I’ve been watching more of my DVDs from The Great Courses and the Culinary Institute of America. I have particularly enjoyed “The Everyday Gourmet: Baking Pastries and Desserts.” The presenter is Chef Stephen L. Durfee who is an instructor at the Greystone campus of the CIA. He certainly has earned his chops – he is a James Beard Foundation winner and has been the pastry chef at The French Laundry, among many other accomplishments and awards. His lessons have been very instructive, and his style has been friendly and conversational.
The lessons have come in handy. Susan has had a minor procedure needing a soft diet for a few days. That seemed like a perfect time for me to try out Chef Durfee’s recipe for panna cotta. What could be easier than panna cotta? On top of that it’s very tasty. Another nice thing about the recipe is that it invites variations. Buttermilk gives an interesting flavor, but the usual fruit toppings were out. What could be easier than chocolate ganache?
Blooming gelatin wrinkles the surface
Bittersweet baking chocolate to be chopped
Panna cotta ladled into the serving dishes and ready to be chilled
Orange liqueur (my favorite, Patrön Citrónge)
Buttermilk panna cotta with chocolate ganache topping
Buttermilk Panna Cotta
- 2¼ cups buttermilk
- 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Place 1 cup of the buttermilk in a wide-rimmed bowl, reserving the rest
- Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the surface of the buttermilk and let rest for 5 minutes to bloom the gelatin. The surface should wrinkle up as the gelatin blooms. You can ensure an even process by exposing more of the buttermilk by breaking the surface with a whisk.
- In a medium sauce pan, dissolve the sugar in the cream and bring to the boil.
- Pour the boiling cream into the bloomed gelatin mixture and stir to completely dissolve the gelatin.
- Add the vanilla extract and reserved buttermilk to cool the mixture.
- Strain the mixture through a fine-meshed sieve. This step is very important to remove any clumps of undissolved gelatin and buttermilk..
- Pour the strained, cooled mixture into 6 serving dishes or ramekins. The mixture should be cooled before pouring it into the dishes or ramekins. Otherwise it might separate into layers.
- Refrigerate several hours or over night until the panna cotta is set.
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 5 ounces heavy cream
- 1 ounce corn syrup
- 2 tablespoons orange liqueur (optional)
- Chop the chocolate into small pieces about the size of an M&M candy to make sure it will melt with the added hot cream before the cream cools off. . Transfer to a medium bowl.
- Combine the cream and corn syrup, stirring to make sure the syrup is completely dissolved. Bring to a rolling boil in a small saucepan..
- Pour the hot cream and corn syrup mixture into the chopped chocolate. Let sit undisturbed for a moment or two to let the chocolate begin to melt.
- With a spatula, stir the chocolate from the center outward until the cream has been completely and evenly incorporated.
- If desired, add the orange liqueur and stir until completely incorporated.
- Cool for 10 minutes or so until just warm to the touch.
- Ladle one or two tablespoons onto each of the tops of the chilled panna cottas. Return to the refrigerator and chill for 1 hour. This will form a firm chocolate layer. If you want something softer, use more cream when you make the ganache.
Recently I have written about noodles and pasta and some of my travails in turning out good products. Part of the stimulus for my effort has been watching an outstanding video cooking course by Chef Bill Briwa of the Greystone campus of the Culinary Institute of America and produced by The Great Courses. Chef Briwa made pasta-making look so easy, especially after my history of struggle over the years.
Actually, I found the basics of pasta and noodle making to be fairly straightforward. (How complicated can anything be with the ingredients limited to flour, eggs, and water?) At the same time, refinements come only with practice and attention to detail.
Here is my effort at a close relative of pasta/noodle: spaetzle. The word is German, and translates to either “little sparrows” or “little darlings”. Personally I prefer the “little darlings” translation because I would rather not have birds floating around in the sauce, and the little noodlets do look cute, snuggling in the brown butter. Spaetzle are basically made from a soft noodle dough that you force through holes into boiling water where they immediately cook and float to the top. You can use a cookie press with a spaetzle attachment, but those holes are too small. You can use a colander with large holes, but there is a lot of effort with a spoon in pushing the dough through the openings. The last time I visited Los Angeles, I found a spaetzle maker at the Surfas kitchen supply store in Culver City. As an aside, I would highly recommend a visit when you are in Los Angeles. They have more kitchen gadgets than you can imagine along with a small sandwich and pastry shop.
Back to the spaetzle, the device I bought at Surfas makes spaetzle-making a breeze. You load the dough into the little box on top, move the box back and forth across the pierced plate, and the dough automatically feeds until you need to load it again. The spaetzle drop into the boiling water, and you scoop them out into waiting melted butter at the same time you reload the box.
I served the spaetzle in brown butter sauce with croutons, along with braised pork chops, apples, and onions. Pretty German – and pretty monochromatic. You might want to add a green vegetable to brighten up the plate.
Use a colander or a special spaetzle device
Spaetzle and croutons in brown butter
Spaetzle served with braised pork chops, apples and onions
Spaetzle in Brown Butter with Croutons
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup croutons
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup water
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 6 quarts salted water for boiling the spaetzle
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and cook, stirring frequently, until it has browned, being careful not to let it burn. Remove from the heat, stir in the croutons, and have it next to the cooking water for the spaetzle so that you can transfer the pasta immediately into the butter.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine the eggs, water, salt and flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
- In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Place the spaetzle maker over the boiling water. Load the metal box with dough, and using a back-and-forth sliding motion, pass the dough through the holes in pierced plate.
- The noodles should drop into the boiling water and sink to the bottom. After they float to the surface, let them cook for a minute or so, and the lift them out of the boiling water using a slotted spoon or a spider. Transfer to the melted brown butter, stirring them so that they are completely coated with butter.
- Repeat the process until all of the dough has been used up.
- Correct the seasoning of the buttered noodles with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, or you can chill them and reheat them later if yo wish.
Braised Pork Chops, Apples, and Onions
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 boneless, 1 inch-thick pork chops
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 stems fresh rosemary
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 apple, peeled, cored, and sliced into ½ inch rings
- 1 onion, sliced thinly (Use a mandolin if you have one.)
- ¼ cup Calvados
- salt and pepper
- Heat the olive oil in an oven-proof pan with tight-fitting lid, big enough to hold the pork chops and other ingredients. Brown the pork chops on both sides. Add the chicken stock, garlic, rosemary, and bay leaf. Cover and place in the middle of oven preheated to 220° F.
- Braise for one hour, turning the pork chops from time to time, and adding water if necessary.
- Add the apple rings and onions, and continue to cook for another 45 minutes.
- Transfer the pork chops, apples, and onions to a plate, cover with aluminum foil and keep warm in the oven.
- Strain the cooking liquid, and return to the pan. Boil the liquid over high heat until it is reduced to about one-half and is slightly thickened. Stir in the Calvados.
- Serve the pork chops, apples, and onions, topped with the sauce and with the spaetzle on the side.