We are talking about Panna Cotta.
Now, mostly if they judges on Top Chef say it is so, I take their word as gold – and before making it or knowing how it was made, other than it was a relative to Jello, if someone on Top Chef made Panna cotta, you could color me impressed! Always with a bit of mint or basil sticking out of the top, the little wobbly, fluted white mass looked delectable! I tend to order it if I see it on a menu when I’m out and figure it’s probably too difficult or requires too much fuss to make at home, on my own!
Boy was I wrong!! If you need a quick dessert for a dinner party or forgotten a special occasion – you can make this up so that it will be ready in time for dessert! Of all the recipes that I looked at, so long as you have some cream that is more dense and thick than whole milk – which is perfectly acceptable as well, just wont taste as creamy, then you can make this dessert!
Last week I even had a dream that I purchased a liter of half and half so that I could make vanilla bean Panna cotta and woke up suddenly invigorated with a burning desire to churn out cup after cup of Panna cotta and dreaming up the different sauces I could make to go with it. After letting Patella out for her morning stroll in the garden, I threw open the refrigerator door to find (very sadly) that I had no half and half! I scoured each shelf, looking, searching – I could picture it in my mind, as clear as the dream that I had – where it was, but alas – no carton of half and half could be spotted. A few days later, while cleaning out some going-to-expire-in-the-next-day-or-two milk, I spotted the carton! I had placed it in the door! I never do that! Of course, it had expired a few days ago, so that meant that I had to buy more. Sigh.
But have no fear! I figure so long as I bought a fresh carton, I could drag my feet on choosing exactly which fruit to make a coulis from and I could even make this during one of Mei’s naps!
So back to the store we went! I didn’t even forget (as I often do), what I came to the store for and headed back home! After whipping up the simple syrup for the candied citrus and battling the boiling water situation, we took a break, got Mei down for the shortest nap on record, and got to making the Panna cotta. Just a little dissolving sugar magic, activating some plain gelatin in cold water, whisk together, oil some coffee cups (my molds until I come across something more fancy), and voila! Panna cotta! I stuck it in the fridge, so that it could set and I could have it as early as breakfast!
This afternoon, Mei and I ran out to get raspberries, thinking the last batch we saw were pretty ripe and the largest we have seen yet this year! I decided on an orange raspberry coulis – but when we got there, there was not a raspberry to be had! Just an abundance of strawberries – which were mediocre at best. But I needed some fruit and we picked the two best containers of the lot, grabbed some OJ and went home.
Since I had about a cup and half of simple syrup left over from making the citrus curing solution from last night, we used that as the base of our strawberry orange syrup. I simply added one cup of OJ and 3/4 of the strawberries, coarsely chopped and set it on the stove top to come to a boil. Once boiled, we turned it down to a gentle simmer and let it reduce by half. Since it was too hot to taste, we strained it through a mesh strainer and stuck it in the fridge to cool.
I had a slight nagging feeling that the overall recipe was going to come out too sweet.
Turns out I was right. The Panna cotta itself erred on the side of sweet and overwhelmingly of vanilla. I think the next time I make it, it will have half as much sugar and half the vanilla for a more delicate balance. Once the syrup had cooled sufficiently, I tasted that and it tasted like overly candied strawberries, hardly any OJ to be detected. The next time we make the simple syrup I think I will make a fresh batch that doesn’t have quite the sugar content that this leftover batch had. However once you poured the syrup over the Panna cotta and freshly sliced strawberries, all the different elements melded together and turned out a very light, fresh dessert!
Mei even tried to pick up the bowl as I turned it out in a bowl. I think next time, I’m going to fill the cups only half way, 3/4 of a coffee cup full of Panna cotta was a bit much; half as much would suffice.
I might even try to make one infused with tea… I think that would be nice, maybe the grapefruit Earl Grey with some grapefruit garnish and mint. Hmm…. what will the next panna cotta be?