Friday, June 21, 2013

Frog Legs Sauté au Beurre Seville Orange with Herbs

A nice Floribbean frog legs recipe for summer!  Served with roasted red pepper creme brown basmati rice and a yellow squash barrel full of green beans.

     Some beurre blancs and butter sauces are better off being made ahead of time and then used when the food is plated.  Experienced sauté chefs usually are also sauciers.  A good sauté chef can make a perfect emulsified butter sauce in the pan that the entree was cooked in as a finishing touch.  Knowing when the liquid reduction in the sauté pan is just the right consistency and knowing when the temperature is correct for adding butter when making an a la minute emulsion is something that only experience can teach.  
     If an item like frog legs are dusted with seasoned flour before sautéing, the a tiny amount of roux will form when liquid makes contact and that makes it even easier to create a butter emulsion sauce.  Heat breaks butter emulsions.  The easiest way to make an a la minute butter emulsion in a hot sauté pan is to turn the heat off and work quickly with just the carryover heat of the pan.  Quickly is the key word.  Too much time in a hot pan that is off of the heat will also result in a broken butter sauce.  A broken emulsified butter sauce looks clear like clarified butter and that is amateurish.
     Great sauté chefs have lightning fast hands with agility and coordination to match.  A good sauté chef thinks about logical order every step of the way and never misses a beat.  Knowing when to add certain ingredients to keep flavors at a peak and to create maximum eye appeal is essential.  Timing is of utmost importance, because most sauté entrees have to be served immediately when they finish cooking.  
     I was a sauté chef and saucier for more than two decades and I can honestly say without bragging that I am pretty darn good at teaching the art of sauté cooking.  As readers have noticed, I do write a lot of sauté recipes and most are meant to be cooked to order.  Readers who learn to sauté like a pro are rewarded by cooking better food than what most restaurants serve and their home cooking never looks like old stale buffet food!  

     Roasted Red Pepper Creme Brown Basmati Rice:  
     This recipe makes 1 large portion!  If it looks like cheddar cheese rice then just forget about it!  Cheddar cheese and an orange sauce on the same plate is one of the worst possible flavor combinations that could be imagined.  The flavors clash.  Anatto is an ingredient in this rice recipe and anatto is what is used to give cheddar an orange color. 
     Place 1 cup of water in a small sauce pot.  
     Add 1 cup of light chicken stock.
     Add 1 pat of unsalted butter.
     Add 2 pinches of ground anatto.
     Add 1 pinch of Spanish paprika.
     Add 1 small pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of garlic powder.
     Add 1 small pinch of onion powder.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat. 
     Add 1 cup of brown basmati rice.
     Return the liquid to a boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Cover the pot with a lid.
     Simmer and steam the rice, till it is fully cooked.
     Add 3 tablespoon of small chopped roasted red bell pepper.
     Add 1/2 cup of cream.
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Gently simmer and occasionally stir, till the rice and cream thickens to a heavy thick consistency.
     Keep the roasted red pepper creme brown basmati rice warm on a stove top.

     Yellow Squash Barrel full of Frenched Green Beans:
     Frenched green beans are green beans that are cut into long thin slivers.  The green beans have to be cooked al dente for this presentation or they will look limp.
     Cut a 2" to 2 1/2" long section of yellow squash.  The squash section should be about 2" wide.
     Use a channeling tool to cut vertical grooves on the barrel.
     Use an apple coring tool to hallow out the squash barrel from end to end.
     Blanch the squash barrel in boiling salted water, till it is almost halfway cooked.  (about 1 1/2 minutes)
     Cool the squash barrel under cold running water.
     Set the squash barrel aside.
     Trim a small bunch of green beans.
     Cut the green beans into long thin strips.
     Blanch the Frenched green beans for 20 seconds in boiling salted water.
     Cool the green beans under cold running water.
     Note:  The squash barrel and greens beans should be reheated when the frog legs are started.  
     Reheat the green beans and squash in a sauté pan over low heat with 2 ounces of chicken stock and 1 pat of unsalted butter.
     Season with sea salt and white pepper. 
     Place the squash barrel on a cutting board and fill the barrel with the green beans. 

