Goat Cheese Panna Cotta with Guava Sauce

guava-obsession

My love affair with guava continues this week. In pastries, cocktails, cheesecakes, bars, and baked with brie- guava is my jam. Guava and goat cheese panna cotta are like little pastelitos de guayaba con queso without the puff pastry and a little extra ‘je ne sais quoi‘. The goat cheese adds a richer, creamy texture without overpowering the palate, and the bright guava flavor cuts through the tang and shines in your mouth.

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Panna cotta is an easy and practically fool-proof dessert that can be made ahead of time, which is great especially if you’re entertaining. Cream, sugar, and gelatin is all you need to make this classic Italian dessert although my variation uses goat cheese, vanilla bean, and tropical guava. In less than 20 minutes I had six adorable individual desserts ready to pop into the fridge and become silky satin.

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Like Cuban flan, panna cotta is versatile, simple, and it just so happens to be gluten-free (if that matters to you).  Panna cotta’s simplicity allows you to add flavors and get creative with ingredients like coffee, almonds, rosewater, fresh berries, liqueurs, and pretty much any combination you can think of.

panna-cotta-perfection

Guava and Goat Cheese Panna Cotta

  • 1 package unflavored gelatin
  • 2 cups half and half (1 pint container)
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 4 oz softened goat cheese
  • 1 vanilla bean

Guava Sauce

  • 2 cans guava nectar (or juice) mine were 9 oz each
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • Juice of a lemon wedge

Allow the goat cheese to soften at room temperature. Mix the packet of unflavored gelatin with ¼ cup cold water and allow the gelatin to soften for around 5 minutes or so. Heat the sugar and half and half in a sauce pan over medium heat making sure to stir occasionally. While the milk is steaming, scrape the vanilla bean. I scraped mine on top of the softening gelatin just because I didn’t want to wash another dish. When the milk is steaming and all of the sugar has dissolved turn off the heat and whisk in the softened goat cheese until smooth. Add in the gelatin and vanilla bean. My gelatin turned into a small puck in the ramekin yet quickly dissolved into the goat cheese panna cotta.

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I had enough of the goat cheese panna cotta mixture to fill six individual cups. I allowed them to cool at room temperature for 30 minutes before placing them in my fridge (mainly because my fridge is too tiny and it would have heated up its contents too quickly). If you are blessed with a large fridge pop those suckers in when they’re done and cover them with plastic wrap around an hour later.

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While the goat cheese panna cotta are cooling down and setting start the guava sauce. Mix 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with around ¼ cup of guava nectar and whisked until smooth and set aside. Heat the remaining guava nectar with 2 tablespoons of sugar until it was just simmering. Add the cornstarch guava mix and simmer 5 minutes or so longer until the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon. Remove from the heat and squeeze in the juice of a fresh lemon wedge.

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This made around 2 cups of the guava sauce, although you likely only need a ½ cup or so for this recipe. Pour the guava sauce into smaller individual ramekins to cool and set faster. Once the goat cheese panna cotta has set pour the guava sauce on top. You can allow the guava sauce to set on top or garnish before serving.

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**The guava sauce tasted just like Conchita Guava Marmelade. If you want to take a short cut just spoon this marmalade on top of your goat cheese panna cotta.

 

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Tamal en Cazuela

Tamal-en-Cazuela-without-the-garnish

Tamal en cazuela reminds me of my abuelo. He would enjoy this delicious Cuban stew with a croqueta preparada for dinner. Tamal en cazuela is sold especially on Sundays in Cuban restaurants, and I have even called ahead to make sure they still have an order since they can sometimes run out. Tamal en cazuela tastes like tamales in soup form: a glorious combination of savory corn meal with ribbons of tender mojo roasted pork shoulder throughout the thick corn stew. This traditional stew is like Cuban polenta with pork and is classically enjoyed with platanos maduros on the side or fresh sliced banana. Crushed up chicharrones on top add to the pork flavor and provides great crunch in each bite.

