Thursday, May 02, 2013

Panna's Not Just Dessert!

                Those who read regularly know that I love the Italian dessert, panna cotta. Over the years, I’ve featured it in several variations.  So when I spied a recipe for a savory one in the French culinary magazine Cuisines et Vins de France, of course I had to try it.
                Titled “Panna Cotta Salée au Bacon,” it is shown as an appetizer. The French have been very fond recently of appetizers and desserts served in little glasses called verrines.  The recipe said it served four, but from similar quantities (converted from the metric) I got six servings, and still they were a bit rich to serve as an appetizer for any but the lightest of main courses.
                But served as a brunch dish, it was perfect with a salad of arugula and grape tomatoes.   Think of it as a BLT sort of brunch dish.
                I like panna cotta with just enough gelatin to set, served in its own dish. The consistency is silkier and more agreeable to me. But it would look lovely unmolded on top of the salad. In that case you would need to add one more envelope of gelatin. You would probably need a bit more water for the softening process.
                The recipe called for all heavy cream. I used half-and-half instead, and substituted a cup of sour cream for part of it because I like the flavor. One of my friends suggested it could be lightened even more by using non-fat Greek yogurt for that cup of sour cream. I haven’t tried that, but it should work.
                For the dessert at this brunch, to carry on the French theme, I put scoops of peach sorbet from the supermarket into small wine glasses and splashed a jigger or so of the French apéritif Lillet on top. Guests enjoyed the sorbet with a small spoon, then drank what was left in the glass. Yummy stuff.
                Vive la cuisine française!

 Panna Cotta Salée au Bacon

 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
3 tbsp cool water
6 slices bacon (regular, not thick sliced)
1 cup minced onion
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 ½ cups half-and-half cream
1 cup sour cream

               In a flat bowl, sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the water, making sure all the gelatin is moistened. Set aside.
                In a medium saucepan, simmer the bacon and onion in the butter until the onion is very soft, but not browned, about 10 minutes.  Drain through a wire strainer over a small bowl. Return to the saucepan and add the cream.  Simmer over very low heat, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let cool for about 10 minutes.
                In a blender or food processor, or with a hand blender, puree the cream, bacon and onion until very smooth.  Whisk in the sour cream and divide among four (for brunch) or six (for appetizer) serving bowls or small glasses.               
Chill for at least four and up to 24 hours.  Garnish with snipped chives to serve as an appetizer.  Or, for brunch, serve chilled with a salad of tomatoes and your preferred greens, dressed with a simple vinaigrette dressing. Serves four to six.

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