     Frog Legs Sauté au Beurre Seville Orange with Herbs:
     Bottled bitter orange juice is available at Mexican and Cuban markets.  Bitter orange is seville orange or bigarade orange. 
     Soak 3 pairs of frog legs in milk for 2 minutes.
     Drain the milk off of the frog legs.
     Lightly dredge the frog legs in 1 1/2 cups of flour seasoned with sea salt, black pepper, white pepper and 1 pinch of cayenne pepper. 
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
     Add 2 pats of unsalted butter.
     Sauté the frog legs, till light golden brown highlights appear on all sides.  The frog legs should fully cooked at this point.  
     Remove the frog legs from the pan and set them aside on a wire screen roasting rack.  Keep the frog legs warm on a stove top.
     Drain the excess grease out of the pan and remove ant dark bits of suc.
     Return the pan to medium heat.
     Add 2 ounces of dry white wine.
     Add 3 ounces of bitter orange juice.  
     Add 1 ounce of chicken stock.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced green onion.
     Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 2 pinches of dill weed.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 small pinch of tarragon.
     Add 1 small pinch of rubbed sage.
     Add 1 small pinch of basil.
     Add 1 pinch of minced mint.
     Add 2 pinches of minced Italian parsley.
     Simmer and reduce, till only about 3 tablespoons of liquid remains.
     Turn off the heat.
     Immediately add 2 1/4 ounces of butter that is cut into thin butter pats, while constantly stirring to create an emulsified butter sauce.
     As soon as the butter melts ad creates a butter sauce, use a rubber spatula to scrape the sauce out of the pan into a ceramic cup.
     Keep the cup warm on a stove top.

     Frog Legs Sauté au Beurre Seville Orange with Herbs - Roasted Red Pepper Creme Brown Basmati Rice -  Yellow Squash Barrel full of Frenched Green Beans - Presentation:
     Arrange the frog legs on the plate, so they fan out from center.
     Use a scoop or 2 serving spoon to give the roasted red pepper creme brown rice a ball shape and plate it on the plate.  
     Garnish the rice with smoked bacon lardons.
     Place the assembled yellow squash barrel full of green beans on the plate.
     Use a spoon to drizzle the seville orange herb butter sauce over the frog legs and on the plate.
     No garnish is necessary!

     Viola!  This is a very tasty plate of frog legs with a simple clean looking presentation.  Yum!  ...  Shawna

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Wild Sour Cherry Milkshake

Time to chill!

     A few weeks ago I posted a fancy milkshake recipe and the reaction from readers was nice.  People like milkshakes.  Especially when the weather gets hot in the middle of summer.
     I decided to not make every milkshake garnishing ingredient from scratch for the first round of gourmet milkshake recipes, so the milkshakes would be easier for readers to make.  Not everybody wants to slave over a stove in hot summer weather.  Conveniences like pre-made chocolate fudge, strawberry syrup and ice cream from a grocery store freezer section are okay to use in a milkshake recipe.  Many fine trendy restaurant chefs also use pre-made ice cream toppings when making fancy milkshakes.
     I am waiting on delivery of a top of the line ice cream maker at this time.  A good ice cream machine has a strong freezer unit built in.  Sometime during the next two weeks, I will start posting some fresh sorbet, sherbet and ice cream recipes.  I have been making fresh ice cream since I was a kid, so the recipes will be good.  Never buying pre-made ice cream at a store is the goal.  Making ice cream from scratch will add to the overall quality of this food site.  
     Strawberry Syrup and Hot Fudge Painted Frozen Glass:
     Pre-made strawberry syrup and hot fudge topping were used to garnish this milkshake.  Some ice cream topping brands are better than others and it does pay to read the label.  Choosing pre-made ice cream toppings that do not have a long list of artificial ingredients is best.  
     • The strawberry syrup has to be a thick consistency.
     • If a pre-made strawberry syrup is not thick enough to paint the inside of a frozen glass, the syrup can be thickened.  Heating a syrup, till it gently boils, then adding some corn starch slurry is one method of thickening strawberry syrup that is too thin.
     • Simmering and reducing is another way to thicken a syrup.
     • Jellies can be converted to a syrup by heating the jelly with a splash of water.
     • Chocolate fudge topping works better for painting a frozen glass than chocolate syrup.
     • The chocolate fudge has to be warmed in a microwave or double boiler.  The chocolate fudge should not be hotter than 99º or the frozen glass might crack from making contact with hot liquid.  Letting the hot fudge cool to just above room temperature is best.
     • Place the thickened strawberry syrup and warm hot fudge topping in plastic squeeze bottles.
     • Freeze a large 24 ounce lager glass or milkshake glass.
     • Hold the glass at an angle and paint the inside of the glass by streaming the syrups in the glass, while turning the glass.
     • Place the glass back in the freezer till the milkshake is ready.
     Whipped Cream: 
     Frozen whipped cream topping is junk.  Its not even whipped cream.  Canned pressurized whipped cream is only slightly better, but it is convenient.  A gourmet milkshake is better with fresh whipped cream.
     Whipping fresh cream with sugar in a chilled bowl produces the best whipped cream.  A cake mixer with a whisk attachment works best.
     Place 1 cup of cream in a chilled bowl.
     Add 4 drops of pure vanilla extract.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of sugar.
     Whisk till medium stiff peaks appear.
     Load the whipped cream in a star tipped pastry bag.
     Keep it chilled till the whipped cream is needed.

