsley Pecorino Biscuits and Potato Kugel
4.5 Years Ago: Decadent Hot Chocolate Mix
Please note: These photos show a halved recipe, which yielded 6 tiny espresso cups of budino (luxe chocolate pudding), perfect for a weekday treat for us, but probably too outrageously tiny for normal people. The recipe below is for a full yield, which makes eight 1/4- to 1/3-cup servings. The budino is rich with dark chocolate and intense. Should you find it too intense for your tastes, you can replace half the chocolate with milk chocolate. You should not, however, skip the whipped cream; it’s just not the same without it. Finally, here are some recipes to use up those extra egg whites, a classic American-style chocolate pudding, if your tastes run less rich, and while we’re at it, a luxe butterscotch pudding/budino, inspired by a different restaurant’s famous version, should your tastes run chocolate-free.
- 5 large egg yolks
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups heavy cream, plus another 1/2 cup for making whipped cream
- 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (60 percent range is perfect here), finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
- Two pinches of sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons bourbon, brandy, or another liqueur (optional)
In the bottom of a medium-sized saucepan, whisk egg yolks with granulated sugar until fully combined. Slow drizzle in 2 cups of cream, whisking the whole time. Warm mixture over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until it is thick enough that it coats a spoon. (Don’t let it simmer or boil.) Place chopped chocolate in the bottom of a large bowl and set a fine-mesh strainer over it. Pour egg yolk mixture through strainer, onto the chocolate. Remove strainer and stir; the heat of the egg yolk mixture should melt the chocolate. Add butter, salt, and vanilla, and mix until butter is melted and combined. Divide between small cups (you’ll have about 2 1/2 to 2 2/3 cups of budino mixture) and chill until fully cold and set. Either right before you serve it or, when the chill is off the custard enough that it won’t melt the cream, whip remaining 1/2 cup heavy cream to very soft peaks. Spoon generously over each cup. Serve cold, with strong coffee, and your favorite biscotti.
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