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When masa de puerco was on the menu for dinner my abuela always used the left over pork chunks (masa de puerco) for a tamal en cazuela the next day. You can use masa de puerco and left over roasted pork or you can quick-marinade ground or chopped pork and cook it for the tamal en cazuela that day. As fall descends and temperatures drop, tamal en cazuela was exactly what I was craving. The thick corn porridge with marinated pork and Cuban sofrito will instantly feel like comfort food no matter where you’re from.

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Tamal en Cazuela

For the pork:

  • 1 lb boneless pork shoulder cut into pieces or roughly ground (or left over roasted pork)
  • 1cup mojo criollo
  • Juice of half a lime

For the soup:

  • 1 medium onion ground in the food processor
  • ½ medium green bell pepper ground in the food processor
  • 2 cups corn meal
  • 1/4 cup of mojo (store-bought or homemade)
  • 1/4 cup white Spanish wine (vino seco)
  • 2 cups frozen corn (defrosted) or canned works as well
  • 1/3 stick of butter
  • ½ cup tomato sauce
  • 2.5 cups water
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • One package Goya with Saffron seasoning or chicken or ham bullion also work

To serve:

  • Salt to taste
  • Crumbled chicharrones for garnish
  • Lime wedges

If you are cooking fresh pork for this recipe, heat some olive oil in a pan and cook the marinated pork through set it aside. Preheat a pan on medium to low with olive oil. Once the pan is hot cook the white onion and green bell pepper until soft. The peppers are meant to be a subtle in this dish and be tasted but not seen.

While the onions are cooking take the corn meal mix. Pulse the defrosted frozen corn in the food processor just enough so you still have small corn pieces in the mix. Add the corn meal to the food processor and create a rough mixture.  Now return to the onions and peppers and add the tomato sauce and stir allowing it to cook for a few minutes. When the mixture is cooked enough that you can see to the bottom of the pot add the butter and melt with the sofrito you just created.

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Add corn meal mix, water, milk, salt and pepper in a large cazuela. Stir in the mojo and dry white wine (vino seco). Bring to a quick boil and immediately put to simmer. Continually stir the stew while it is coming to a boil. Since the mixture will be very thick the bottom of the pot can burn. Add 3 large left over masas de puerco or about a pound of roasted pork to simmer with the rest of the tamal en cazuela. These will easily shred while mixing the stew. Add the Goya seasoning packet or bullion at this point.

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Simmer for around half an hour depending on the thickness (you definitely want the corn meal to get soft). My abuela’s receipe called for simmering for an hour or so, but my tamel en cazuela thickened very quickly. Remember, you want it to be a bit thick, not too runny. If it’s not thick enough add more corn meal in ¼ cup increments, or conversely add water in ¼ cup increments if it is too thick. Remember, to stir constantly while it cooks. It will burn if it’s too hot or not stirred, but don’t stress it- you don’t have to stir the entire time. Just keep checking on it. When your wooden spoon can stand straight up in the tamal you know it’s thickened enough and is ready to serve. Enjoy the tamal en cazuela with platanos maduros on the side. Some like to top their tamal en cazuela with crushed up chicharones (pork cracklings).

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Notes: The fresh mojo that I had recently made gave the stew a strong acidic taste much to my horror. I added the slightest sprinkle of baking soda which according to my internet research helps to counteract overtly acidic foods as it makes them more basic with the increasing pH. The baking soda made the stew bubble and thicken temporarily. I stirred it until the bubbling subsided as the chemical reaction took place and then tasted again before adding more baking soda. It turned out amazing.

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Cuban Coffee Flan

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Cuban coffee flan is made with chilled sweet and strong Cuban coffee, the dark elixir enjoyed religiously by Miami locals. Cuban coffee is a breakfast staple, an afternoon pick-me-up, or the perfect reason to congregate with friends around ‘la ventana’ at Versailles while enjoying salty croquetas and some chiste. The Miami nectar even has its own hashtag, #305cafecito, denoting the time for the afternoon colada and honoring the city’s famous ‘305’ area code.

