My husband, David, and I are both chefs, so we are always busy working in our respective kitchens on Valentine's Day. Cooking for hundreds of people while miles apart is a bit romantically challenging. So we try to capture and share the spirit of the day through our food, like this classic dessert, which has a few distinct twists to make it worthy of this special day.
We use wild flower honey to give an exotic flavor to the panna cotta and then we top it with deep-red blood orange granita. I love the texture of the granita - instead of being smooth like a sorbet - it's actually crunchy and icy (in a good way). I love the combination of rich and creamy with icy and tart, which makes it like a grown-up creamsicle, so refreshing, but also so beautiful to look at.
Kumquats are another of my favorite ingredients that I can't get enough of when they are in season. I seriously find myself trying to think of new ways to use them! In this case they are tossed with the wildflower honey and become rather "fresh-candied." It's an elegant and colorful dish, which is just perfect for Valentine's Day. In our kitchen, it is executed by our pastry chef Breanne Varela who started at Lucques and A.O.C and because of her skill with sweets of all types, is now in charge of all bakery duties at our newest place,Tavern.
No Valentine's Day meal is complete without a fantastic dessert, perhaps enjoyed after some champagne and caviar, which we rush home to indulge in - if Dave remembers to buy them, which happens about 50% of the time.
Wild flower honey panna cotta with blood orange granita and kumquats
Wild flower honey panna cotta:
1½ cups whole milk
1½ cups heaving whipping cream
1/2 cups wildflower honey
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
3½ sheets gelatin (can be found at surfas restaurant supply)
1/2 cup cream fraiche
Fill a small bowl with ice water, and insert the gelatin sheets to allow them to soften for 2 to 3 minutes. In a medium saucepan, warm the cream, milk, sugar and honey over medium heat until almost simmering. Remove from the heat.
Remove the gelatin sheets from the water, wringing out any extra moisture, and add them to the cream mixture. Stir constantly until the gelatin is dissolved.
In a large bowl, mix the crème fraîche with one-half cup of the warm cream mixture, stirring constantly, to temper. Add the remaining cream and stir well.
Fill 8 attractive 6 ounce glasses with ½ cup of the panna cotta in each glass. Allow to cool, cover with plastic wrap, then refrigerate until completely set, 4 hours or preferably overnight.
Blood orange granita:
2 cups blood orange juice
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
1 teaspoon vodka
Put the sugar and water in a small sauce pot. Bring to a boil and then cool the syrup down to room temperature.
Combine the cooled syrup with the remaining ingredients and whisk to combine. Pour into a shallow 1-quart container and put in the freezer.
Allow the granita to freeze for 1 hour and then, using a fork, scrap the granita every 30 minutes to form large ice crystals until the granita is completely frozen.
To serve: Thinly slice a handful of kumquats and toss them in honey. Fill the tops of each panna cotta glass with a heaping mound of granita. Tuck a few honeyed kumquats into the granita and serve.
Chef / Owner Suzanne Goin
Tavern, Los Angeles ©2011