My husband Jimmy stops reading the dessert menu when he reaches panna cotta, a creamy, easily-made custard sometimes flecked with what I like to call vanilla “caviar,” the tiny seeds from the vanilla pod. Here’s one of Jimmy’s favorite versions that has the warm flavor of vanilla along with the tangy kick of buttermilk. Make sure you leave enough time to let the panna cottas chill in the fridge before you serve them.
For the panna cotta
2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
2 teaspoons powdered gelatin
4 teaspoons cold water
For the strawberry mash
1 pint strawberries
2 tablespoons sugar
8 (4-ounce) ramekins or shallow baking dishes
1. Have ready 8 (4-ounce) ramekins or dessert cups.
2. Put the buttermilk, cream, sugar, and vanilla bean in a medium saucepan and bring the liquid to a boil.
3. Meanwhile, sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a small bowl and let it sit until it’s softened.
4. As soon as the buttermilk comes to the boil, remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the softened gelatin. Strain the mixture through fine-mesh strainer into a large pitcher or measuring cup with a spout. Pour into the ramekins and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving.*
5. To make the strawberry mash, using a potato masher or fork, crush the strawberries with the sugar.**
6. Spread the strawberry mash over the surface of the chilled panna cottas just before serving.
*The panna cottas will keep, covered with plastic wrap, in the fridge for up to 3 days.
**You can mash the strawberries up to 2 hours ahead and let them sit at room temperature.