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Cuban coffee flan is creamy, sweet, and silky smooth with the rich, roasted flavor of Cuban coffee. As you know I love flan, and its perfect simplicity. I was inspired to make a coffee flavored flan after dining out at a local Miami restaurant, Love is Blind, where a cappuccino flan is on the dessert menu. Flan is a versatile and simple baked custard dessert.

now-top-with-chocolate-shavings-or-chocolate-covered-espresso-beans coffee-flan

The milks in the flan ease the intensity of the Cuban coffee and give it the flavor of a cappuccino or a delicious café con leche. This recipe for Cuban coffee flan is a wonderful change from the traditional crème caramel. Treat friends or family to a slice of Cuban coffee flan with a little extra cafecito on the side.

Cuban Coffee Flan

  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 5 eggs
  • ½ cup prepared Cuban coffee
  • 1 cup sugar divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Allow the eggs (and cream cheese if you choose to add some) to get to room temperature. I am convinced room temperature eggs make for a better flan, but go ahead and use them straight out of the fridge if you insist. Make the Cuban coffee and allow it to cool. Now, prepare the caramelized sugar coating for the flan second since it needs to cool before you can pour in the custard mixture.

Add a ½ cup of the white sugar into the flanera. I have never made flan in anything but a flanera (easily found at any grocery store in Miami- likely not so easy to find elsewhere). I have seen that people make flan in all sorts of containers, but I swear by the flanera since the lid and locks allow the flan to also steam on the inside of the device. Put the sugar on low to medium heat and have a spoon handy to stir.

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Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT try to taste the sugar as it is caramelizing. The sugar will be molten hot and will surely burn your tongue and your skin if you touch it. Little sections of the sugar will start to caramelize faster- gently stir the sugar so it doesn’t burn and mixes evenly. The caramelized sugar should be completely clear when it is done. The sugar will be a little cloudy as it melts, and it is not finished until it is crystal clear and a lovely rich amber hue. This part is easy to mess up and burn the caramel. You can still technically use it, but it might not taste as great as a perfectly done caramel. Once the sugar is done caramelizing, hold the flanera with an oven mitt and gently rotate the hot caramel around making sure to coat the sides well. Allow this to cool for 30 minutes or so.
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Now preheat the oven to 350. Before I got the KitchenAid (which I am thoroughly obsessed with) I used to simply toss all of the flan ingredients into a blender until well mixed. I have whisked the ingredients together, but now I just use the KitchenAid with the whisk attachment and let that baby run for a few minutes. You can literally dump all of the ingredients into a blender, bowl, or KitchenAid. Blend well making sure there are no yellow wisps of the egg yolk or unblended egg whites in the mix. Now place the flanera in a larger 13 x 9 pan and pour the custard mixture into the flanera. You can hear the hardened caramelized sugar cracking as the cool liquid is poured in. Fear not- that is just fine. Now place the flanera lid on and lock in place.

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Place the pan and flanera in the middle of the oven and pour water into the pan half way to make a Bain Marie or water bath. You can choose to add the water earlier, but it is difficult to hold the sloshing water bath and gently place it in the oven. Bake for one hour. You can carefully remove the flanera lid and jiggle to see if the custard has set. There should be some soft jiggle, but not a liquid center.

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Remember as the coffee flavored flan is cooling with the lid on it will continue to cook through and become more firm. Allow the Cuban coffee flan to cool on the countertop until you can handle the flanera with bare hands. Place the Cuban coffee flan in the fridge overnight. I have tried to serve this dessert within 6 hours of making it, and it was simply not cold enough. Make this dessert a day or two in advance!

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Before serving run a knife or spatula along the edges to separate it from the dish- normally as the dessert cools it will contract and separate from the sides, but it is always okay to err on the side of caution. Place a plate or your desired serving dish over the flan and invert. You will likely hear the flan separate from the bottom with a gurgling noise. Lift the dish carefully and scrape out some of the delicious caramel and pour all over on top. Pause to ooh and aah over the beautiful Cuban coffee flan you have just made, top with chocolate shavings or chocolate covered espresso beans, slice, and enjoy!

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