     Wild Cherry Puree:
     Wild cherries are usually called sour cherries.  Jars of top quality sour cherries packed in there own juices are available at eastern european markets and middle eastern markets.  Some grocery stores and specialty food markets carry jars of sour cherries.  When using vanilla ice cream as the base of a milkshake, it is best to simmer sour cherries, some sour cherry juice and sugar together.  The sour cherry mixture should be reduced to a syrup, then pureed, so the flavor is concentrated.  After the sour cherry mixture cools, it can be added to vanilla ice cream and blended to produce a rich tasting sour cherry flavored milkshake.
     Place 1 1/3 cups of preserved sour cherries from a jar with a proportion of the sour cherry juice in a sauce pot over low heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of sugar.
     Simmer and reduce till the liquid becomes a medium thick syrup.
     Allow the cherry reduction to cool to room temperature.
     Puree the cherry mixture.
     Chill the cherry mixture till it is needed.

     Caramel Sugar Garnish:
     A silicone baking mat is great for making amber sugar garnishes like the one in the pictures above.  A piece of aluminum foil that is lightly brushed with vegetable oil can also be used.  A thermometer can be used to gauge when the molten sugar reaches the amber temperature range, but the color of the sugar still must be judged by eye.  
     One thing to keep on mind is the caramel sugar garnish must fit the contour of the glass, if it is going to stand up straight.  Cutting a parchment paper outline of the glass and placing it on the silicone baking mat is a good idea. 
     Too much sugar is better than too little sugar when making caramel sugar glass garnishes.  Any extra caramel sugar in the pot can be melted with water and used to flavor other recipes. 
     Place a shallow pan of water on a countertop that is wider than the sauce pot that will be used to make the caramel.  (cooling bath)
     Place a small stainless steel sauce pot over high heat.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of sugar.
     Add 1/2 cup of water.
     Boil till the water evaporates and the sugar enters the candy stages.
     Keep an eye on the sugar.
     When the sugar approaches 330º, it will start to caramelize.
     Allow the sugar to caramelize to an amber light brownish golden color.
     Immediately dip the bottom of the sauce pot in the pan of water on the countertop, to stop the sugar from becoming darker.
     Use a spoon too gauge when the caramel sugar is cool enough to to stream on the mat.  When a spoonful of caramel can be slowly poured off of the spoon back into the pot, then it is cool enough.
     Immediately use the spoon to stream a design of caramel sugar on a silicone baking mat that is placed on a countertop.
     Allow the caramel to cool to room temperature.
     Gently bend the silicone baking mat to free the caramel glass garnish.
     Place the garnish where it will not be damaged.

     Wild Sour Cherry Milkshake:
     Making a little bit of extra milkshake is a tradition!  Fancy milkshakes have to be assembled quickly, so be ready to work fast.
     Place about 20 ounces of French vanilla ice cream in a milkshake blender.
     Add 5 to 6 ounces of chilled milk.
     Add the reserved concentrated wild sour cherry puree.
     Blend until the ingredients are thoroughly combined.
     Pour the milkshake in the frozen painted glass till the milkshake is about 1/2" from the top.
     Use the pastry bag to pipe some whipped cream on the milk shake
     Insert the caramel sugar glass garnish through the whipped cream, so it stands straight up.
     Use the squeeze bottle to pain some chocolate fudge on the whipped cream.
     Garnish with mint sprigs.
     Serve any extra milkshake on the side.

     This sour cherry milkshake tastes so good, that getting a case of brain freeze is almost guaranteed to happen.  No pain, no gain!  This certainly is a modern looking fancy gourmet milkshake.  Yum!  ...  Shawna

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Herbes de Provence Filet de Poulet sur les Louisiane Ragoût de Légumes

Herbs de Provence crusted chicken breast on stewed Louisiana vegetables!

