Q. What is panna cotta? I see it on dessert menus lately when I
In Italian it means "cooked cream." Panna cotta is a
molded custard (with a little gelatin added for structure) that's
often served with fresh fruit or even a drizzle of thin chocolate.
It's popping up as a replacement for zabaglione (or sabayon on a
French menu), flan, or creme brulee (which means "burnt
cream"), all of which are looking a bit tired. These bland, creamy,
custardy confections are all right, I suppose, if you're allergic
to chocolate, pastry, nuts and fruits, all of which constitute true
dessert as far as I'm concerned. I see puddings and custards as
just so much nursery mush, desserts that proper English nannies would
treat their little charges to after they've eaten all their peas. I
believe there are better things to order for dessert than custard,
although Nigella Lawson would disagree.