Brodetto, and Vanilla Pannacotta

So yesterday I decided to treat my wife, as I do on a regular basis, in case that typical thought popped into your head. As I am currently unemployed I have become the houseboy, which is not a completely accurate description, as I do not have to perform any undesirable tasks for the mistress of the house. But I am straying way off topic right now. We can always explore this further at another time.

As much as I have spent many wonderful and fruitful hours in the kitchen, I’m not a baker nor a dessert maker, but I’d watched a guy on TV describe making pannacotta with such pleasure, that I was inspired to try making it from scratch.

Pannacotta is an Italian dessert of sweetened cream thickened with gelatin and molded. It can then be flavored with many options like brandy, coffee, fruit or vanilla, as in this recipe. The recipe called for gelatin which I have never ever used before. Dutifully I followed the instructions adding a tablespoon of cold water to the gelatin powder and ended up with a sticky ball the size of a grape inside the whisk. The dissolved gelatin was supposed to be poured, which was clearly not going to happen with this glutinous little rival. So I checked the instructions on the gelatin package, (yeah-yeah), I hear it, R.T.F.M., which says to use hot water to dissolve the powder into. Finally, I had a clear liquid that could be poured. With an immense sense of accomplishment, I could measure this warm rich vanilla flavoured liquid into some ramekin dishes, and popped them in the fridge.

I then proceeded to prepare the Brodetto.

Brodetto is Italian fish stew, and there are multiple variations on the recipe. I chose Brodetto Ancona style.

The recipe I chose called for red snapper. As there is no fishmonger in the little town where I live, I headed off to the supermarket, only to find out that there was no red snapper available. The young girl, I swear could not be older than 16, behind the deli counter assured me that the fresh rockfish that was on display is a suitable substitute. Not really convinced of that, I bought the rockfish fillets.

Once I arrived home, and a quick search on Google, I confirmed that she was, in fact, right about the Pacific Rockfish, also known as Pacific Red Snapper.

So along with fresh clams, 3 tiny lobster tails and bay scallops my first attempt at this fish stew began its life. The rockfish turned out to be succulent bathed in the tomato-rich broth with toasted yeasty Italian bread on the side for one of the servings and smothered with the stew for the other serving. The clams and scallops still held their individual flavours. This may be a peasant meal but it made me feel like I owned the sea.

I served the Pannacotta on shortbread slices, with warmed orange marmalade on top which oozed down the sides like molten lava melting the Pannacotta along its way. I believe I’ve converted my wife to a dessert lover, well at least to a Vanilla Pannacotta lover.

I am not sorry, or maybe just a little, that there isn’t a single photo, as the plates were polished off.


Salty tip of the Week

When baking, anything from bread to pies, it is essential to add salt, even if just a pinch, for taste. It is so easy to taste the difference between unsalted and salted bread or pastry. Pastry chefs agree. Why salt is important in baking.


What is Salt?


Salt, any salt! my kingdom for some salt.

What is Salt? Common salt, or sodium chloride, is the chemical compound NaCl. Salt occurs naturally in many parts of the world as the mineral halite and as mixed evaporites in salt lakes and salt oceans. Salt varies in color from colorless, when pure, to white, gray or brownish, typical of rock salt (halite).

Source: What is Salt? | SaltWorks

Salt, the Expensive Seasoning.



Salt has become the expensive seasoning, as it is necessary to attend an expensive restaurant to experience it.

In fact, adequate seasoning is also becoming scarce, unless you are prepared to pay for it. The familiar salt cellar is no longer to be found on the tables of most restaurants nowadays, even though the pepper grinder still appears.

Most chefs do have the skill of salting and seasoning their food well, and are not the one’s to blame for this new travesty. This practice is  expected of chefs by a good-intentioned, misguided public, that a low sodium diet requires it. The low sodium diet is not even based on sound medical evidence.

I remember watching Chef Mark McEwan, of North 44, One, Bymark, Fabbrica and McEwan Grocery, Catering and Prepared Meals fame, on TV, during his catering show, training the sous chefs to season everything well, down to each leaf in the salad, emphasizing  that nothing unseasoned should land on the plate. In fact, he advocated seasoning the garnish too, although having garnishes on a plate merely for the sake of garnish, is a topic for another day.

So many functions, come to mind, where I was served a starter salad, that consisted of some nondescript leaves, with a few splashes, and I mean a few only, of dressing drizzled on the top. Now, there is no way that I can toss this salad at the table without half of it ending up on the tablecloth, and is pointless, as there isn’t enough seasoning/dressing anyway.

Ponder the thought of a simple egg without salt, rice without salt, or potato chips without salt, and you may remark that it goes without saying, that those need to be salted. Well, shouldn’t every other ingredient in the culinary world be treated with the same respect?

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