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Dessert indecision

The meal: Christmas Eve dinner.
The main course: roast prime rib
The company: good friends - 8 of us.

I have offered to bring dessert. And I'd like to make it really wonderful. Not just because it should be wonderful but because the hosts will appreciate the effort at elegance and wonderfulness. I have now come up with two possibilities. Vanilla bean panna cotta with fresh berries and balsamic drizzle OR poached pears with bittersweet chocolate sauce and whipped cream or creme fraiche. If the former, I would bring a bottle of ice wine to go with it; if the latter, a nice bottle of port. So help! Which should I make? Or any other ideas? I'm caught in a web of my own inability to decide.

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  1. I'd love to have either! :) But the poached pear is very elegant and I see it less likely than panna cotta. Plus, depending on where you are, fresh berries are not always that fresh... My vote is for the poached pears!

    1 Reply
    1. re: DCLindsey

      As is mine, pears and chocolate are a great underestimated combo and more in keeping with the season than berries are this time of year.

      I saw a recipe today for sauteed pears served with a panna cotta, no chocolate; the slices were sauteed with sweet spices, butter and brown sugar. Perhaps the OP could combine the panna cotta idea with the pears, and a chocolate drizzle.

    2. personally i'd go for the pears because that's one of my absolute favorite desserts. plus, i'll take a glass of port over ice wine any day ;)

      1. Both!

        Honestly, they both sound divine and I don't think you could go wrong either way. Maybe the poached pears as they travel better than panna cotta?

        1. Poached pears --it's elegant and it's much more seasonal. I'd save the panna cotta and berries for your summer get together.:-) And, creme fraiche would be perfect with that.

          1. I love the hosts for their choice of main course.

            I like the panna cotta. It's substantive, but light enough as a gelatin to follow up the ultimate heavy meal, and the berries should really satisfy after all that meat. The ice wine pairing is interesting. I would have just gone with the classic Moscato or sparkling. Maybe a rare treat and go with a sparkling ice wine?

            The pears don't really excite me. Seems almost too subdued.

            No clue what I'd go with. Thinking something lemony... Like a semifreddo served in a carved out lemon, topped with something whipped and either a chestnut brittle or a thin chestnut cookie. Then again, I don't think I like my friends enough to put in that much work.

            1. I'd agree with everyone on the poached pears. One nice touch would be to have a little shortbread cookie to go with the poached pears.

              1. Personally I would prefer the pears. Not only are they very elegant, but also they would be a nice, slightly lighter dessert after the richness of the main course.

                1. I'd go for the panna cotta; it's lighter than the pears and prettier to look at with the fresh berries. You might also consider using caramelized figs & toasted walnuts to top the panna cotta if you can't find decent berries. Simmer & reduce the balsamic with a touch of grated orange zest and it will be wonderful.

                  1. Go for the Vanilla bean Panna Cotta. I adore its appearance with its quivering, wobbly body. The tang of the balsamic would cut through the creaminess nicely. Bonus, you have fresh berries. I see this as a WIN dessert. It's also the perfect dainty portion size!


                    1. Gaah! I'd almost decided on the pears and then all the last-minute support for panna cotta!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Nyleve

                        well then i'll just have to re-state my support for the pears! they're more seasonally appropriate - you can make the panna cotta for July 4th when berries are in season ;) plus, as visciole pointed out, the pears are a very elegant choice, which i think is a better match for the occasion.

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                          That's exactly my feeling, too. Berries aren't in season and anything you can get now will be expensive, and most likely not taste as good as in summer. Although, bushwickgirl has a good compromise of panna cotta w/ pear. I think it would be pretty with cranberries and pears, layered in glass cups/champagne glasses, with swirls of chocolate.

                        2. re: Nyleve

                          Aside from pears being seasonal, there's nothing special about poaching them and after a heavy meal of beef, you should think about a fresh & bright dessert to counteract the meal. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE chocolate, it's my favorite food and I like a juicy pear, they're just better uncooked IMO. To me, the pear would be like a rock in your stomach after a rich meal.

                        3. I'm voting for the vanilla bean panna cotta with either poached or sauteed pear wedges, with bittersweet chocolate drizzle, a happy medium.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: bushwickgirl

                            Whoa - this might be the answer. I'm still thinking.

                            1. re: Nyleve

                              I'm thinking a creme fraiche panna cotta would be a good combination with pears and bittersweet chocolate. And, while somewhat light, not quite as light as a summery panna cotta. Or, for color, some pomegranate w/ or instead of the pear.

                              1. re: chowser

                                I think I'm going to do a vanilla sour cream panna cotta with sauteed pears and bittersweet chocolate drizzle. I assume port will be ok with this - I'm really stuck on port lately.

                                1. re: Nyleve

                                  That sounds great,down to the port. I have creme fraiche on my mind because the store had a buy one get one free sale and I can't resist a bargain. I'm trying to narrow down what I want to make with it.

                                  1. re: Nyleve

                                    Or you could poach the pears in a port syrup and slice them.

                            2. I vote for the pears . i would add a lemon or gingersnap cookie . understated, beautiful, elegant. And a really good port.

                              1. Another twist on the panna cotta... I made rose panna cotta recently, teamed it with some lavender cream. It was sensational and very different. Would go well with a dark chocolate ganache of some sort. I'd found a bottle of rose syrup at the supermarket and just had to try it out - so it was a bit of an experiment, but the family really, really loved it.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: ursy_ten

                                  This sounds beautiful but I'm going to hold off on that idea to another time. I'd personally LOVE a rose panna cotta (not sure about the lavender cream, though) but maybe for a different occasion. I happen to have some rose syrup hanging around also - and also some rosewater.

                                  1. re: Nyleve

                                    Oh yes, it was pretty wonderful, but I think it's probably not for everyone :)
                                    I'd appreciate some right now... it's a shame I didn't have the foresight to make a batch last night!

                                2. I would go with the pears I love poached pears and they would be wonderful with bittersweet chocolate and port.