Olive Oil Panna Cotta (or A beginning of sorts)
If you have been keeping up with our daily posts, you may have noticed a theme emerging. For example, as Ginger mentioned yesterday, the nearly 18 months that we've lived in Tuscania has become an important element of our story and it informs a lot of our interests. As a chef, coming here has not only made me technically better, it's allowed me to develop a lot of ideas that I've been turning over in my head for years.
I have been working in kitchens for 15 years, and I spent five of those years in executive positions. Within that time I've had my share of drudgery (as we all do) but I've always wanted to use some measure of creativity in the dishes I make, and I was never really happy replicating dishes with nothing heartfelt behind it. It may sound strange, but one of the reasons I came to Italy and worked on starting a small restaurant at Casa Caponetti was so that I could believe in my food again. I've been very lucky to have that opportunity and I do think I've become a more capable chef as a result.
Often an idea will begin in one place and end somewhere completely different, with many iterations between. At times the end product will have no resemblance to the starting point, but that process is often the most fascinating aspect of cookery. A dish like this one is all about the process, so let's take a step back.
Olive Oil Panna Cotta (circa 2012)
In 2012 I was asked by Lorenzo Caponetti to submit a dish and recipe for an annual calendar he printed in honour of his olive oil. Happy to be in a publication with the likes of Daniel Humm and Dan Barber, I set to work making an original dish. I wanted to use a technique not typically accossiated with oil and I wanted it to be both contemporary and still reminiscent of flavours that would be found on the farm.
I decided I wanted to try an Olive Oil Panna Cotta and I wanted it to be savoury, but that's as far as I got with it. This is why I particularly love this dish, because I was working on it just around the time that Ginger and I met. Some time later she told me that she'd had a dream that I used black garlic with the panna cotta, and then things started to come together. I dried some cherry tomatoes and then marinated them, turned the black garlic into a vinagrette, and then finished it with a fish roe. I remember making the dish in our friend Jason Barrus's incredibly cool kitchen in the Bronx, and the three of us standing around the counter tasting the various versions. And then I remember the final product: a smooth and creamy panna cotta with the slightest hint of olive oil running through it, the brightness and bite of the tomatoes, the pleasant acidity in the dressing and the salty bite of roe. It was a complete dish and what's more, it made me start to fall back in love with cooking.
60g Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I was lucky to have Casa Caponetti Oil on hand, hopefully some of your are as well)
20g lemon juice
2g Leaf Gelatin
- Mix cream and milk and bring to boil
- Soak gelatin in cold water until soft
- Once you have removed the milk cream mix from the heat add the gelatin, lemon juice and a pinch of salt
- Transfer the mix to a blender or a hand blender and start on a medium speed
- Whilst the blender is running, slowly pour in the oil
- Continue to blend until the mix is cool
- transfer to your serving vessel and leave to set at least 3 hours, preferably over night