Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Great Panna Cotta Mystery

Panna Cotta should not be as delicious as it is. Something that takes less than five minutes to prepare--then sits in the fridge for a few hours--simply should not be the best thing ever...but somehow it is. Granted, it's typically made with heavy cream and sugar, so I understand that it's never going to be inedible. But can someone please explain to me why this dish, which is essentially nothing more than cream Jell-o, makes everyone's eyelashes flutter and their spoons keep digging in for more? It baffles the mind, but I'm not complaining.

I fell in love with Panna Cotta a few years ago in New York City, in a little (now closed, I believe) restaurant called Borgo Antico in the West Village. The full story of that unlikely meal can be found here, but suffice it to say that ever since then I've ordered Panna Cotta whenever it's on a dessert menu. We've got some great ones in the city - from Kir's over at the Sugar Cube dessert cart on Mississippi to the yuzu-infused vegan coconut version at Bamboo Sushi, but it's so easy to make at home that I know I shouldn't rely on professional pastry chefs to do what I can so easily do myself. But, really, like THAT mentality has ever stopped me from ordering anything...

My friend Alix, a true-blue Portland foodie, came over to make dinner (we tackled pasta, dramatically, over here), so I took the opportunity to please a fellow discerning palate with my favorite dessert. I bought some cream from City Market (one of my new favorite places in Portland) and rushed home to get dessert mixed and in the fridge with enough time to set. As I stirred the pot of cream, sugar, honey, vanilla, gelatin, and thick yogurt, I couldn't help but grin at the fact that I have the kind of job that allows me to be barefoot at home cooking panna cotta in the late morning. It's a rough life, really. I ended up making my Panna Cotta in a glass bread pan, because I don't have room in my kitchen for silly things like ramekins. I figured I could pop the whole thing onto a plate and cut slices. It worked, but was kind of ugly, so maybe those fussy kitchen dishes have a place after all... I didn't really have any energy left to stage a better picture, so I just kind of randomly clicked my camera in the general direction of the dessert plates and then sat down with a spoon. We were so wiped from the pasta misadventure that we couldn't really care less that the panna cotta was a lump covered in fruit, because it was a damn tasty lump covered in damn tasty fruit.

I picked up some gorgeous apricots from the farmers' market last Saturday, almost jumping up and down (well, ok, actually jumping up and down) with excitement that the first wave of stone-fruits is upon us. I can't believe we're mere weeks from peaches (!), and it seems that every other blog post on the internet is spotlighting the piles of cherries filling the markets. These apricots were perfectly ripe from a few day's vacation in a brown paper bag, but still had an edge of tartness so I added a bit of honey. Needless to say, Greek yogurt + honey = yum. YUM.

This was the dessert that saved the day. A bit homely, a bit slapdash, but all in all, a winner. It's really good for breakfast, too...

Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta
adapted from Nancy over at Good Food Matters
1 package Gelatin
2 T. Water
1 cup Whipping Cream
1/4 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Honey
1 t. Vanilla
2 cups Whole Milk Greek Yogurt

Sprinkle gelatin into a bowl, and stir in the water. The gelatin will soften and clump, but don’t worry, it will smooth out in the brief cooking that’s to follow.

Gently heat the cream in a saucepan. Stir in the sugar, honey, vanilla, and the gelatin. Stir steadily with a wooden spoon until sugar and gelatin has completely dissolved throughout the mixture. Do not let this boil.

When all is incorporated, remove from heat. Stir in the Greek yogurt.

Pour into a glass container of any shape, up to and including an old glass bread pan. Or break out your fancy cordial glasses or ramekins... Cover and chill for at least 3 hours.

1 comment:

  1. This looks incredible and I love the story behind this post!! xo