By the time she met up with my friend Kate in Dublin, my daughter had already been traveling around Europe solo for a month — a compressed version of the junior year abroad that was hijacked by COVID. She had already seen castles and cathedrals, as well as eaten in bierhauses and Lagkagehusets. But in Dublin, along with a rugby match and the Book of Kells, my vagabond on a budget experienced something that really blew her mind: an epic meal in an iconic restaurant.
Kate had taken her to the Irish outpost of The Ivy, where upscale cuisine is served with a Celtic twist. And while every part of the heavenly meal my daughter later described made me want to hop on Aer Lingus immediately, it was the whiskey-spiked creme brûlée that really me drool.
Creme brûlée is one of the richest, most decadent desserts in the book, which is why I almost always have to have it when I see it on a menu. While it’s not particularly difficult to make at home — even if you don’t have a kitchen torch — I somehow rarely ever do. Besides, panna cotta is so much easier. In the Italian dessert, gelatin does the work of eggs, creating an idiot-proof, creamy treat that is incredibly versatile.
And so, borrowing from a good idea from The Ivy, but making it simpler for my own life, I found an enticing recipe for a bitters-infused panna cotta that takes its cues from an old-fashioned cocktail. I’ve liberally adapted Gastronom’s recipe here, skipping the bitters, swapping in brown sugar for white and upping the quantity of the whiskey. The flavor is lush yet cozy, unapologetically strong, and if you toss a dusting of cocoa on top, it’s basically Baileys you can eat.
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The only catch with most things in the pudding family is that you do have to give them time to set. The tradeoff? They’re really minimalist and easy. You can make this recipe in 10 minutes in the morning and slide it in the fridge for later.
If Dubliners can appreciate something this exquisite all year long, why on earth would you wait for St. Patrick’s Day to do the same?
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Irish Whiskey Panna Cotta
Pour 1/4 cup half & half into a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over it and let it sit for 10-15 minutes to bloom.
Add the gelatin mixture to the saucepan and stir until everything is combined and dissolved.
Remove from the heat and whisk in the whiskey.
- Divide into 4 small serving cups or 2 larger ones.
- Chill for at least 2 hours, until set.
Reach for your favorite whiskey or bourbon if you’ve already got a bottle on hand.
For an extra Irish vibe, try serving this with shortbread.
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