I woke up on the morning of New Year’s Eve determined to make panna cotta. My shopping list was kind of all over the place as I needed to buy enough heavy cream to start the base of my panna cotta, but Matt and I also wanted to visit the Safe Harbor Seafood Market to pick up our fresh crab and Mayport shrimp (if you’re not familiar with Mayport shrimp, I suggest you visit the village of Mayport now and eat lots of local shrimp). After that, we needed to head a little further south to Neptune Beach’s Green Market where I could find some scallions, herbs, and berries.
With most berries being out of season, I wasn’t sure which way to go with the panna cotta variation. My recipe suggested a Sweet Herb, Orange-Saffron, or Pumpkin Pie, but I just wasn’t feeling it with any of those options. However, while Matt and I were at the Green Market visiting with Twinn Bridges Farm, I learned about this wonderful lemon thyme he had available. It was at about this moment that I decided I wanted to make my panna cotta with this herb. Seeing as I still had another giant-sized lemon at home waiting to be used, did I really have a choice? Besides, adding my spin onto a never-before-tried recipe is my small way of living, and eating, adventurously.
Another woman and I bombarded the vendor with so many questions and I hoped he had more than just the one lemon thyme for sale. Sadly, he did not, but the woman who called dibs on it first was sweet enough to allow me to pull off just enough of the herb to add to my panna cotta. I was lucky enough to be able to swipe the very last chocolate mint plant he had for sale, though. In reality, I walked away with everything I needed…and then some. I’m still recovering from the $6.00 carton of free-range eggs but totally looking forward to breakfast in just a few hours.
To clarify that last statement, it’s 2:30 in the morning and I can’t sleep – HAPPY NEW YEAR! And please do yourself a favor and make some panna cotta! Play with the flavors as much as you want since this allows you to taste as you go…and long before you take the final steps in creating the whole darn thing. It’s easy. Probably a lot easier than you think.
FARMHOUSE PANNA COTTA (from The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper)
2 tablespoons of cold water
1 ½ teaspoons of unflavored gelatin
3 cups of heavy cream
½ cup sugar (more to taste, if needed)
pinch of salt
1 ½ teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 cup (8 oz) of sour cream
(my additions: 2 teaspoons of lemon rind and a finely chopped sprig of lemon thyme)
- Put the cold water in a small cup and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Let it stand for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a 3-quart saucepan, warm the cream with the sugar, salt, and vanilla over medium-high heat (If you are making the lemon & thyme variation, add the lemon rind and lemon thyme in after it the mixture has become mostly heated). Do not let it boil. Stir in the gelatin mixture until thoroughly dissolved. Take the cream off the heat and cool for about 5 minutes.
- Put the sour cream in a medium bowl. Gently whisk in the warm cream, a little at a time, until it is smooth. Taste the mixture for sweetness.
At this point, if you’re happy with the flavor of your mixture, start pouring it into muffin tins, coffee mugs, custard cups, whatever you’d like! I used a mini-cup muffin tin but I had so much mixture left over that I began filling up small Tupperware bowls to freeze with the lids on for future eating.
The panna cotta needs at least 4 hours to freeze (and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours) and is easily removed from the muffin tin by placing the tin on top of a cookie sheet (with high sides) and pouring hot water onto the sheet itself. Once thawed (try not to melt the panna cotta, which can happen quite easily as we learned tonight!), carefully spoon it out and place it in a bowl. If you used a coffee mug or custard cup, just grab a spoon and go for it.
The panna cotta is so rich and delicious and thick and creamy, you’ll probably get a belly ache so don’t eat too much at once. If you do, just be prepared to moan and groan in a happy-but-I-ate-too-much kind of state. According to those who did that on New Year’s Eve, it was so worth it.