Flan with Orange Sauce

(serves 4)

Though pannacotta and crème brulee are often confused, there is a big difference between them: pannacotta is a cooked custard (literally, cooked cream), while crème brulee is an egg custard that you dust with sugar and broil (literally, burned cream). The crème brulee I like best is Le Cirques, but my pannacotta holds its own.

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 gelatin sheets soaked in cold water, or 2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin sprinkled over 3 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup Sugar Orange Sauce (recipe follows)
  • 1 vanilla bean, split; or
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract

In a medium-size saucepan, heat the milk, cream, sugar and vanilla over high heat. Whisk the micture to dissolve the sugar and bring it to a quick boil. Remove the pan immediately from the stove. Continue to whisk the mixture to combine all the ingredients. Add the soaked gelatin sheets (or the dissolved powder) to the hot cream mixture. Whisk thoroughly and let the mixture cool for ten minutes. (If the vanilla bean was used, discard it at this point).

Ladle the mixture into individual ramekins or custard cups, filling them almost to the top. Cover each cup with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the top. Then place them on a sheet plan and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or until set.

When you are ready to serve, spoon a little sauce on each plate. Remove the pannacotta from their cups and place one in the center of each plate, upside down. Place 3 or 4 orange sections around each custard. Decorate the plate with the orange zest.

Salsa Di Aranci, Orange sauce

  • 2 navel oranges
  • 1 ½ tablespoons orange liqueur
  • 1 ¾ cups water
  • ½ tablespoon sambuca liqueur
  • ¼ cup sugar

With a sharp knife, remove the zest from the oranges and slice it into thin strips. Remove the remaining pith, cutting deep enough into the fruit to remove the thin outer membrane of the orange sections. Hold each orange in your hand, and carefully slice out the individual sections so that there is no membrane attached. Set the sections aside.

Place the sliced zest in a medium-size saucepan. Add the water, sugar, and the liqueuers. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and cook for 20 minutes, until the sauce is reduced amd slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and let it cool for 15 to 20 minutes, then add the reserved orange sections. Refrigerate until serving time.