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Author Notes: I wanted to make a panna cotta for a large buffet-style dessert spread. Not knowing how warm it would be on the day of the party, I decided to use agar agar to thicken it. Agar agar will remain a lovely texture at temperatures that would liquify gelatin. I love the delicate, floral, lemony flavor of lemongrass so decided to use it in the panna cotta. I served it with a rhubarb raspberry compote (adapted from an Epicurious recipe for Rhubarb and Ginger Brioche Bread Pudding.) It was a success, and one of the first desserts to disappear at the party.
While panna cotta may seem like a crazy picnic option, the agar agar will hold up at warmer temperatures (you can literally heat it up in a 350º oven for several minutes to warm it, and it will stay firm.) Use a ramekin or a disposable plastic wine glass for a nice presentation. You can serve it plain, but it's especially good with a drizzle of berry coulis or a dollop of macerated berries or rhubarb sauce. It is a fresh, light, and unexpected dessert to serve at your next picnic, barbecue, or dinner party. —hardlikearmour
Makes 8 4-oz servings
- 1 cup whole milk
- 3 cups heavy cream, divided
- 2 stalks lemongrass, thinly sliced
- zest from one medium lemon or 1 bruised kaffir lime leaf (optional)
- 2 & 1/8th teaspoons agar agar powder
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- pinch salt
- Combine milk, 2 cups heavy cream, lemongrass, and lemon zest or lime leaf in a medium saucepan. Heat on low for 20 to 30 minutes to infuse the lemongrass flavor into the liquid. Stir occasionally.
- Meanwhile combine remaining cup of heavy cream and agar agar powder in a glass measure. Allow mixture to rest while the lemongrass mixture is heating.
- Add agar agar mixture, sugar, and salt to the lemongrass mixture. Increase the heat to medium-high and heat to 170º F, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, and when temperature has reduced to 120º F pass the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a 4-cup glass measure or small pitcher. Pour the panna cotta into individual ramekins. Allow to cool to room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and chill until ready to serve.
- Serve as is, or top with berry coulis, macerated berries, or rhubarb sauce.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Picnic Recipe
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Picnic Dish