Chef Time!

Chef Time!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Giving It A Second Chance


After my first try in making Panna cotta (which was a total disaster), I swore that I would never do this again. But a friend of mine in Hawaii, inspired me to at least give it a second chance. Lo and behold, to my surprise, I actually made a decent Strawberry Panna Cotta. So I say thanks to my friend Traci Yamane for the inspiration, and to all my readers, ENJOY!
Strawberry Panna Cotta
Panna cotta is a traditional Piemontese recipe -- the name means "cooked cream" in Italian. There are many variations of the recipe, but it is generally made by simply simmering together some cream, milk and sugar, mixing this with gelatin, before letting it cool until set. The cream mixture can also be flavored, often with a vanilla pod, sometimes with fruit or fruit juice, but you could also experiment with tea, cocoa powder, and different spices or extracts -- not very traditional but also very good. Some people enjoy the Panna cotta on its own, but it is usually served with a sauce (often a berry coulis), which adds some sweetness: the cream itself is supposed to be only subtly sweet.

strawberry panna cotta

Panna cotta:
1 c. whipping cream
1 c. milk
¼ c. sugar
1 tsp. (2g) agar-agar (or 2 1/2 sheets of gelatin, see instructions below)
2 tsp. vanilla extract or vanilla paste
Strawberry coulis:
9oz. Fresh strawberries
¼ c. sugar
Optional, for decoration:
12 small fresh strawberries
Four butter cookies (Petit Beurre for instance)
Panna cotta. Combine all the Panna cotta ingredients (if using gelatin, see instructions below) in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring from time to time (do not let it boil). Let cool for five minutes. Rinse four half-cup ramekins or bowls quickly under cold water, do not dry (this will help unmold them if you choose to), and distribute the Panna cotta mixture evenly among them. Keep in the refrigerator until firm, about three hours or overnight.
Important note: if you are using gelatin instead of agar-agar, do not combine the gelatin with the rest of the ingredients. Instead, soak the sheets in a bowl of cold water while you bring the other ingredients to a simmer, then squeeze with your hands to drain (they will be soft), and whisk into the (hot but not boiling) Panna cotta mixture to dissolve before pouring into the ramekins.
Strawberry coulis. Rinse the strawberries quickly under cool water and drain. Cut the stems off, and cut strawberries in quarters. Combine in a small saucepan with the sugar and two tablespoons of water. Bring to a simmer and remove from heat immediately. Pour into the bowl of a blender or food processor and mix with short pulses. Cover, let cool to room temperature and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Serve the Panna cotta in their ramekins topped with a layer of coulis, or unmold them carefully onto plates and drizzle with the coulis. In both cases, you can decorate each plate with three whole strawberries and a butter cookie.

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