Although chef Oringer flavored his cool Italian panna cotta with sassafras (it has a licorice-like flavor and was once used in root beer), we substituted the easier-to-find yet deliciously spicy lemongrass in both the custard and the fruit that garnishes it.
Lemongrass Panna Cotta with Macerated Strawberries
For the panna cotta
- 2-1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1 stalk lemongrass, tough outer layer discarded; cut into 2-inch pieces and bruised
- 1/3 cup plus 1 Tbs. sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 2-1/4 tsp. unflavored powdered gelatin (one 1/4 oz. envelope)
- 1-1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
For the strawberries
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 stalk lemongrass, tough outer layer discarded; bottom 6 inches thinly sliced
- 2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
- Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, for finishing
- 8 fresh mint leaves
- Edible flowers, such as pansy or nasturtium
Make the panna cotta
- Combine the cream, lemongrass, sugar, and salt in 2-quart saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from the heat and let steep 30 minutes, covered.
- Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the buttermilk and let sit for 5 minutes to soften. Rewarm the cream mixture over medium heat. Remove from the heat and whisk in the buttermilk. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve. Divide the mixture evenly among eight 4-oz. ramekins and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until set, at least 3 hours.
Macerate the strawberries
- Put the water, sugar, and lemongrass in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring often until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let steep for 30 minutes.
- Put the strawberries into a large bowl. Strain the syrup mixture through a fine mesh sieve and toss with the strawberries.
- Garnish the panna cotta with the macerated strawberries, pinch of sea salt, mint leaves, and edible flowers.