Multicourse meals make beautiful feasts, but they can be audacious undertakings both in preparation and consumption. When we do grandiose feasts at my house, as we did this past mother’s day, they can last for hours and by the end, your teeth are exhausted, your stomach is about ready to give up, and all you want to do is probably pass out on the nearest couch. Therefore, I look to custards and their relatives when I want to wrap up a feast. They are smooth, silky, and very easy on the mouth.
Panna Cotta, as I have probably explained before, is Italian for cooked cream. A classical dessert that can be made with a variety of flavorings, I chose to use fresh lemon zest with its bright and citrusy flavor, alongside hints of fruity and woodsy vanilla bean. The beauty of Panna cotta is that you can get the same velvety texture of a custard without messing with egg yolks, tempering, or water-baths. Set with gelatin, this panna cotta has a flavor and texture reminiscent of lusty crème brûlée. Yet the bottom of this dish contains the grittiness of the sunken lemon zest and vanilla bean caviar which adds a pleasing textural contrast.
Perhaps the best part of the whole desert, is probably the homemade lemon marmalade. Made with boiled lemon peels that are then candied in a simple sugar syrup, this topping combines the best of tart and sweet flavors and the texture of the lemon peel plays well with that of panna cotta. Hence, this desert is great addition to the symphony of textures which you are bound to experience during an extravagant meal. Featuring a dream worthy triple-threat of textures on its own, this panna cotta hits all the right notes.
Recipe by Jimmy Bannos, Jr. featured in May 2011 issue of Bon Appetit
- 1 cup whole milk, divided
- 2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
- 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup sugar
- zest from 1 lemon
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
- 3 large lemons
- 3/4 cup sugar