Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bargain Shopping for Wine and Liquors at Lee's Discount Liquor in Las Vegas!

     Like most chefs, I enjoy browsing the shelves of a good liquor store for bargains.  I have turned up some very good deals on French and Italian wines by doing so in the past.  Many times, a French wine can be be priced well below the actual value, because a clerk cannot read the French language on the label!
     Many Americans simply avoid the French wine section, because they also do not understand the labels on French wine.  This can create a "clear the shelves of slow moving items" situation in a liquor store.  While in Chicago, I purchased some fine $80.00 bottles of French chateau wine for less than $8.00 a bottle!  Whether the wine was mistakenly placed on sale or not, it does not matter.  Recognizing a bargain or just purchasing through intuitive skills can result in a real bargain on fine French wine.
     French domaine wines are the Cadillac of less costly wines and they are a grade above the table wine classification.  Many French domaine wines easily exceed the quality of the finest California wine.  French domaine wines are often on sale for less than $5.00 a bottle.
     Lee's Liquor of Las Vegas is one of my favorite liquor stores.  There are several locations in the Las Vegas valley and all of Lee's liquor stores offer fine wines and hard to find liquors.  A few of the Lee's Liquor stores are very large and they have an extensive selection of fine wine.  Bargains on the very best California wine, Italian wine and French wine can be easy to find in the larger Lee's Liquor stores.
     In the American west coast region, the best bargains for fine wine can be found in the California wine section of a liquor store.  Stocking French wine is of second importance in western states.  French wines are often overlooked by California wine snobs and that can create opportunities for bargains on fine French wine!
     I saw some tremendous bargains on fine recent vintages of French Chateau wines on the shelves at Lee's Liquor today.  Some of the 2010 French chateau estate reserve bottles were priced at $7.00 to $12.00.  If those bottles were left to mature and age for 5 to 12 years, the the prices would exceed ten times the original purchase price.  A one year old bottle of fine wine has not even come close to being mature, therefore by allowing the wine to age patiently, a bargain is created!
     Personally, I know less about California wine than French or Italian wine, even though I grew up in California.  I have found fewer disappointing wines when shopping for French or Italian wine in the past.  California has more than its share of poorly crafted wines that are made by inexperienced over zealous wineries.  I am a little bit rusty at selecting the very best of California wines and I will have to become familiar with the finer California wines again, now that I am now living in the west.  A few California wines do compare to the finest French wine.
     Rare and hard to find liquors, aperitifs and cordials can be found at Lee's.  I posted a picture of a mini bottle of a liquor from Amsterdam that has been recently marketed in America.  Agua Blanca or Agua De Bolivia is a liquor that is made with coca leaf.  The coca leaf hydrochloride alkaloids are extracted before shipping to the American market, just like coca syrup that is used for making coca cola.  I have had agua blanca that has not had the active hydrochloride alkaloids extracted in the past and the effect is pleasantly stimulating.  The very nice unique coca leaf flavor remains in Agua De Bolivia liquor even after the hydrochloride alkaloid denaturing process.  I like the flavor of natural coca flour or coca tea and I have posted recipes that require coca leaf as an ingredient in the past.  The first and secondary alkaloids of coca leaf are strong antioxidants and that makes the Agua De Bolivia liquor very appealing.
     The staff at Lee's is friendly, courteous and well educated about the products that they stock.  If you have questions, you will receive good answers!
     Learning about wines and liquors is part of being a cook or chef.  Finding bargains does make that education much cheaper!  Lee's Liquors is a good place to browse labels and find bargains in Las Vegas!  ...  Shawna      

Monday, October 10, 2011

Seared Poivre Noir Yellowfin Tuna and Roasted Anaheim Pepper en Florence Fennel Yukon Gold Gratin

Sautés Poivre Noir Albacore et le rôti Anaheim Piment sur Gratin de Fenouil Pommes de Terre Yukon Gold!

