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Jell-O Italiano -- My First Panna Cotta!

3/28/10: Pigs in Blankets and Panna Cotta

Meal details: For the main course I made pigs in blankets which are little cocktail sausages wrapped in dough. And for dessert I made a vanilla flavored custard slash pudding-like dish called Panna Cotta. A little bit of background about this dessert will follow!

Defining moments: First time for me making pigs in blankets (I've tasted many beforehand!) and first time making and tasting Panna Cotta.

Recipe sources: Both recipes come from Food Network chefs. Pigs in Blankets is a Nigella Lawson recipe and the Panna Cotta is from Michael Symon. I specifically chose these two recipes because I am part of the Food Network Chef Cooking Challenge that is being hosted by the writer of the I Thank My Mother blog.

What I learned: "So what is Panna Cotta, anyway?" I thought before Sunday rolled around. I saw it being made by a couple chefs on Food Network (Daisy Martinez and Ina Garten for example), but I never really knew what it meant or where it came from. It turns out that Panna Cotta is an Italian dessert that literally translates to "cooked cream." It is traditionally made using sugar, cream, and milk which are combined and brought to a simmer, and then gelatin is added to make a silky, smooth Jell-o-like form. Interesting, huh? And of course Panna Cotta can be flavored with anything you like--such as vanilla. So when I saw Michael Symon's Panna Cotta recipe in the March issue of Food Network Magazine I decided to give it a try.
On to Pigs in Blankets. . . The recipe was easy to follow but I did discover that these little bite sized doggies can be time consuming; especially when there are 100 to make. (Eight member family, you see.) When I try these again I think I should ask for some help! :D

Any modifications? Yes, I made slight modifications to each.

1. Since I didn't have self-rising flour on hand I made my own by adding 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder and 1/2 tsp. salt to each cup of All-Purpose.

2. Instead of using whole milk I used canned evaporated milk and to every 1/2 cup of milk I added a 1/2 cup of water. This creates a milk mixture that has just the right amount of fat.

3. For the Panna Cotta, I used good vanilla extract (some really strong extract from Spices Etc.), in substitution for the vanilla bean. I used 2 tsp. of extract for every vanilla bean.

4. I used my evaporated milk and water mixture instead of the whole milk called for.

5. And I used one large bowl for the Panna Cotta instead of little ramekins. It appears that Panna Cotta is able to set in any sort of serving dish.

How it tasted? The Pigs in Blankets were juicy, cheesy, and the dough had a great texture. Worth the extra work! The Panna Cotta was superb! It had a delightful vanilla flavor that was surprising for the amount of extract I added. However, the texture wasn't completely smooth and creamy as it should have been. I saw, and slightly detected with my tongue, the small grains of Greek yogurt. If I were to do this recipe again I would use plain yogurt instead of the Greek variety; I believe it would produce a better texture.

How about a 2nd time? Yes, I would do both recipes again. . . With an extra kitchen hand and plain yogurt of course! :D

Nigella Lawson's Pigs in Blankets

Nigella Lawson's Pigs in Blankets

Nigella Lawson's Pigs in Blankets

Michael Symon's Panna Cotta

Michael Symon's Panna Cotta

Michael Symon's Panna Cotta

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