Goat Cheese Panna Cotta with Mulled Wine Poached Pears: Thanksgiving Day Warm-Up

Today’s Wednesday–8 days before Thanksgiving; 4 days before my kids, et al, come  to celebrate our early-bird feast. There’s several inches of white stuff on the ground, school’s out and some neighborhood kids just made a snowman. It’s leering at me from across the street. Wipe that silly grin off your face before I knock it off.

Pears beginning to poach in a fruity mulled wine.

Pears beginning to poach in a fruity mulled wine.

Oopsie! Debby Downer’s come to visit. Normally I’m delighted with the first stuff of the season. But memories of last winter…today’s temps below freezing …two feasts to prepare…a book demanding its 20 millionth proof…a house that needs cleaning…no assistant to assist…Really, Frosty, really? Can’t you wait until December?

My family assumes my spatula is a magic wand, perhaps yours’ does too; no short-cuts for this gal. Grinning mightily, I’m supposed to cherish this holiday; be an enthusiastic spoke on the wheel with the other smily-faced Thanksgiving Day guru bloggers, communally slavering over saucepan, over pen, over this one holiday that devotes itself to food. That should be me. But, yet, it’s not. This year I’m saying’– make it go away, please?

Today’s Friday--I’m better. The snow is glistening under Frosty’s affable smile. I’m excited the kids are coming over tomorrow. We feast, they leave, and then I regroup for Thanksgiving verité. Yesterday I cleaned the house, set the table, arranged flowers, did most of the shopping, trying to get as much done in advance as possible. I just made two of their favorite sides: Wild Rice, Sausage, Fennel Stuffing and the Roasted Garlic Mashed Potato-Shiitake Mushroom Casserole (tap the Holiday Ball icon for my Holiday Cookbook).

It’s essential making dishes 24 hours in advance as, folks, I’m in survival mode, and the savory panna cotta (not sweet, per typical panna cotta) dealie I’m launching to conclude tomorrow’s meal is a piece of work. I’ll make the Goat Cheese Panna Cotta and Poached Pears portion of the recipe tonight, the entirety to be completed an hour before dinner’s served. Salad and cheese courses are often served after the main, and this recipe takes care of that, plus the poached pear adds an element of sweet.


Peel pears, leaving skin enact.


Remove seeds and fibers with a melon baller.


Poach pears in seasoned wine under parchment.


With a neutrally flavored oil, oil ramekins.


Add goat cheese to just hot milk and cream.


Whisk goat cheese until incorporated into sauce and smooth.


Place pan in ice bath then whisk in gelatin (read notes on blooming gelatin). Whisk until completely incorporated and mixture is not gritty.


Pour mixture into oiled ramekins and refrigerate at least 6 hours and up to 24.


Make bacon-maple syrup and strain out bacon.


Panna Cotta perfection! Just the right amount of jiggle and creaminess while maintaining its shape.

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Today’s Saturday: When you read the following recipe (I dare you), you’re right to conclude that I’m a whacked-out masochist since I’ve kvetched ad nauseam about my work load. (I get it; nice problems and all that.) If you’ve read this far, perhaps you’re feeling my pain because holidays knock you broadside, too. This year my novel-to-be takes the rap.

Recipes are included in Simmer and Smoke; A Southern Tale of Grit and Spice, and the following is a recipe I’ve made only once, and it will appear in the book. It needed a microscopic proof and that’s what I gave it. I’ll serve it tonight, but made a sample to photograph and taste.  The layers of texture and flavor incorporate into a shimmering, creamy, bacolicious dish; a real show-stopper and, in retrospect, worth the effort.

One last thing. Forget deep breathing mantras. Here’s my strategy for Thanksgiving Day Survival: Lucy’s Pig Punch. Yeowza!

Recipe: Goat Cheese Panna Cotta with Pears and Maple-Bacon Dressing


  • 4 firm-ripe Bosc pears
  • 4 cups fruity red wine*
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cloves
  • Parchment paper to cover pear while poaching
  • 3 cups heavy cream (avoid ultra-pasterurized, if possible)
  • 1 cup goat milk
  • 8 ounces soft goat cheese, room temperature, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dry tarragon
  • Two pinches of cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin, bloomed** in 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 8 (1/2-3/4 cup)ramekins (molds), lightly oiled
  • 1 packed cup of 1/4-inch diced uncooked bacon
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • Arugula, as needed, stems trimmed, washed and dried
  • Optional garnishes: Finely chopped parsley (for garnishing panna cotta) and raspberries.


  1. Peel pears with a vegetable peeler or paring knife and cut them, lengthwise, in half. Use a melon baller or spoon to dig out the core, and a small paring knife to remove the fibrous part of the core that extends to the stem, leaving the stem intact.
  2. Combine the wine, sugar, cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans and cloves in your largest, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring the mixture to a low simmer while stirring to dissolve sugar.
  3. Add pears to the saucepan. Cut a piece of parchment paper into a circle that will fit over the pears in the pan. Place the parchment round directly on the surface of the liquid and pears. This will keep the pears submerged in the liquid.
  4. Over low heat, poach pears for 20 to 30 minutes or until a knife is easily inserted into a pear. Turn pears over in the middle of simmer time to insure even poaching. Remove the pears from the heat and allow them to cool to room temperature in their liquid. Chill in the cooking liquid until cold, turning occasionally, at least 8 hours and up to 24.
  5. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, half-fill  an ice bath large enough to house the saucepan in which the panna cotta will simmer. Reserve.
  6. Gently heat the cream and goat milk in  saucepan. When just hot but not boiling, stir in the goat cheese and whisk until the mixture is smooth; stir in tarragon, cayenne and salt. Remove from heat and continue whisking in ice bath; whisking in the bloomed gelatin (see notes below) and continue whisking until completely incorporated.
  7. Pour into oiled molds. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours and up to 24 hours.
  8. Fry the bacon in a skillet until crisp; deglaze pan with 2 cups of water and the maple syrup and reduce until 1 cup, or so, remains; about 15 minutes. Strain out bacon (reserve for another use), return the syrup to a small saucepan and whisk over high heat for 3-4 minutes, until the syrup thickens. Allow to cool, whisking occasionally to make sure the fat does not separate. (If refrigerated at this point, the syrup will thicken further; bring to room temperature before using.)
  9. Unmold the panna cottas by running a knife along the edges of the ramekins and tapping onto 8 plates garnished with arugula. (If they don’t slide out of the mold, place briefly in a small hot water bath and try again.) Slice the pears and arrange around the panna cotta. Drizzle with the bacon syrup, garnish, if desired, and serve.

*A typical, 750mL bottle of wine is 3 cups; add an additional cup of water, if you don’t want to open another bottle. That’s what I did. A bit less of an intense red color, but lovely.

**Blooming gelatin is an important step to ensure a smooth texture. Sprinkle the powdered gelatin into water and stir to dissolve. Let sit for 3 to 5 minutes until congealed, then heat in the microwave about 45 seconds until liquified.

Time to make poached pears and panna cotta (advance prep required): 75 minutes

Time to make dressing and finish plates: 40 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 8

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.


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