     Yellowtail tuna is usually called ahi on American menus.  Even Japanese sushi restaurants use the work ahi on menus in America.  Ahi is Hawaiian for yellowfin tuna.  For a French gratin style entree, the name ahi would be a poor choice.  French fusion chefs use the word ahi, but classic French chefs usually call yellowfin tuna by the name albacore.
      Because of the strong lobby of Japanese fishermen and the sushi industry, yellowfin tuna always seems so escape unsustainable seafood classification.  Yellowfin tuna has been steadily declining in numbers, like all tuna species.  The reality is yellowfin tuna is low in numbers.  Responsible chefs realize this and they do not use yellowfin tuna as bait to capture customers.  Just like Atlantic cod, yellowfin tuna seems to get the same respect.  Many consumers demand yellowfin tuna with no regard for the extinction of the species.  Some people are deranged enough to think about celebrating over eating eating the last yellowfin tuna steak on earth.  That same attitude sent Atlantic cod into extinction.
     Self control helps the sustainable seafood cause.  I can count how many times that I have eaten yellowfin tuna during the last five years on one hand.  Today's yellowfin tuna recipe will probably be the last one posted in this food site.  I also stopped posting black tip shark recipes when they become low in numbers.  Supporting seafood sustainability means taking action.  I have posted links to seafood sustainability site on the link page and seafood page in this site's index.  Always check the sustainability status before making any seafood purchase.
      Today's yellowfin tuna entree is a modern comfort food recipe.  The entree is cooked in two stages, so the tuna is still medium rare and juicy.  A gratin does not need to be heavily browned to be called a gratin.  A few golden brown highlights are enough for certain gratin applications.  Many kinds of cheese become vile and bitter when they are heavily browned.  The character of the cheese has a lot to do with how light or dark a gratin should be.
     The market had some very nice looking anaheim peppers for sale.  Anaheim peppers are spicier than a poblano pepper and some can be as hot as a serrano pepper.  Most anaheim peppers are fairly mild.  Anaheim pepper has a rich crisp green chile flavor.  The flame roasted Anaheim pepper adds some zest and lightens the overall feel of this gratin entree.
     Roasted Anaheim Pepper:  
     Roast 1 whole green Anaheim pepper over an open flame or in an oven, till the skin turns dark brown or black.
     Cool the roasted pepper under cold running water.
     Wash the black skin off of the pepper.
     Cut the pepper in half lengthwise.
     Scrap off all of the seeds and trim the stem end.
     Cut the roasted Anaheim pepper into long thin strips.
     Set half of the Anaheim pepper strips aside and save the extra for another recipe.
     Florence Fennel Yukon Gold Gratin:
     Blanch 5 small Yukon Gold potatoes in boiling salted water, till they become halfway cooked and so they are still firm.
     Cool the potatoes under cold running water.
     Use the back of a paring knife to scrape the skin off of the potatoes.
     Set the potatoes aside.
     Heat a small saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 2 tablespoons of finely chopped onion.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1/3 cup of thin sliced florence fennel.  (Anise bulb)
     Saute till the onions turn clear in color.
     Add just enough flour, while stirring, to soak up the butter in the pan.
     Stir till the roux combines and till the roux becomes a white color.
     Add 1/2 cup of white fish stock.  (Fumet)
     Add 1/2 cup of dry white wine.
     Add 3/4 cup of milk.
     Add 1/4 cup of cream.
     Stir as the sauce comes to a gentle boil and thickens to a very thin consistency.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of finely grated parmesan cheese.
     Stir till the cheese melts into the sauce.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a medium thin sauce consistency.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 3 pinches of chopped green fennel leaf.
     Add the peeled blanched Yukon Gold potatoes.
     Pour the gratinee into an oven proof casserole dish.
     Arrange the potatoes in the casserole dish, so they are evenly spaced around the border of the dish.
     Sprinkle a couple pinches of fine bread crumbs over the potatoes and around the border of the casserole.
     Bake the gratinee casserole dish in a 350º oven, till a few light golden highlights appear.
     As the gratinee bakes, the yellowtail tuna steak can be prepared!
     Seared Poivre Noir Yellowfin Tuna and Roasted Anaheim Pepper:
     Season a 5 to 6 ounce yellowtail tuna steak with sea salt.
     Press a few pinches of crushed black peppercorn on one side of the tuna steak.
     Heat a small saute pan over medium/medium high heat.
     Add 3 pats of unsalted butter.
     Sear the tuna on both sides for less than 1 minute on each side.  The tuna steak should be rare at this point.
     Remove the tuna from the pan and set it aside.
     Add the roasted Anaheim pepper strips to the hot butter in the pan.
     Saute the pepper strips for a few seconds.
     Add 1 ounce of dry white wine.
     Remove the pepper strips from the pan and keep them warm on a stove top.

