When we were in Nashville last week, we had the joy of eating at Catbird Seat – an intimate restaurant with a unique seating that allows its guests to watch the chefs prepare each plate. This restaurant combines the nuttiness of molecular gastronomy and the comfort of Southern cuisine. It’s impressive without being too fussy. The food was amazing and we left very satisfied! We were served things like grilled morel mushrooms stuffed with chicken liver pate (my favorite),
a yeast soup filled with smoked croutons and potatoes (tasted exactly like a loaded baked potato),
and the dish that inspired today’s post: a lemon cornmeal cake with goat’s milk panna cotta and blueberries with thyme and marjoram. Here’s a pic of the dish from the restaurant:
This was one dish that I knew I could conceivably recreate at home without any fancy equipment. Watching them assemble this was mezmerizing and I took a few guesses as to what each component was before the chef handed me the plate. Perks of being able to talk to the chef while they’re plating 🙂 When I got home, I dreamed up my own version. I love lemon and thyme together, so I knew I’d keep that aspect of the dish. Instead of putting lemon in the cake like they did, I infused the panna cotta with lemon and then made a gingerbread for the base because I love the flavors of gingerbread and figured it’d go well with everything. And it did! I happened upon some really great blueberries that actually TASTE like blueberries and the combination of all the flavors is delicate but powerful and the panna cotta is so smooth, it risks falling completely apart if moved too much. I loved how this turned out and it really wasn’t that hard to make the components and assemble. Next time you’re at a restaurant and love a dish – try to recreate it at home! It’s a good way to learn to be creative in the kitchen!
Lemon Panna Cotta with Gingerbread
For the panna cotta (to be done a day ahead)*:
1 cup whole milk, divided
2 tsp. unflavored gelatin
2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
Zest from two lemons, plus a wedge of the lemon
1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or one vanilla bean, scraped)
Pour 1/2 cup milk into a medium bowl; sprinkle gelatin over. Let sit until gelatin softens, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine cream, sugar, lemon zest and wedge, and remaining 1/2 cup milk in a large saucepan. Scrape vanilla seeds from bean into saucepan; add bean (or add your vanilla bean paste). Bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat; cover and let steep for 10 minutes.
Bring cream mixture back to a simmer. Add gelatin mixture and stir until dissolved. Strain. Divide among eight 3/4-cup ramekins. Chill uncovered until panna cotta is set, at least 6 hours. *adapted from Bon Appetit
For the gingerbread (to make a thin version like mine):
2¼ cups sifted (9 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon Dutch-processed cocoa
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
¾ cup mild or light molasses
¾ cup (5¼ ounces) sugar
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup milk
1 large egg
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large, rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper and spray with nonstick spray.
Whisk together the flour, baking, soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice and coca in a medium bowl.
Beat butter, molasses, sugar, buttermilk, milk , and egg in a large bowl with an electric mixer on low speed. Add the dry ingredients and beat on medium speed until the batter is smooth and thick, about 1 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Do not overmix. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface.
Bake until the top springs back when lightly touched and the edges have pulled away from the pan sides, about 20 minutes. Set the pan on a wire rack and cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Gingerbread can be wrapped in plastic, then foil, and refrigerated up to 5 days.
*if you want to make a regular pan of this, simply bake in a 9×13″ pan and bake for 35-40 minutes. Adapted from The New Best Recipe.