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05 November 2014

Winning Eyeballs

I don't love Halloween. I never liked dressing up, I don't like being scared, and all the gross/creepy things on purpose are not my cup of tea. But at work we had a Halloween party, and one part of the festivities was an "ugly food" contest with a promised prize, so I decided to get a little halloween-y and make something a little gruesome looking: eyeballs floating in a pool of blood.

And guess what?!

I won!

Sorry this is too late for y'all to make your own prize-winning eyeballs for Halloween this year, but here it is for next year.


If I did it again I would cut the recipe in half. I only made 12 eyeballs and then had tons of the panna cotta left over, which I poured into a bread pan for a mold, sliced and served with more "blood" sauce. It was delicious, but not everyone likes gelatin based desserts, so it was an excessive amount for our relatively small party.

You will need something spherical or semi-spherical-ish for a mold. I used mochi ice cream containers which were (luckily) just the right size and shape to work with the grape "iris", and it was a good excuse to get mochi ice cream from a certain specialty food store. You can also find them at some Asian markets.

I arranged the instructions into very small, very manageable steps; it looks like a lot, but it isn't hard.

Coconut Panna Cotta "Eyeballs" with Raspberry-Cherry "Blood" sauce
2 cans (400mL) coconut milk
2 packets Knox unflavored gelatin (1/2 oz or 14 grams)
1 cup water
1 cup white sugar
12 dried blueberries (more or less, depending on how many eyeballs you want)
6-12 green seedless grapes (more or less, depending on how many eyeballs you want)
fresh or frozen raspberries and/or cherries
a little more white sugar (just a teaspoon or two should do it)
Pomegranate arils (optional)

To make the "eyeballs":

1) Warm coconut milk in a saucepan, stir occasionally, or it will do some crazy splattering. Don't let it come to a boil.

2) Meanwhile, sprinkle gelatin over cold water in a small saucepan, let stand about 1 minute, then start warming this up over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the gelatin is dissolved.

3) By now your coconut milk should be hot, but not boiling. Pour the hot gelatin water into the hot coconut milk, add the 1 cup of sugar and keep stirring over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, it should just take a couple of minutes. Remove from heat and let it start cooling.

While the mixture is cooling, start prepping your eyeball molds and with the other eyeball parts:

4) Make sure your mochi ice cream cups (or whatever you are using for a mold - see note above) are clean and dry.

5) Put the dried blueberries in a small bowl, pour boiling water over, let stand for a couple of minutes to soften.

6) Cut some grapes in half latitudinally, scoop out a small amount of grape insides, just enough to fit a dried blueberry inside.

7) Insert the soaked dried blueberry into the hollow you just made in the grape half, place the grape half cut-side down in the mold. Press down to make the blueberry and grape as flat against the bottom of the mold as possible.

8) Repeat with as many grapes and blueberries you need to fill all the molds you have to make as many eyeballs as you want.

9) Pour the coconut milk-gelatin mixture into the molds over the grapes. Hold the grape halves down with a finger while you pour so they stay centered and flat against the bottom and don't get pushed around.

10) Let the panna cotta finish cooling and setting up in the fridge, it will take a couple of hours. 

To make the "blood":

11) Warm up some raspberries with a little sugar (I used about 1 1/2 cups frozen) with a little sugar until the sugar is dissolved, the raspberries will break apart, but that is just fine.

12) If you want to use cherries also, place them in a blender (I used about 1 cup frozen) pour the warm raspberry mush in the blender over the cherries, blend together until everything is pureed, but not liquified. Add a little water if necessary to keep the blender from getting stuck.

13) Put the raspberry-cherry puree through a sieve to separate the good stuff from the seeds. Store the sauce in the fridge until you are ready to serve with eyeballs.

To assemble the "eyeballs floating in a pool of blood":

14) Unmold the panna cotta cups onto a serving platter. I had to gently pull some of them out with my fingers, they didn't all come right out easily when I flipped over the mold. Arrange them strategically on the platter.

15) Some of the coconut gelatin may have gone underneath the grapes/blueberries so that when you flip them over it is hard to see the "iris" and "pupil," kind of like a cataract (well, more like a pterygium), so you may perform surgery -- very carefully cut some gelatin away from the grapes so that they'll be visible. This can all be done ahead of time.

16) Just before serving, pour the sauce around the eyeballs artistically, and sprinkle the pomegranate arils around also, if desired.

Claim your prize and dig in!

Credit where credit is due: 

Recipe from here, but there are tons of coconut jelly/panna cotta recipes out there that looked amazing. I used this one because it was very basic and simple, just a few ingredients. And it really was delicious.

Coconut and fruit eyeball plus raspberry "blood" idea from here, but it seems like it wouldn't work with kiwi fruit since kiwis have that protein-disolving enzyme, antinidain.

Mochi ice cream mold idea from here.

Using grapes as irides idea from Lovemuffin who answered "grapes" when I asked "what can I use as a spherical jello mold?" (he's so cute.)