Buttermilk panna cotta with Strawberries, Port, and Black Pepper

I recently published a panna cotta recipe, but feel the need to share this new edition.  The reason?  Strawberries.  That, and some sort of flavor magic happened in my mouth when I tasted it.
buttermilk panna cotta with strawberries
I believe that there are some flavor combinations that are greater than the sum of their parts.  And this was one of them:  subtly tangy buttermilk panna cotta, fragrant seasonal strawberries, fruity port, and black pepper.   This is an easy make-ahead Spring dessert.  The technique for this panna cotta differs from the traditional recipe due to the requirement of keeping the buttermilk cool.

Buttermilk panna cotta with Strawberries, Port, and Black Pepper

1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup + 2 TB sugar
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
3 TB cold water
1 pint fresh strawberries
1/3 cup ruby port (I used a Zinfandel Port, but any good ruby port will do)
black pepper

First, soften the gelatin.  Put the cold water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the water.  It should soak up the water in a couple minutes.  Stir to make sure the gelatin is all moistened.

Next, heat milk in microwave or on the stove until hot but not boiling, then remove from heat and skim off protein layer that will form as a natural result of the heating.  Stir in 1/3 cup sugar and the softened gelatin until both are completely dissolved into the milk.  Cool the milk mixture to lukewarm.   (lukewarm is the best temp as buttermilk may separate if it gets warm when adding it to the milk)

Add 1 1/2 cups cold buttermilk and stir to combine.  Pour into your serving glasses and tuck them into the fridge.   Chill until set.  This will take as little as an hour or two.

Just before serving, slice the strawberries and toss with the remaining 2 TB sugar.  Allow to rest for 15 minutes to dissolve sugar.  Then top the buttermilk panna cotta with sliced lightly sweetened strawberries, a tablespoon or two of ruby port, and a twist of black pepper.  Enjoy!

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