As a food blogger, I completely failed for Thanksgiving. I didn’t write about turkey or mashed potatoes or my grandmother’s stuffing recipe, which I tried to make once and failed so epically that I’m too intimidated to attempt to make it again. On the flip side, who really needs more Thanksgiving recipes anyway? I was so inundated with Thanksgiving recipes from the blogs that I subscribe to that I stopped reading them altogether. And really, how many turkey and potato recipes does a person really need?
Today, I want to share about one of my favorite desserts to make. Panna cotta. Despite what you may think, it’s super easy and quick to make, and is guaranteed to impress your guests. Also, anything served in ramekins ups the Fancy-Factor.
You can’t really small batch panna cotta, or at least I haven’t tried to scale it down, so I typically only make it for a group of people. I discovered buttermilk panna cotta when I made fried chicken one time and didn’t know what to do with the leftover buttermilk. There are many recipes for buttermilk panna cotta, but I’ve been using this recipe from Whole Foods and haven’t felt the need to experiment with any others, though at some point I should. The recipe essentially comes down to heating heavy cream with sugar, add gelatin, combine this gelatin-cream mixture with buttermilk, more heavy cream, and vanilla. Then pour into ramekins and refrigerate for a few hours.
Panna cotta is best when paired with some kind of topping: berries, compote, chocolate shavings–really whatever will taste good with cream. Andrew and I were gifted with homegrown pomegranates from friends, and while I was explicitly told to pickle them by their eight-year-old daughter, I decided instead to make a pomegranate syrup to go with the panna cotta. (Ava, I promise I will experiment with pickling them next time.) I did some Googling and came across this blog called Drizzle and Dip by Sam Linsell. She’s a popular blogger in South Africa and the food photography is absolutely gorgeous. She posted about a pomegranate and ginger spritzer which gave tips for deseeding a pomegranate as well as a simple pomegranate syrup recipe to go with her pink swirl meringues. Take a minute or 60 and get lost in her beautiful photos. I’ll wait.
To deseed a pomegranate, fill a large bowl with water, cut the pomegranates in quarters and remove the seeds from the white, pithy bits under the water. It prevents juice splatters and also helps separate the seeds from the pith, as the pith floats to the top.
Linsell recommends juicing seeds with an electrical rotary juicer. I don’t have one of those (nor do I really know what that is) so I just put the seeds in a Ziplock bag and used a rolling pin to crush the seeds, using my hands to crush any seeds that the rolling pin didn’t catch. Then I cut a tiny hole in the corner of the bag and squeezed the juice out. You can also put the seeds in a blender and pulse it a little and then strain the juice and seeds through a cheesecloth, but the Ziplock bag required less cleaning of dishes which I was all for.
The syrup recipe is a simple 2:1 ratio of juice to sugar. I combined the 2/3 cup of juice I produced with 1/3 cup of sugar in a small saucepan, brought it to a boil, turned down the heat, and simmered it for 10-15 minutes. It will thicken as it cools, so try not to overcook it or you will end up with hard candy instead of syrup. It may not sound like such a bad consequence, but when you’ve spent 30 minutes deseeding pomegranates, you want the syrup to turn out well.
For serving, spoon a thin layer of syrup in each ramekin and top with some pomegranate seeds (that you thoughtfully saved before juicing). Then watch your friends go silent as they enjoy and lick their dishes clean. After all the pumpkin pie you’ve been having the past few days, it’s a welcome dessert alternative.