Orange-Infused Panna Cotta with Blueberry Sauce (GF)

I spent a lot of time last summer making custard. I layered it in verrines with stewed strawberries and piped it into mason jars with blackberry sauce and mango compote. I poured vanilla crème anglaise over warm apple tart, and garnished Julia Child's crème caramel with delicate caramel cages. I set sugar coated custards under the broiler and watched the sugar bubble and brown into crème brûlée crusts. This summer in Italy, however, I realized that there was an important variation of custard not yet part of my repertoire. Panna cotta, perhaps the simplest of all my custard experiments to date, had not yet been attempted. And so with one of David Lebovitz's ever-reliable recipes in hand, I faced custard once again. Panna cotta, unlike a lot of the French custard recipes I've tried, uses gelatin to set into a fairly firm molded custard. The only variation I made to the recipe was adding a bit of orange zest and then serving the unmolded custards with some warm blueberry sauce, orange slices, and chopped pistachios. I am quite a convert to the Italian dessert - I prefer the firmer consistency to some of the softer ones I've made. David Lebovitz says he recipe makes 8 custards, but I halved the recipe and made 6 as they are fairly rich and I was planning to serve them after a fairly large dinner. They were the perfect finish to an entirely Italian meal - neither too heavy nor too sweet.
This is such an easy recipe and takes almost no time at all to prepare. They should chill for about 4 hours, so make sure you allow enough time for them to get good and firm before unmolding. I used some little bowls we had lying around as molds, but you could also use ramekins or tea cups. You could even just pour the hot custard into glasses, let it set, and not bother unmolding it if you are pressed for time. They would be delicious served with any kind of stewed fruit or fruit purée, so feel free to use whatever is seasonal!

Orange Panna Cotta with Blueberry Sauce
Makes 6 small custards
      Panna Cotta 
           2 cups heavy cream or half-and-half (I used a cup of each)
           1/4 cup sugar
           1 packet of powdered gelatin
           3 tbsp water
           1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
           Zest of one orange 
     Blueberry Sauce  
           1 cup blueberries
           1/4 cup water
           1/4-1/2 cup sugar, depending on how tart your blueberries are
           1-2 tbsp cornstarch, dissolved in cold water  
           1 orange
           3 tbsp toasted and chopped pistachios 
     Panna Cotta
Heat the cream and sugar on the stove or in the microwave until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the vanilla and stir to combine.
Oil your custard molds. 
In a medium sized bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water. Let the gelatin sit in the water for 5-10 minutes, and then pour the (very) warm cream mixture over the gelatin and stir until the gelatin has dissolved. Add the orange zest.
Divide the mixture evenly among your molds. Set the cream filled molds on a tray and refrigerate for two to four hours. It is better to let them chill for as long as possible before attempting to unmold them, just in case. 
When they are ready to be unmolded, run a sharp knife around the edge of the custard. Invert onto a plate. If you are not serving them immediately, return them to the refrigerator.
     Blueberry Sauce   
In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, heat the blueberries, sugar, and water under a lid until bubbling slightly. Remove the lid and turn down the heat. Let the blueberries cook for another 10 minutes or so, until they are good and soft.
Pour the blueberry mixture into the blender and blend on high until completely smooth. If your sauce is fairly runny as mine was at this point, gradually add and mix the dissolved cornstarch until your sauce is the desired thickness. Don't add too much cornstarch as this will give the sauce a chalky taste.
Refrigerate the sauce until you are ready to use it.
I sliced the orange into segments so that they had no membrane on them. To do this, you will need to slice the peel off and then gently slice out the flesh between each membrane.
Warm up the blueberry sauce briefly in the microwave and drizzle it over the unmolded panna cottas. Top with orange slices and sprinkle with chopped pistachios.
Serve and enjoy!