It appears lately that lots of bloggers (and by "lots" I mean "several") have been posting panna cotta recipes.
According to that famous expert on Italian food, Wikipedia, panna cotta ("cooked cream") is a dessert originally from Piemonte, a northern region in Italy. Made with cream, half-and-half, milk or any combination thereof, it is a custard thickened with gelatin instead of eggs. My recipe uses a combination of evaporated full-fat and fat-free milks, so its consistency is similar to a chocolate jello. It also reminds me of what, as I recall, Junket tasted like during my unkosher youth.
I hope you are still with me here, since panna cotta is easy enough to make for everyday, yet elegant enough for company. By the way, if you are going to make it as a company dessert, substitute some or all of the evaporated milk with half-and-half and/or heavy cream. Then let them all kvetch about the calories.
One of the disadvantages of this dessert is that you have to make it ahead, at least several hours, to allow it to firm up. But one of the advantages of this dessert is that you can make it ahead, up to several days in advance, thus freeing you up to obsess over some other part of the meal.
Basic panna cotta is simply vanilla flavored. But since I'm a certified chocoholic, the vanilla is replaced by cocoa.
This version uses kosher gelatin. I use KoJel, which is veggie friendly, but there are other veggie/kosher brands out there as well. Since kosher gelatin behaves a little differently than a non-kosher gelatin, check the original recipe for the hoof-based instructions.
Panna Cotta, at least the version you see here, is also gluten-free and Passover friendly.
Because I wasn't sure of the quantity of kosher gelatin needed to gel up the panna cotta properly and because KoJel hates me and refuses to dissolve completely no mater how accurately I follow package directions, a layer of gel winds up glued to the bottom of the pot anyway. So I used 2 packages of gelatin. Probably 1 1/2 packages would have been perfect, but I don't live in a perfect world -- a layer of gel wound up glued to the bottom of the pot anyway, but the remaining portion dissolved sucessfully and set up the panna cotta perfectly.
I didn't bother, but you can top each serving of panna cotta with a strawberry or couple of raspberries. To really wow your guests, use ramekins or fancy-schmancy molds. Carefully unmold each serving onto individual dessert plates and drizzle with honey, strawberry sauce or red wine syrup.
Lower-Fat Chocolate Panna Cotta - Easy
adapted from The Italian Dish
Makes 6 small ramikens, or about 18 shooters
12 oz. (1 can) whole evaporated (NOT sweetened condensed) milk
12 oz. (1 can) fat-free evaporated (NOT sweetened condensed) milk
2 boxes kosher unflavored gelatin
2 Tbl. cocoa powder, plus extra for optional garnish
3/8 cup sugar
pinch of salt
Pour can of whole evaporated milk in a medium saucepan. Sprinkle the gelatin over the milk and stir over medium heat until you think that the gelatin dissolved. It probably won't, but at least you made the attempt.
Stir in remaining can of evaporated milk. Add in sugar and salt.
Whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth.
Continue to heat the mixture until it starts to simmer, stirring often.
Carefully pour the hot mixture into ramekins or glasses.
Pull out some more shooter glasses when you realize that after filling 12 shot-type glasses you still have a lot of chocolate mixture remaining and fill them as well.
Cover and refrigerate until panna cotta sets completely. Clean up the mess you left on the counter.
Serve cold. Optionally, sprinkle with a little cocoa powder just before serving.