Communal Table
Recipes

Crème Fraîche Panna Cotta or June Inspires Me

May 16th, 2011

There is a new restaurant here in Portland, and I am weak in the knees. Downright smitten, in fact. It’s called June. Reading the menu is something like meeting eyes with the cute boy in algebra class in 9th grade, which is funny because on their website home page, the chef thanks his grandmother (June). But nonetheless, this menu suddenly opens your meek little possibilities, and you find yourself feeling all grown up inside.

I’ve been there twice this week, and once with Hanna last week. That was my first time. Consider this: We were halfway through whisky and Benedictine concoctions when we decided to order. I had my eye on a foraged greens salad with an egg, and I heard Hanna ask the server for a fish terrine and a plate of carrots.

“Do you want me to bring the fish out as a starter and the carrots as a main?” The server asked. Man, he got that backwards, I thought.

“Good idea!” Hanna said.

That’s when I did a double-take. Wait, he meant to suggest a plate of carrots as a main course? That seemed to elevate the spring carrot to a level it probably well deserves and rarely gets. That’s my kind of restaurant.

I could tell you about salmon that gave me pause from my conversation for a good 10 minutes while I contemplated how flesh could be so supple and buttery, and what are those little things that look like dried figs but have a pungent, almost shocking, burst of flavor? I can’t place that. Oh, it’s sweet and sour radishes, of course. Wait, what the heck is a sweet and sour radish and why does it taste so weird, yet alluring? Don’t even get me started on the warm apple vol-au-vent. I was useless at that point. I was basically having a date with puff pastry and perfectly pliant quarters of apple crowned in vanilla ice cream and warm caramel. Just like every other apple pie, you’re thinking. Only if every other apple pie subtly and swiftly blows your mind. But that’s not what I came here to talk about.

What I’m really going to talk about here is crème fraîche panna cotta. It came with those carrots I was talking about, and when I first read the words crème fraîche panna cotta, it almost brought me to tears. Finally, someone who understands me. You see, I’m one of those people that would, if given the occasion, eat crème fraîche all by itself. That’s right. Just me a sparkling clean spoon and some crème fraîche. Of course, since that is monumentally uncivil, I often disguise my crème fraîche with lots and lots of fresh berries, which isn’t a bad thing, either.

But crème fraîche panna cotta! What a perfect foil to unadorned crème fraîche gluttony. Here was my ticket to getting a whole tableful of unsuspecting diners on board with my habit. Since I happened to be hosting the Spring Communal Table dinner the very next night, I suddenly HAD to make this. Lucky for me, I had some homemade crème fraîche (see below). All I needed was a little gelatin, some milk, and a vanilla bean and I was off to a running start.

Okay, a word: I know you can buy crème fraîche, but really, why bother? In a recent New York Times article, DIY Cooking Handbook, Julia Moskin gives exquisitely easy instructions for making crème fraîche. This knowledge has forever changed my life, my grocery bill, and the second shelf of my refrigerator. Once a luxury product, I now have crème fraîche on hand almost all the time. Not only will you save money making it at home, but you will still taste a kiss of fresh cream, and that’s all I have to say about that. Plus, it’s so fun to check on throughout the day, which coincidentally you don’t have to do, but the delicately sweet, yet faintly tangy aroma draws you in. It beckons. If you make it from scratch, you’ll have to give this recipe a bit of foresight and start at least a day ahead, but the crème fraîche will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks. If you’d prefer to buy pre-made crème fraîche, just skip the first step and throw this whole thing together in the blink of a morning coffee, as I did.

 

Crème Fraîche Panna Cotta

-2 cups heavy cream
-1/4 cup buttermilk
-1 envelope unflavored geletin
-1 cup whole milk
-1/4 cup sugar
-1 vanilla bean, split

 

To make the crème fraîche, pour two cups of cream and the ¼ cup of buttermilk into a non-reactive bowl (glass or stainless steel), give it a good stir, cover with a kitchen towel and leave it for about 24 hours. That’s when the cream suddenly sets and becomes less liquid, more pudding-like. Check on it now and then. In my kitchen, it takes 24 hours to become creamy and have just the right amount of tanginess. This process can take anywhere from 6-48 hours. Give it a stir now and then and taste a nip.

When the crème fraîche is ready, give it a good whisking until smooth and a little lighter. Set aside. Next, sprinkle the gelatin over 2 tablespoons of cold water. Let it stand for a few minutes until it softens and blooms.  Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the milk, sugar, and vanilla bean to a simmer. As soon as you see a consistent pattern of bubbles, turn the heat off and stir in the gelatin until it melts in. Pull out the vanilla bean and gradually whisk the milk mixture into the crème fraîche. Pour into six 6-ounce ramekins. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, or up to 1 day. Serve with a ripe red strawberry, or a few perfect raspberries, or just a sparkling clean spoon. That’s all it really needs.

13 Responses to “Crème Fraîche Panna Cotta or June Inspires Me”

  1. [...] « Previous post in this category Next post in this category » [...]

  2. Stefanie says:

    God! That sounds delish. My kind of dessert. I would like
    to eat it with chocolate ganache.

  3. Adrian says:

    Mmmmm. Chocolate ganache. Yum.

  4. Ali Steinbach says:

    My mouth started watering…….must be almost time to book a trip to Portland…..

  5. Lisa says:

    Okay, I have to admit I had to look up both crème fraîche and panna cotta but what can you expect from someone who does most of her cooking with a microwave? I love your posts because they are opening me up to a whole new world. I will have to try making the crème myself. I am not usually a “cream” kind of person but your post made it sound so enticing that I fear I am missing out on something truly amazing.

  6. leela says:

    amazing! this looks so delicious and that last photo of the little darling licking the spoon is my favorite!! so so great.
    xo
    L

  7. Adrian says:

    Thanks, Leela! I love that picture, too. And my daughter loves this “milk pudding”, as she calls it.

  8. Brigan says:

    I CAN’T STAND IT!!!! Make it for me right now!!!!

  9. Adrian says:

    I so wish I could! xoxo

  10. Brian says:

    My wife is a Panna Cotta freak so I offered to make her some rather than spend crazy money buying them. I have made them and they’ve just gone in the fridge, so I’ll let you know the outcome. Living in France it was easier to go with the crème fraîche option. Thanks for this.

  11. Adrian says:

    I’m so glad you found this recipe. I hope your wife likes them as much as my family does. Let me know. All the best.

  12. Brian says:

    Well, despite my mixup with what constitutes a gelatine envelope (not a Uk thing) they turned out spot on. My wife says that they are as good as, if not better, than the local PâTisserie (And half the price). If I can just get the gelatine right then they will be purrrrfect :o )

    Thanks again

    Brian

  13. [...] If chocolate lunchbox pudding isn’t your thing, you could always follow my instructions for crème fraiche panna cotta, chocolate mousse, or crème [...]

Leave a Reply