Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Study in Panna Cotta

My first encounter with panna cotta was savory. It was made from creme fraiche and parmesean and served with an asparagus veloute. The texture was dense and thick like a mousse, hardly needing gelatin for structure as the parmesan set it. So when I decided to venture into sweet panna cotta's for my menu at Eva, I came to a startling discovery. Panna cotta is milk jello!

I began my panna cotta exploration with a lean buttermilk pannacotta. The flavor was nice but as buttermilk is very lean, the texture was too similar to jello. This turned me off from imediately furthering my explorations.

I kept this method in the back of my mind until a dinnner at Cafe Juanita brought it back up. My friend squeeled that I held a job in the industry so the kitchen sent out a second desert course, a simple lemon panna cotta with raspberry sauce. It blew me away.

The texture was so light and delicate, the flavor a subtle creamy lemon. I began a journy to recreate this texture for my own portfolio, and since have had two successes.

For the market menu last week I took inspiration from Wylie Dufrane's Blasphemists christmas dinner and made my own fresh chevre pannacotta. Using the Port Madison Farms goat cheese it subtly sweet and recieved the compliment from Karina, "I dont even like goat cheese, but this is really good!" The garnishes were a turkish dessert of pumpkin (mascerated in sugar then oven roasted to be candied on the outside and pudding like on the inside), candied cashews, and a maple brown sugar drizzle.

On the current menu is a Citrus Pannacotta with candied lemon and orange ginger sauce. The panna cotta is infused with lemon and orange zest, lemon grass, and a little chamomile. The candied lemon is a section of the rind with much of the fruit left on that has let to confit in a syrup made with lemon juice, star anise, peppercorns, and vanilla bean. After a week in the syrup it is cut into strips and dried a bit in the oven. I like that the fruit left on the rind absorbs much of the syrup for a lot of added flavor in the final product. The orange ginger syrup is agressive and has a tiny bit of kick from fresh ginger. For the plate, the panna cotta is turned out on a sable cookie.

A standing dish on the menu is a take on the Lampreia parmasean panna cotta. Instead of parmesan I used an aged sardinian goat cheese called Panteleo. It has stood aside various garnishes and will be making it's last appearance soon.

Gordon Ramsey calls panna cotta a "chic blancmange" and says that every panna cotta should have a "sexy wobble" as the plate is carried to the dining room. He calls it the chi-chi-lina. Working with a higher fat content and less gelatin, I am seeing this sexy little shimmy in my pannacotta's. They can be a pain to unmold because of their delicate nature, but well worth the effort.


Blogger cuisinier said...

Hi Dana, hope you enjoyed the Xmas rush! Get ready for New Years.....panna cotta's are, in a word, sexy. They can impart a texture and subtle (or not) flavor that is simply unlike those of other dessert or savory items. You mentioned the use of Holmquist Orchards Hazelnuts. I have had great success with them paired with truffles in a panna cotta. Winter citrus is always a nice compliment to it. A very popular savory version we have had great resluts with is a lobster and ginger P.C. with tapioca, osetra or sturgeon caviar, sweet cicely(summer of course) and even a savory carrot or beet sorbet. Food for thought! :) Best, cuisinier

December 30, 2005 6:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Dana,
I am emailing this to my friend Carolyn. We are in the midst of panna cotta discovery this Christmas - lemon zest-flavoured with our own home-grown raspberry sauces. So simple to make and had the Christmas guests in awe. I have now come across a recipe using chevre and wondered about using it. Your description of panna cotta answered all my questions and then some. A savory panna cotta? a new concept! I must talk this over with Carolyn. Cheers, June

January 13, 2006 12:53 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

June- Thanks and good luck in your own panna cotta studies! the sky is really the limit as it is such a versitile method. if you check back on your comment, try these two links


two exceptional panna cotta's


January 13, 2006 5:22 PM  

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