Panna cotta is one of my favorite desserts to make, because my aunt and I share a love for it. She is a fabulous chef and entertainer and - the best - and when we start talking about food and parties, it's easy to see we're related. One difference between us is that I have much more of a sweet tooth than she does, so she prefers to serve very light desserts - usually something simple with fruit or, of course, panna cotta. It's such an easy dessert to make and it is so tailorable to any flavor profile or meal. It's light, yes, but you can still play with the richness by changing up the dairy. I used buttermilk in combination with cream for the dessert at our last pop-up (buttermilk panna cotta with passion fruit gelée and 5-spice nut brittle crumble - let me know if you want that recipe!). The cream adds richness that makes a light dessert taste luscious, which is why I love panna cotta!
When I saw the ingredients for this episode, I wasn't really sure which direction to go. I hadn't cooked with many of them, but caviar is something I know and love - to eat, that is. I didn't want to do something too obvious, like potatoes or eggs, so I loved Ludo's idea to let the caviar act as the salt in a salted caramel. Salted caramel might be one of my signature dessert moves, so it felt like a perfect fit!
Ludo also suggested infusing the panna cotta with jalapeño, which was brilliant. I never would have thought to do this - but hey, I've done it with tequila, so why not dessert? :) These are the moments of the show I have taken with me. Just seeing something done once, being exposed to different techniques and ideas ... it immediately opens up your mind as a cook.
This dessert is a show-stopper for sure. And perfect for entertaining. Panna cotta is great for making ahead of time, because it needs time to set and then keeps well. You can warm the caramel and top with caviar just before serving.
I hope you'll be tuning in next Tuesday for the finale! It's crazy to think I've made it this far. Among many talented chefs and cooks ... I was just proud and happy to be there. I will be writing another post about my entire experience on the show after the finale airs next week - so stay tuned for that!