Last night we were invited to cook for a sold-out crowd at Jim Hamilton's house. Jim, if you don't know, is the owner of Hamilton's Grill Room in Lambertville, NJ and the father of a couple-a famous foodie sisters - Melissa of The Canal House (whom we adore on every level fathomable) and Gabrielle (whom we don't know, but can vouch for food-wise at her resto, Prune, in NYC).
Jim has held a monthly cooking class at his house for the last 15 years. Each time he invites a chef to cook a 4 course meal and he vets the chefs thoroughly. Before he invited us, he attended one of our cooking classes to make sure we know what we're doing. He thinks we do.
Dessert last night was Ian's favorite panna cotta recipe, adapted for late season flavor. An infusion of lemon verbena and a syrup of concord wine work wonders together on the plate.
Here's the recipe:
Lemon Verbena Panna Cotta with Fruits
For the panna cottas:
2 cups heavy cream
4 (6-inch-long) lemon verbena sprigs
⅓ cup sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon water
11/8 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
¼ cup sour cream
For the fruit:
½ cup concord grape wine
½ cup sugar
4 lemon verbena sprigs
2 cups blackberries
Wood sorrel leaves
Calendula flower petals
For the panna cottas: Heat 1 2/3 cups of the cream in a small saucepan over low heat with the verbena, sugar, and salt until it simmers. Remove from the heat and cover. Let steep 10 minutes. While the cream steeps, sprinkle the gelatin over the water to soften. Remove the verbena from the cream, then whisk in the gelatin mixture until dissolved. Whisk in the sour cream and chill the cream mixture until it has the consistency of egg whites. Whip the remaining ⅓ cup heavy cream until it just holds soft peaks for the whipped cream into the chill cream mixture, then divide between oiled ½ cup ramekins. Chill until the panna cotta is set, about 3 hours. Remove the panna cottas from their molds if desired.
For the fruit: Bring the water, sugar, verbena and a pinch of salt to a boil. Boil 5 minutes, then discard the verbena. Pour the hot syrup over the fruit. Serve the panna cottas with the fruit-verbena syrup. Garnish with the wood sorrel and flower petals.