This recipe comes from the San Francisco Bay Area’s Madcap, owned and operated by chef Ron Siegel. The focus is on seasonal, local ingredients and there are Japanese influences evident in many dishes, like this creamy panna cotta with uni (sea urchin roe), shiso (a mint-like herb), ginger, and plum vinegar. Star anise and vanilla bean add additional layers of fragrance to this elegant starter, but aside from the potential extra work of sourcing a few of the ingredients, it’s surprisingly easy to pull together.
Shopping List: Shiso is a mint-like herb with a more complex flavor (including notes of cinnamon, clove, and basil), and is similar to but distinct from perilla leaves. You can substitute a more readily available combo of mint and Thai basil if you have trouble finding shiso. Fresh uni can be purchased at an Asian market, as can fish collars, a bony, gelatinous cut from the neck—you may also be able to get fish collars from the seafood counter at any supermarket that breaks down whole fish (or buy a whole fish to prepare at home and save the collar for this recipe).
If you’re really into roe, try this Uni Filet recipe too.
- 2 cups cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 4 star anise pods
- 14 grams gelatin (sheets)
- 1/2 pound (200 grams) fresh uni
- 1 fish collar (from salmon or any other fish; about 1/2 to 1 lb.), washed, patted dry
- 4 shiso leaves, thinly sliced (found in Asian markets or substitute with combination of fresh mint and Thai basil leaves)
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon plum vinegar
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1/4 cup mild olive oil
- Put star anise pods in a medium pan with milk and cream. Bring to a boil, and remove from heat. Add a pinch of salt and set aside.
- Bloom the gelatin sheets, separately, in cold water. Once soft, wring out water and add gelatin to cream mixture. Let sheets dissolve for about 1 minute, then strain mixture through a fine mesh colander, and pour into a blender. Add the uni and blend quickly, until just pureed. Check the seasoning and add more salt if desired. Pour into 8 small bowls, ramekins, or containers of your choice and refrigerate.
- While panna cotta is setting, broil the fish collar about 10 minutes, then turn and broil another 5 minutes, or until cooked through. When cool enough to handle, pick the meat from the bone. Gently toss the fish meat with the shiso leaves, ginger, plum vinegar, and a pinch of salt.
- Scrape out the vanilla bean seeds into a small bowl and mix with the olive oil.
- Place a few spoonfuls of the seasoned fish on top of the panna cotta and drizzle each bowl with the vanilla oil. Serve cold.