Recipe: Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Apricot Gelée

Panna Cotta, an Italian dessert of silky, sweetened cream set with gelatin, is all at once simple, classic and elegant.  It is, at its best, subtle, not overly sweet, and the perfect way to end a meal on a light and refreshing note.
Panna cotta comes together quickly and can be molded in any type of vessels you choose -- from ramekins to demitasse, martini glasses to mason jars.  I like to compliment my panna cotta with a thin layer of gelée -- a gelatin stabilized glaze made from fresh fruit.  Apricots are in season right now, and are bursting with summer sweetness, so I chose to do an apricot gelée.  You can use my recipe with any type of fruit you'd like.  
Here are some photos of panna cottas I've made in the past with a variety of gelées and vessels:
Vanilla Panna Cotta with a Honey Gelée and Bee Pollen
Lemon Panna Cotta, no gelée
Meyer-Lemon Panna Cotta, Strawberry-Rhubarb Gelee

I like to decorate my desserts with edible flowers, especially in summer and springtime. My theme fo…

Easy & Amazing Parmesan Polenta Fries

Like clockwork,
the crisp chill of autumn blew in
when we set the clocks back.
Comfort food time!

One of my favorite easy fall comfort foods is polenta.
Last week, I shared my recipe for fried polenta squares
with my advanced culinary arts students.

We topped the golden squares with a homemade
balsamic tomato ragout and Italian sausage.
I'll be sharing the recipe here on Rook No. 17 next week.

Last night, I made up a batch of polenta for my family.  This time, I cut the polenta into a shape my girls adore -- fries!  Polenta fries are easy and inexpensive to make.  They make an elegant lunch or dinner side or can be topped with ingredients like chili or Bolognese sauce to make a meal.

Parmesan Polenta Fries

Yield:  approx. 48
Time:  approx. 45 minutes

  • 3/4 cup polenta (I like Golden Pheasant brand)
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Vegetable oil for for frying

Butter an 8x8 baking dish.  Set aside.

Step 1:  In a large glass or ceramic mixing bowl, stir together polenta and water.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Microwave on full power for 8 minutes.  Remove and stir briskly with a fork.  Re-cover, then microwave for 2 minutes more.

Step 2:  Carefully remove plastic wrap.  Add butter and whip with a fork until smooth and creamy.  Add Parmesan and stir until melted.  Pour into prepared baking dish.  Set aside to cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes or until polenta has set.

Step 3:  Invert pan over a large cutting board.  Using a large slicing knife, cut the set polenta into thirds.  Then cut each segment into 1/2" sticks.  

Step 4:  In a large nonstick frying pan, heat 1/2" of oil.  When oil is sizzling hot, quickly add 8-10 polenta sticks (don't crowd pan; sticks should not touch).  

Tip:  It helps to have a spatter guard when frying polenta.  The moisture in the cooked polenta causes the hot oil to pop and spatter, which can be dangerous and painful when it comes in contact with your skin.  

Use tongs to turn the sticks over once they begin to brown on the bottom.  Brown on the other side, then remove to a plate lined with paper towels.  Immediately season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Continue to fry remaining batches. 

Serve warm.



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