Hannibal Dinner Party: Citrus Pomegranate Panna Cotta
Hannibal? Hasn't that show been off the air for like 3 years?
Listen, hypothetical reader, don't rub it in. How rude of you. Besides, a show as gorgeous and well-made as Hannibal never goes out of style. Which is why I decided to finally dive into the Hannibal cookbook that was created by the show's food stylist, Janice Poon, and invite all the Fannibals I know over for a dinner party. It's not the first one we've had, but it's the first we've had since Feeding Hannibal has been available as a guide.
Luckily for me, most of my friends are not just Hannibal fans but also avid home cooks, so we were able to put together quite a feast from the recipes Janice has shared, in both her book and her blog, which was a must-read for me while the show was airing.
Prosciutto Roses on Watermelon
Pâté Torchon Timbits
Bedelia's Bellybuttons (Escargot in Mushrooms) with Absinthe Cream Sauce
Lotus Root Salad
Quail Stuffed with Sweetbreads and Hazelnuts
Citrus Pomegranate Panna Cotta with Lace Cookies
Everything was delicious, even the pâté timbits, which I mostly asked my friend Tony to make out of curiosity, and turned out scrumptious. Bedelia's Bellybuttons were also delightful, and the prosciutto roses are going into my recipe box as a staple party appetizer. The lotus root salad made for the prettiest picture of the evening, and the quail was yummy, though to be honest I'd hesitate to make them again, only because they were a lot of work; stuffing each one and tying up their little legs was delicate and time consuming. My dinner guests can attest to my frustration by the time I got them in the oven, though with all the delicious food and wine around me, I was soon back in good spirits.
The dessert is not directly lifted from Hannibal. I'd seen an image of an orange gelée and panna cotta similar to the one here, and was immediately reminded of the stark red-and-white Hannibal title sequence. I decided to incorporate pomegranate, both to make the gelée more red, and because I recalled that our very first introduction to Hannibal the Cannibal in the tv show came as the camera panned up and over a beautiful segment of blood-red pomegranate. Plus, I wanted to create an original dessert so that I could share it with all of you!
But first, the party!
Hannibalize your dinner Party
Feeding Hannibal had some great suggestions for how to give your table that extra Hannibal flair, and I took quite a few of them. I made my centerpiece using marrow bones as candlestick holders - easy enough to do, plus I had an excuse to eat roasted bone marrow the week before. Another was to have the menus printed on edible paper, so that they could be eaten just like Francis Dolarhyde eats The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun. I waffled a bit on the final menu, so instead I had The Great Red Dragon printed on wafer paper and used an edible ink marker to create name placeholders for all my guests.
Some other tips from me for making a pretty table on a budget: Check your dollar stores and thrift stores. Much of my dinnerware and glassware is from a 99 cent store, where I also found the black chargers, which are actually Halloween platters (they have a rather gaudy skull in the center, covered by the plates), and the silver platters were thrift store finds, tarnish removed with a little elbow grease and baking soda.
Some of the most fun we had was eating the place markers and the marzipan ortolans that Casie made. Some of us ate them outright while others used their napkins to cover their face and hide their shame from God. It made for a fun, interactive part of the dinner. And of course, don't forget your flower crowns!
And now...to the recipe!
This is a great dessert for a dinner party because it can be made almost entirely ahead of time, but it does require quite a bit of planning. I'm gonna break it down for you with the schedule that I followed.
T-Minus 4 Days to Dinner Party...
Make the cookie Dough
1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1 stick butter
zest of 1 orange
red food coloring
In a small bowl, melt the butter in the microwave in 15 second increments. In a medium bowl, mix together the sugar, flour and salt until combined. Add the juice and orange zest and mix thoroughly. Add the melted butter and mix until butter is fully incorporated. Add a few drops of red food coloring and mix until the dough is a nice light pink color. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
T-Minus 3 Days to Dinner Party...
Bake the cookies
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line your cookie sheet with a silicone baking mat - this is key for this recipe I'm afraid, without it these cookies are pretty impossible. Transfer your cookie dough into a piping bag with a large round tip, or plastic ziploc bag with the corner cut off. Pipe them onto the baking sheet in 1 inch rounds with at least 3 inches of space between each cookie (possibly more - err on the side of caution). The cookies will spread a LOT when baking. Bake for about 10 minutes, just until the edges start to brown. Cool the cookies on the sheet for about 2 minutes. At this point, you can use an extra-thin spatula to remove the cookies from the silicone mat (I used a sort of back-and-forth sawing motion to work my spatula under the cookie). Move some of the cookies to rest on a rolling pin or wine bottle to give them a curl. The rest can be left flat.
This recipe makes for dozens of cookies, so if you mess up a few or even a whole batch - never fear, you'll have plenty of chances to get it right. Once your cookies are made and cool, keep them in an air-tight container, and away from humidity.
T-Minus 2 Days to Dinner Party...
Make the gelée
2 envelopes powdered gelatin + 1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons pomegranate juice
1/2 cup orange juice
1 1/4 cup Campari
Sprinkle the gelatin over 1/4 cup water to soak. In a medium saucepan, mix together the sugar and remaining water over high heat, until just boiling and the sugar has dissolved.
Remove from heat. Add the gelatin and mix until completely dissolved. Add the fruit juices and whisk to incorporate. Add the Campari and mix to combine.
To create the angled effect in your stemless wine glasses, turn 2 empty egg cartons upside down and set in fridge. Divide your gelée mix between 4-6 wine glasses. Set the wine glasses on the egg carton at a 45° angle. Refrigerate overnight.
T-Minus 1 Day to Dinner Party...
Make the panna cotta
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
2 tablespoons cold water
2 cups heavy cream, divided
1/2 cup sugar
zest of 1 orange
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Put the gelatin and water into a small saucepan and heat over low heat just until the gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat.
Mix 1 cup heavy cream, sugar and orange zest in a medium saucepan and heat until just boiling. Remove from heat and add the gelatin, stirring until dissolved. Add the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream, buttermilk, and vanilla extract, stirring to combine.
Remove wine glasses with gelée, now set, from the egg cartons in the fridge and divide the panna cotta among them. You can completely cover the gelee or only go partway up to leave a corner peeking out. Return to the fridge and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (or overnight). If refrigerating for longer before serving, cover each glass with plastic wrap to keep the panna cotta from drying out.
Day of the Dinner Party...
Segment 1 orange and 1 pomegranate and store them in your fridge until it's time to serve dessert. To plate, take 1 glass of panna cotta, sprinkle in a few pomegranate seeds and top the glass with a flat lace cookie. Use the pomegranate, orange segments and curled lace cookies to garnish your plate. Et Voilà! Bon appétit, Fannibals!