Panna Cotta

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This panna cotta is like eating vanilla ice cream. Although panna cotta translates as "cooked cream," in fact, you heat the heavy cream only long enough to dissolve the sugar and a little gelatin. To bring the dessert to the consistency it achieves with the super-thick cream of the Piedmont region’s dairy country where it was born, I stir in sour cream before pouring it into small molds for chilling. Chefs often dress up panna cotta with complicated sauces. I like it on its own, or the way it’s eaten in homes, with fresh fruit -- cherries when they come into season, strawberries, raspberries, peaches, and pears.

The boiled-down juice of fresh-pressed wine grapes, an old-country substitute for sugar, sometimes sauces panna cotta. Find imported Saba from Modena in some fancy food stores. Balsamic vinegar isn’t a Piemontese tradition, but the thick liqueur-like, artisan-made balsamic (Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena or Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio-Emilia) is fabulous over panna cotta.

Cook to Cook: Use organic cream if possible and be sure the sour cream contains only cream and culture, no other additives. This recipe unmolds with a soft, creamy finish. For a firmer panna cotta, increase the gelatin to 1 3/4 teaspoons.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 3 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar, or more to taste
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (8-ounce container) sour cream
Optional Topping:
  • 2 cups pitted fresh cherries, strawberries, raspberries, or sliced peaches or pears or 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons artisan-made balsamic vinegar or 2 to 3 tablespoons Saba syrup or Vin Cotto
Instructions

1. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water. Let stand for 5 minutes. In a 3-quart saucepan, warm the cream with the sugar, salt, and vanilla over medium-high heat. Do not let it boil. Stir in the gelatin until thoroughly dissolved. Take the cream off the heat and cool about 5 minutes.

2. Put the sour cream in a medium bowl. Gently whisk in the warm cream a little at a time until smooth. Taste for sweetness. It may need another teaspoon of sugar. Rinse 8 2/3 -cup ramekins, custard cups, or coffee cups with cold water. Fill each one three-quarters full with the cream. Chill 4 to 24 hours.

3. To serve, either unmold by packing the molds in hot towels and then turning each out onto a dessert plate, or serve in their containers. Serve alone or with the fruit, or drizzle each portion with about 1/2 teaspoon artisan balsamic vinegar or Saba.

Wine Suggestion: a lush, sweet red Recioto della Valpolicella Classico La Roggia by Fratelli Speri
Categories: 
Desserts
Yield: 
Serves 6 to 8; doubles easily
  • When it comes to cooking sausage, it's all about heat management

    "If you're going to grill, you can mark it first on a hotter part of the grill," says Chris Ying, editor in chief of Lucky Peach and co-author of The Wurst of Lucky Peach. "Then move it to the cooler, indirect heat to finish cooking gently and slowly, and let all of those fats and everything break down inside of the sausage."

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Host Francis Lam wins multiple 2017 James Beard Media Awards

Host Francis Lam won several awards at the 2017 James Beard Foundation Media Awards for his work as food writer and cookbook editor.