Hrmph. I have voiced my skepticism about Mark Bittman's recipes before. But with this recipe, I officially question whether I'll every try another one of his again. Maybe minimalism is not for me? Or at least not Bittman's version of it. Simple, easy cooking should not equal pallid pap. But perhaps I should be less judgmental when the pap I speak of is cooked cream. The dueling sides of my brain will battle it out while I proceed.
With leftover pureed pumpkin hanging about my fridge like a sullen teenager on a Friday night, I thought an easy way to get rid of it would be to turn it into silky little cups of pumpkin panna cotta, as published in a Minimalist column a few years ago. Bittman even goes so far as to propose that you could unmold this dish into a piecrust as a suitable replacement for pumpkin pie. Which leads me to ask: why, Mark, why would you abuse your impressionable readers with this suggestion?
The beauty of panna cotta lies in its ease of preparation and the pure, simple flavor of cream shining through the suspended form. With nothing but a scattering of macerated strawberries alongside it, panna cotta can be the easiest and most elegant of desserts. On the other hand, the glory of pumpkin pie is the multi-layered taste imparted by a good blend of warm flavors (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla, and brown sugar). It can be a delight to eat, and often you really do wonder if you can toss the crust and just scrape happily away at the filling.
The pumpkin and cinnamon in the panna cotta crossed out the milky, creamy goodness and left behind a one-note flavor combination that reminded me more of seasonal coffee blends at Starbucks than a reasonable substitution for pumpkin pie at the holiday table. I lost the very things I love about panna cotta and pumpkin pie in this combination. The bottom line is that I don't need my panna cotta gussied up and I don't need my pumpkin pie simplified. My dueling brain rests.
I sprinkled powdered gelatin over some milk and let it sit.
In the meantime, I blended together more milk, cream, the pumpkin, sugar and cinnamon. I heated the gelatin mixture until it dissolved, then slowly stirred in the pumpkin mixture until steam rose off of it.
I poured the mixture into cups and let them cool before putting them in the fridge to set up. Once it had cooled, the panna cotta separated into two layers.
I didn't eat the rest...