Bria Bistro’s Panna Cotta with Flourless Chocolate Cake

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I truly believe food tells a story.  When I cook I find myself creating a memory or I often use a memory to help me create the food.  For the November Breakdown article for Nashville Lifestyles Magazine , I met with Chef Tabor Luckey of Bria Bistro, Harding House and the Bridge Building all in Nashville and he taught me how to make his Panna Cotta.  Chef Tabor is a very accomplished chef that got his start “on accident” one summer as a young teenager when he was injured and couldn’t play sports.  He was a bus boy at a small restaurant in his hometown in Montana and then went onto become the executive chef for the J. Alexander’s restaurants, a culinary instructor at The Art Institute in Nashville and is now the executive chef and part owner in the super successful  Infinity Restaurant Group in Nashville.  While he is a partner in a successful business, he never puts away his creative chef’s coat and develops menu items that are near and dear to his childhood and time spent as a culinary student.  One of his favorite dishes inspired by a dish he had while attending Johnson & Wales in Rhode Island is his Panna Cotta dessert found on the Bria Bistro menu.

Meeting with Chef Tabor felt like I was right in his culinary classroom.  Desserts are definitely not my usual forte in the kitchen.  Chef Tabor had so many wonderful tips and techniques that he shared and he made a dish that would otherwise intimidate me seem effortless.  His panna cotta dessert came about after he had an unforgettable flourless chocolate at a New York restaurant that was served with a cold glass of milk.  He created the vanilla panna cotta to serve as the milk component of his dish and he serves it with flourless chocolate cake from a local bakery finished off with delicious almond whipped cream and a sprig of mint.  The result of his creation is memorable at best!!!  I can’t wait to give this dish a try on my own and I plan on serving it for an upcoming dinner party.  I can’t wait to share my experience in Chef Tabor’s kitchen with all my guests.

Panna Cotta Tips from Chef Tabor:

  • Gelatin sheets are a fantastic alternative to powdered gelatin.  It can be found in most grocery stores and tends to set up better.
  • Vanilla beans can be a bit more expensive than extract, but adds a more powerful flavor when steeped.  Rather than discarding the bean after the beans have been scraped, place them in an airtight container with sugar and let sit to create vanilla sugar that is perfect for topping crème brulee and other dishes
  • While it sounds fancy and looks a little odd, a chinois straining sieve offers more control than a traditional sieve to produce a smoother texture.  They can be found at most restaurant supply stores locally.
  • Panna Cotta is a very versatile custard that can take on many different flavor profiles by incorporating different ingredients such as liqueurs, fruit and other flavor extracts.

Bria Bistro’s Panna Cotta

Ingredients

  • 8 leaves Gelatin Sheets
  • 4 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 quart heavy cream
  • 2 cups half & half
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean

Instructions

  1. Bring cream, half & half, sugar and split vanilla bean to a simmer, stirring frequently. Let stee[ for 20 minutes. (Do not let boil over.)
  2. Remove cream from heat. Remove bean from mixture and scrape seeds back into mixture.
  3. Put gelatin in a small mixing bowl and add cold water while whisking.
  4. Add the gelatin into the cream mixture and stir until completely dissolved.
  5. Strain cream mixture through a chinois into a measuring glass with a pour spout (can use a typical fine mesh sieve) to remove any beads of gelatin.
  6. Pour mixture into ramekins to the lower rim.
  7. Chill to firm for at least 3 hours.
  8. When ready to serve, run a thin knife along the inside of the ramekin. Turn ramekin over on serving plate and tap top to release. If preferred, place the ramekin on a warm surface and let sit 10-20 seconds to help release and then turn over on dish.
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Measure out 1 quart heavy cream and 2 cups half and half.

Bring cream, half and half, sugar and split vanilla bean to a simmer, whisking continuously.  DO NOT LET BOIL OVER!!

Let steep for 20 minutes.

Remove cream from heat.  Remove bean from mixture and scrape seeds back into mixture.

You can place the vanilla bean pods in an airtight container with sugar to form vanilla sugar which makes the perfect topping for creme brulee.

Place gelatin sheets in a small mixing bowl and add cold water while whisking.   Add the gelatin into the cream mixture and stir until completely dissolved.  Gelatin sheets are a better alternative to powdered gelatin because they tend to set up better.

After straining through a chinois (or fine mesh sieve), pour mixture into ramekins to the lower rim.  Chill to firm for at least three hours.

When ready to serve, run a thin knife along the inside of the ramekin.  Turn ramekin over on serving plate and tap top to release.  If preferred, place the ramekin on a warm surface and let sit 10-20 seconds to help release and then turn over on dish.

Flourless Chocolate Cake (Allrecipes.com)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 18 (1 ounce) squares bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 6 eggs

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Grease one 10 inch round cake pan and set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat combine the water, salt and sugar. Stir until completely dissolved and set aside.
  3. Either in the top half of a double boiler or in a microwave oven melt the bittersweet chocolate. Pour the chocolate into the bowl of an electric mixer.
  4. Cut the butter into pieces and beat the butter into the chocolate, 1 piece at a time. Beat in the hot sugar-water. Slowly beat in the eggs, one at a time.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Have a pan larger than the cake pan ready, put the cake pan in the larger pan and fill the pan with boiling water halfway up the sides of the cake pan.
  6. Bake cake in the water bath at 300 degrees F (150 degrees C) for 45 minutes. The center will still look wet. Chill cake overnight in the pan. To unmold, dip the bottom of the cake pan in hot water for 10 seconds and invert onto a serving plate.
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