Candied Orange Rind!

Aside from creme brulee, I’ve never been a huge fan of desserts in this custard/creme desserts.  Truth be told, there’s no reason for my hesitancy.  For some inexplicable reason, I had convinced myself that these desserts would just be high calorie disappointments.

But that has since changed and I couldn’t be more than enthusiastic.  Strangely enough, leave it to a Vietnamese restaurant to enlighten me.  About a year ago, Mike and I had dinner at one of those trendy/semi-upscale/fusion Vietnamese restaurants that are becoming ever so popular.  While I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of these types of restaurants (I think I’m always disappointed with the lack of traditional flavors that then leaves me further deflated when I see the bill), but  Benley: A Vietnamese Kitchen (you can find more information and reviews here) in Long Beach had great reviews on Yelp and we were feeling adventurous.  Food was great–but he highlight of the night was the complimentary panna cotta the owner sent to us at the end of the meal.  It was absolutely divine!  Creamy, rich, and just bursting with flavors–fantastic citrus anglais topped with fresh pomegranate seeds.  I almost melted.  Hands down, one of the best desserts I’ve ever had.  I know you’re thinking, “I’m sure the fact that it was free helped,” and it certainly did, because Mike and I came back for our anniversary last year and couldn’t have been more pleased.  Excuse me, while I wipe the side of my mouth.

Well, Mike and I were hosting a handful of friends one weekend and I was looking for something other than chocolate to serve.  I thought panna cotta would be a great option, but considering I had never made one before, I was a bit nervous.  Thankfully, the panna cotta came out beautifully!  Panna cotta is a rather simple dessert to throw together and you couldn’t ask for a more impressive looking dessert.  A friend said that Panna Cotta should “quiver like a woman’s thigh.”  Top Chef, anyone?  That being said, while it was still jiggly I will cut down on the gelatin a bit next time around.  I think I prefer my Panna Cotta a tad more delicate.  Other than that, if you’re a fan of pomegranates and tangy desserts, this one is for you.

Pomegranate Panna Cotta

Ingredients

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
3 tablespoons plus 2 cups pomegranate juice (such as Pom)
2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1 cup sugar
Peel from 1 orange, removed in strips with vegetable peeler
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Directions

Spray six 3/4-cup ramekins or custard cups with nonstick spray. Place 3 tablespoons pomegranate juice in small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over; let stand 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 cups pomegranate juice, sugar, and peel in large saucepan over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil until syrup is reduced to 1 1/4 cups, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Remove peel from pan; transfer 1/3 cup syrup to small bowl and reserve for sauce. Add gelatin mixture to remaining hot syrup in pan, and stir until dissolved. Add orange juice and whipping cream, then buttermilk. Strain. Divide among prepared ramekins. Chill until set, at least 4 hours or overnight. Cover and chill sauce separately.

Run knife around edge of ramekins; invert onto plates. Drizzle with sauce and serve.

Don’t waste the orange peel: It makes an attractive garnish. Remove it from the syrup and let it cool, then thinly slice it lengthwise. Toss it with 3 tablespoons sugar in a small bowl; cover and chill.

Original recipe from Epicurious

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