Monday, August 30, 2021

Fresh Corn Panna Cotta with Blueberry Sauce and Crunchy Corn Crumble


The perfect accompaniment to BBQ chicken grilled on a summer evening? Potato salad? Coleslaw?  Those are both solid choices. But I prefer the sweet and slightly savory taste of a corn muffin studded with juicy blueberries. Weird choice? You can't deny it once you try it.

Val has been baking blueberry corn muffins to go alongside grilled chicken slathered in her homemade barbeque sauce since as long as I can remember. Using freshly ground corn from the gristmill in neighboring Sandwich, MA and tiny Maine blueberries. For parties and celebrations, she offers her famously delicious potato salad and vinegary coleslaw. Sometimes baked beans, too but those are not my favorite.

We have been eating a lot of corn on the cob lately. Tis the season for Silver Queen and Butter and Sugar. Purchased from Tony Andrews Farm, a stone's throw from Val's and shucked on the picnic table the same afternoon before a quick dip in a steaming pot of scalding water. A cold stick of butter and a salt shaker are set on the table alongside placemats and napkins. It is just as easy to shuck and cook a dozen as it is to prepare eight ears (there are four of us, so that means two each). Throw the leftovers in the fridge and cut the cooked kernels off the cob for a delectable corn and tomato salad with some chopped jalapeno thrown in for color and heat. Save the cobs for what I am about to tell you next.

Just about everyone loves ice cream and cold treats in the summertime. Ice box cakes and popsicles, Mississippi Mud Pie and frozen margaritas, too. But all of those take time to assemble, set-up and freeze. If you don't have the foresight to get going on one of these recipes at least 24 hours in advance you are out of luck. Summer moves fast around here and I just don't have the time or the patience for this kind of waiting. 

Lack of self-restraint and a craving for that cornmeal and blueberry combination led me down another path. Sure, I could have heated up the oven to make the muffins, but who wants to think about that on an 85 degree day? I want something frosty, cold, corny, creamy and sweet. The soft sweet, give of a gently cooked blueberry and the sensation of the crispy crust from a muffin baked in a cast iron pan. 

I began by scalding milk, cream and sugar, then added the bare cobs I had leftover from a few nights earlier, squirreled away in the back of the refrigerator. I let it all steep for about two hours while I cleaned up the breakfast dishes and hopped in the shower. Then I got to work. A half hour was all it took, start to finish. Once the process was complete, we only had to wait until after dinner to assemble our own individual odes to those perfect blueberry corn muffins.

Fresh Corn Panna Cotta with Blueberry Sauce and Crunchy Corn Crumble

(serves 8)

For the Corn Panna Cotta:

3 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 cup milk

1/2 cup sugar

4 corn cobs (kernels cut off and reserved for another use)

1 tablespoon gelatin (one packet from the box)

1/4 cup water

Heat the cream, milk and sugar to scalding (just shy of a boil.) Turn off heat and add corn cobs. Allow to steep for 1-2 hours. 

After 1-2 hours, sprinkle gelatin over water in a thin, even layer to bloom. Set aside.

Remove the corn cobs and discard. Heat the cream mixture to scalding. Turn off heat and dissolve the gelatin mixture into scalded cream mixture. Stir to combine. Pour through a strainer into a bowl set over an ice bath and stir until it begins to thicken. Using and immersion blender, blend for a few turns or use a whisk and whip for about 30 seconds. Portion out into 8 servings. (I used 8 oz. mason jars for this one.) Chill for 6 hours or overnight.

For the Crunchy Corn Crumble:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, slightly softened but straight from the refrigerator is fine, too

3/4 cup cornmeal

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup old fashioned oats (or whatever you have on hand.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all ingredients except oats by working the butter into the dry ingredients with your hands until the mixture is like soft sand then add the oats and mix well. Spread mixture onto an ungreased or Silpat lined baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes until edges begin to brown and the the entire thing looks like one big cookie. Remove from oven, allow to cool and break into chunks.

For the Blueberry Sauce:

12 oz. blueberries (about 2 cups)

1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon cornstarch

3 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan. Stir to dissolve the cornstarch and sugar. Cook on medium high until sauce thickens and becomes a deep, dark purply blue, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool to room temperature before serving.


I prefer to bring all the components to the table and have everyone assemble their own. If you would rather have more control, I suggest topping the panna cotta with a dollop of blueberry sauce on the side and some crispy crumble to finish it off for texture. Whatever you do, assemble at the last minute so that the crumble stays crispy and the blueberry sauce does not seep into the panna cotta.