     Seared Poivre Noir Yellowfin Tuna and Roasted Anaheim Pepper en Florence Fennel Yukon Gold Gratin:
     Tuna that is deep freeze treated for sushi can be cooked less than 145º.  Tuna that is not treated for sushi has to be cooked to 145º for 15 seconds to eliminate any pathogen threat.
     After the gratinee is baked to a golden color, remove the gratinee from the oven.
     Place the seared tuna on a cutting board with the black pepper side facing up.
     Score the tuna with a sharp knife, so the scores look like square shapes, and so the slices are cut only 3/4's of the way through the tuna flesh.
     Use a spatula to set the tuna steak in the middle of the florence fennel Yukon Gold gratinee in the casserole.
     Return the casserole dish to the 350º oven.
     Bake till golden brown highlights appear on the gratinee and till the tuna is cooked medium rare to medium or till it reaches a safe serving temperature.
     Remove the casserole dish from the oven.
     Place the casserole dish on a serving plate.
     Mound the roasted Anaheim pepper strips on the center of the tuna steak.
     Spear a few sprigs of green fennel leaf into the center of the tuna through the roasted Anaheim pepper strips.
     Viola!  Modern French comfort food!  The gentle aromatic florence fennel in the gratin adds a nice warm flavor that is perfect with yellowtail tuna.  Excessive cheese is not necessary.  This is not a gratinee style French onion soup!  Tuna casserole fans will like this French comfort food style recipe. Yum!  ...  Shawna

Monday, October 3, 2011

The International Marketplace, Las Vegas!

        The International Marketplace is not only a favorite of Las Vegas locals, it is a tourist destination for visitors of this city.  The International Marketplace is located at 5000 South Decatur and it is near the intersection of Tropicana in Las Vegas.
     The International Marketplace features fine food from every country in the world.  The selection and quality of the food is unbelievable!  Anything and everything food is stocked at the International Marketplace.  The marketplace is actually a gigantic building that is stocked full of hard to find exotic food items.
     Many people refer to the International Marketplace as an eye candy destination!  It literally is one of the biggest exotic food markets in the world.  People have been known to spend several hours looking at imported exotic food at this market.  Food label reading at this market can be inspirational for discovering new cooking ideas!  Even chefs who have 20 or more years experience, like myself, can find plenty of imported food items that are unheard of at the International marketplace!  If you are bored from eating the same old entree recipes and are looking for a new cooking ideas, then this is the place to go.
     There are so many food items to chose from at this market.  Each aisle represents a different region of the world.  Each aisle is stocked full of imported food items.  Everything from Arabic food to Zimbabwe cuisine can be found in this market.
     The Italian section is loaded with great artisan pastas and hard to find specialty items.  A huge selection of fine olive oils, vinegar and balsamic vinegar can be found in this section of the store.
     British food is plentiful.  High quality German food is popular at this time of year for the Octoberfest celebration.  French and Swiss food is well stocked.  Traditional fresh and imported baked goods are of the highest quality.  The huge asian half of the market offers a wide variety of gourmet hard to get items.  Imported candy, licorice and asian sweet snacks are stocked at the market.  The fresh Pacific seafood and fresh exotic produce sections are loaded with interesting items.
     Persian, Arabic, Balkan and Greek specialty items are abundant.  Middle eastern spice mixtures are well stocked.  Spice mixtures are great for cooks who want to experience accurate middle eastern flavors, before mixing their own spice blends.
     Mexican, Central American and South American food are stocked.  Many Incan food items are stocked in the latin food section.  Purple maize pudding, Cuzco giant maize, maca, quinoa and dried potatoes are just a few of the high Andes Incan items that are available.
     Exotic cooking vessels and tableware from all places around the world are available at this market.  Moroccan tagines, woks, steamers, Mongolian grills, tandori ovens, Korean barbecues and many other hard to find exotic kitchen items are stocked at the International Marketplace.
     Basically, if you can think of an imported food item, then the International Marketplace has it in stock!
     I highly recommend The International Marketplace for visitors of Las Vegas and locals alike.  This is one of my favorite places to shop for gourmet items in Las Vegas!