Associated with the Piedmont region of Italy, Panna Cotta is a lot easier to make than it sounds. Comprised of rich cream and sugar, the only tricky part about making Panna Cotta, is the correct handling of the gelatin, which it contains. When properly utilized, multifunctional gelatin works like magic to turn liquid dishes into glorious mousses, souffles and parfaits. Vegetables become sculpted salads and fruits, jam and jellies. Gelatin not only gives food enough structure and stability to be shaped, but also contributes to their unsurpassed, melt-in-your mouth texture. From "How to Cook Everything: 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food," author Mark Bittman's impeccable Panna Cotta is the perfect example of just what gelatin can do for a recipe when everything goes right. Bittman's velvety smooth, silky Panna Cotta molds beautifully and has the quintessential smoothness of a flawlessly made cream-based custard. If your previous experiences with gelatin fell short of this result, Bittman's method of allowing the cooked custard to steep for 15 to 30 minutes after preparation will surely eliminate those worries. This tip alone may be the difference between a seamless Panna Cotta and one that falls flat of expectations. For more invaluable pointers (and recipes) like these, including information on Bittman's cookbooks (perhaps a good gift for the upcoming Father's Day holiday), visit the author's website at www.howtocookeverything.com
Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.