Panna cotta is known and loved all over the world as a delicious Italian dessert. Silky smooth cream with just enough gelatin to settle into a soft shape. But what about savoury panna cotta? Why not use the smooth texture and delicate flavour as a savoury dish instead of a sweet.
This may sound weird but imagine a savoury panna cotta made of asparagus served with beautiful prawns, cucumber and dill or a panna cotta made of fennel and served with smoked salmon.
Those were my ideas when I two weeks ago wanted to make a new starter. I had lots of fresh lumpfish roe and I wanted to try new flavours and textures. Initially I considered using asparagus but since asparagus was not yet in season in Denmark, it was out of the question. However, I still had lots of parsnip in my garage from last years harvest and I started wondering about a vegetarian dish made of mainly parsnip. I have used parsnip in various ways; Puree, mash, soup and chips but I wanted something smoother and preferably chilled.
That is when it hit me! What about a savoury panna cotta? I had never heard about a savoury panna cotta but to me it sounded like a good idea, and I began thinking about different components. I wanted contrasts in colour, texture and flavour. The end result became a silky smooth panna cotta made of cream and parsnip, parsnip chips, beurre noisette (browned butter), toasted hazelnuts and herbs. In order to prevent the dish to feel too creamy and rich, lemon juice was added to the beurre noisette and sorrel was used as a garnish.
Later on I learned that savoury panna cotta is served in some restaurants, and therefore not entirely unknown, but I am glad, I got the idea without cruising the internet for recipes. It really got me thinking!
Savoury panna cotta with parsnip, hazelnuts, beurre noisette and herbs. Don’t be fooled by the look of it. It is quite easy to make.
The perfect savoury panna cotta
The art of making a good panna cotta comes down to controlling the amount of gelatin. You need enough gelatin to settle the cream but you don’t want the cream to become a solid shape. When put in the mouth, and squished between the tongue and your palate, the panna cotta should dissolve quite easily. If you need to chew the panna cotta, you have used too much gelatin.
The amount of salt added to the panna cotta should emphasize the taste of cream and vegetable but never overpower it, so be really careful when tasting, but remember that chilled dishes often need a tiny bit more salt than warm dishes.
Finally, add different textures and flavours to your dish to make it interesting. Since a panna cotta is really creamy, you need a lot of crunch e.g. nuts, crumble and chips.
Parsnip panna cotta with hazelnut, parsnip chips, beurre noisette (browned butter) and fresh chervil and sorrel. A beautiful vegetarian dish, perfect in the autumn and winter when parsnip is in...