Springtime on the East End of Long Island is when ospreys, great blue herons, and assorted squadrons of all sorts of winged creatures flap and flutter here for the summer. Also, most of the “biped snowbirds” start to migrate back from Florida and points south. Our phone rang the other day and our good friend Ilse chimed that she had just returned from Jupiter. No, not the planet – Jupiter, Florida. Ilse is a brazen omnivore who’s enjoyed more than an occasional meal at 2gourmaniacs’ dining room table. So as a sort of welcome home for Ilse, we had a very small dinner party. I made a slow cooked pork belly that I finished on the grill and sauced with black vinegar, Thai bird chilies, and Sichuan pepper. I also prepared some slow cooked asparagus wrapped in parchment paper, as well as a chocolate espresso panna cotta dessert. I served the panna cotta in martini glasses with flecks of shaved chocolate and roasted cacao nibs, and garnished it with a few sliced strawberries. It looked so great, I thought I’d share the photographs I took of it with you, and I’ll tell you how I made it.
¾ cup whole milk (preferably organic)
1 ½ tsp unflavored gelatin
2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp Bailey’s Irish Cream
1/8 tsp salt
a small piece bittersweet chocolate
¼ cup roasted cacao nibs
several large strawberries, washed and sliced
¼ cup chocolate espresso beans, finely ground in a spice grinder
Heat the milk and the ground espresso beans in a small heavy saucepan, until almost boiling. Remove from heat and let it steep for at least 20 minutes. Add the gelatin and return to low heat to dissolve it. Once dissolved, add the cream and sugar and cook for several minutes to dissolve the sugar over medium heat. Don’t let it boil.
Remove saucepan from heat and pour contents into a ceramic or metal bowl to cool at room temperature, and add the Bailey’s Irish Cream. Once cool, carefully ladle the mixture into clean, towel rubbed martini glasses, filling them 1/3 of their capacity. Place the glasses and the reserved bowl of panna cotta in a refrigerator for about twenty minute. Keep an eye on them: the idea is for the panna cotta to just start to set. Meanwhile, beat the chilled heavy cream in a mixing bowl to make fresh whipped cream. I throw a tablespoon of sugar in to help stiffen the whipped cream. When you’re satisfied that the panna cotta in the martini glasses is just starting to set, remove the glasses and the reserved bowl of panna cotta from the refrigerator. Carefully spoon a layer of cream on top of the panna cotta in the martini glasses, sprinkle a few cacoa nibs on top and carefully ladle another layer of panna cotta from the bowl on top of the whipped cream. Finally, top the martini glass off with a couple of spoonfuls of whipped cream, and garnish with some shaved bittersweet chocolate, a sprinkling of roasted cacao nibs and a few strawberry slices.