Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Just Desserts Challenge: Howwdya like dem apples?

Last week, I saw another blogger, over at Evil Shenanigans, remark that she would love to get some folks together to do their own Top Chef challenges, mirroring the weekly challenges on the popular cooking competition TV show. I jumped at the chance to participate in some friendly competition. Later, I heard the details and began to have second thoughts.

It wasn't just Top Chef, it was Top Chef - Just Desserts. And the first challenge involved making a dessert inspired by a cocktail. It dawned on me that since I had not watched any episodes from this season, I don't consider myself a talented baker or pastry chef, and I don't drink, I may be at a disadvantage here.

Advantage shmantage. I raided my husband's liquor cabinet, watched a few re-runs and decided to work with what I know - seasonal ingredients and flavorful spices.

Hennessy Spiked Apples and Chai Spiced Panna Cotta
Serves 6 to 8 

Author, and former pastry chef to Alice Waters at Chez Panisse, David Lebovitz says that if it takes longer than five minutes of active time to make Panna Cotta, then you are doing something wrong. Instead of recreating the basic recipe, I will direct you to his blog. Follow his instructions to make the Panna Cotta but instead of vanilla, add the following spices to the heated milk, and allow to sit covered, off of the heat, for 10 minutes to infuse:

Chai Panna Cotta spices:

2 cinnamon sticks
2 slices of ginger root (1/2 inch thick)
1/2 teaspoon of cardamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
8 whole cloves
1 dash of freshly ground black pepper

After the panna cotta has been setting in the fridge for a few hours (I used whole milk by the way, but you can use 1/2 & 1/2 or cream if you would like), make the spiked apples.

Hennessy Spiked Apples:

6 apples
2 tablespoons of butter
1/2 cup of sugar
tiny dash of salt
1/4 cup of Hennessey

Peel, core and slice the apples. Heat the butter in a sauce pan on medium heat. Toss the apples in the sugar and dash of salt. Cook the apples in the butter until the butter and sugar begin to caramelize and the apples are soft. Add the Hennessy, bring to a simmer and simmer until reduced by half.

Serve the apples with the panna cotta. Or, go back and make twice as much of the spiked apples and then sit and eat them all from the pan. Not only are these apples incredibly good, but I am pretty sure you can still count this towards your apple a day.

you can serve the panna cotta in a pretty glass

or you can turn the panna cotta onto a plate


Kathy said...

Hmmm can I have this for breakfast? Thanks Lara for meeting the challenge! I'll try making this sometime.

Megan said...

Love panna cotta and your boozy spin on it! I ran out of time this week, but I'm hoping to jump in and participate in the next one!

RJ Flamingo said...

What a great idea! I think you met the challenge beautifully and this sounds delicious.

I just may have to play next week!

Sustainable Eats said...

This looks wonderful! I especially love the idea of chai panna cotta. Thanks for sharing it on Simple Lives Thursday! I put a pic up of your sweet baby. ;)