Ever since having crème fraîche panna cotta at Gramercy Tavern with my husband, I knew I wanted to recreate it at home. Served in miniature ramekins with a dot of bright green tarragon oil and a few supremes of grapefruit on the top, the panna cottas were presented as a gift from the kitchen before our main desserts arrived. They were beautiful and so, so good -- by far the best panna cottas I’d ever had. I’m convinced that crème fraîche makes everything better.
Back at home, I went about my research to recreate this recipe. I combined my favorite elements of multiple panna cotta recipes I found online and in my cookbooks, including ones by Claudia Fleming and Tom Valenti. I also decided to use turbinado sugar instead of granulated white sugar, to amp up the flavor. My first attempt at making the panna cottas was a success -- fortuitous since I was making them for a dinner party and didn’t have a back-up plan. As a nod to the Gramercy Tavern, I chose to serve mine straight from the ramekins, topped with macerated strawberries and tarragon. They went over very well.
Any number of fruit and herb combinations would be lovely here depending on the season. A few ideas: strawberries and tarragon; blackberries and basil; raspberries and mint; and blueberries and lemon thyme. Or you could copy Gramercy Tavern and go with a combination of grapefruit and tarragon -- there's nothing wrong with that. —EmilyC
Test Kitchen Notes
Fantastic. The addition of the buttermilk and the crème fraîche (I used sour cream) to a standard panna cotta gave a great mouthfeel to the finished dish. It was smooth but not as sour or tart as I'd feared it might be, and it had a great clean finish. I used vanilla bean, which I really recommend if possible. We topped our panna cottas with macerated cherries and mint, and they were fabulous -- a great summer dessert! —Ruth Kirwan
six 8-ounce servings or eight 6-ounce servings
Place 2 1/2 tablespoons of cold water in a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin on top and let soften for 5 minutes.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm the crème fraîche, heavy cream, buttermilk, turbinado sugar, and vanilla bean (if using), stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat just before the mixture reaches a simmer. Add the gelatin mixture immediately and vanilla bean paste or extract (if using in lieu of vanilla bean), whisking until the gelatin dissolves. (If using a vanilla bean, scrape remaining seeds from the bean and add them to the mixture at this time.) Strain the crème fraîche mixture through a fine sieve into a large measuring cup with a spout.
Pour the mixture into eight 6-ounce ramekins, bowls, or parfait glasses (or six 8-ounce ones). Cover with plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 3 to 4 hours.
About 10 minutes before serving, combine fruit and herbs in a bowl and mix in a few teaspoons of sugar. Let the sweetness of your fruit guide the amount of sugar you add. Let the fruit mixture macerate for about 5 to 10 minutes. Top each panna cotta with a spoonful of the fruit mixture, serving additional on the side if desired.