     Lighter food is more popular in the summer.  The problem is that this food site is viewed internationally.  Many readers in the southern hemisphere are bundling up for winter.  Luckily for them, ever since I started the associates degree culinary operations program at Le Cordon Bleu, I have gotten way behind on writing new recipes.  There is a pile of over 100 recipes that need to be written and many are cold weather winter recipes.  Readers in the northern hemisphere may scratch their heads when they see a heavy rich winter recipe posted in the middle of summer, but those in the southern hemisphere will be happy to see some hearty cold weather food.  Ce est la vie!
     Lighter fare like vegetarian, seafood and poultry recipes that are not made with excess fats, cream, cheese or heavy sauces are great summer entrees, but they are also well liked by the health conscious crowd year round.  Vegetable ragoûts and ratatouille are easy to digest nutritious food that can make a person feel revived.  
     French cooking is a tradition in Louisiana.  Food tends to be highly seasoned in that region, yet the flavors are balanced.  The Louisiana vegetable ragoût in this recipe is zesty, a little bit spicy and highly seasoned, but it still compliments the flavor of the Herbs de Provence chicken.  I served this entree as a lunch special du jour at a French cafe in Florida a couple of times and customers liked it.

     Plain brown basmati rice was served with the entree in the pictures.  Cook one portion of rice while the ragoût simmers.  Long grain white rice is traditional in Louisiana, but a brown rice is okay. 

     Herbs de Provence Crusted Chicken Filet Preparation:
     Traditional French Herbs de Provence has no lavender in the mixture at all.  American Herbs de Provence has lavender leaves and flowers in the mixture.  This recipe calls for the traditional French version.  
     Trim any excess fat off of a large 6 ounce to 8 ounce boneless chicken breast.
     Lightly season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Sprinkle a few generous pinches of French Herbs de Provence on the chicken. 
     Press the herbs on the chicken.
     Refrigerate the chicken for 30 minutes, so the herbs have a chance to flavor the chicken. 
     Louisiana Vegetable Ragoût:  
     This recipe makes 1 portion!  A vegetable stew does not need to cook all day.  Overcooked mushy vegetables are not pleasant.  This stew simmers long enough for the flavors to meld and till the vegetables become tender.  
     The trinity proportions are used in this recipe.  Old traditional Louisiana recipes often call for butter and olive oil.  They also call for both white pepper and black pepper.  Mushrooms can be added first to create a richer flavor.    
     Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 4 pats of unsalted butter.   
     Add 1 thick sliced medium size portobello mushroom.
     Sauté till the mushroom slices become lightly browned.
     Add 2 cloves of minced garlic.
     Add 1/4 cup of thin sliced peeled celery.
     Add 1/4 cup of small bite size slices of green bell pepper.
     Add 1/2 cup of chopped onion.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of small chopped seeded green jalapeno.
     Add 2 tablespoon of small diced carrot.
     Add 5 to 6 small to medium size whole okra.
     Sauté till the onions turn clear in color. 
     Add 1 cup of diced imported Italian whole plum tomatoes and a proportion of the juices from the can.  
     Add 2 ounces of dry white wine.
     Add 1 1/3 cups of vegetable stock.
     Add 1 small bay leaf.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1 small pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 small pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 small pinch of tarragon.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Spanish paprika.
     Add 1 to 2 pinches of cayenne pepper.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of white pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1 pinch of minced parsley.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce the liquid, till a small amount of stewing sauce remains and the vegetables become tender.
     Remove the bay leaf.
     Keep the Louisiana vegetable stew warm over very low heat.

     Herbes de Provence Filet de Poulet:
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 2 pats of unsalted butter. 
     Add the reserved Herbs de Provence crusted chicken breast.
     Sauté on both sides, flipping once, till the chicken shows some golden highlights.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Place the chicken breast on a wire screen roasting rack on a roasting pan.
     Baste the chicken with the oil and butter in the sauté pan.
     Slow roast the chicken breast in a 325º oven, till it becomes fully cooked.  (165º center temperature for 15 seconds)
     Allow the Herbs de Provence crusted chicken breast to rest for about 1 minute.

     Herbes de Provence Filet de Poulet sur les Louisiane Ragoût de Légumes:
     Use a ring mold to place a portion of rice on the back half of a plate.
     Spoon the Louisiana stewed vegetables on the plate as a bed for the chicken.
     Use a carving knife to cut the chicken breast into 1/4" thick bias slices.  (Bias = 45º angle.  Wipe the blade of the knife between cutting each slice, so the chicken breast meat stays white!)
     Fan out the Herbs de Provence crusted chicken breast slices on top of the ragoût.
     Garnish with a curly leaf parsley sprig.

     This is a nice light summertime entree that has plenty of flavor.  Yum!  ...  Shawna   

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Salade of Russian Smoked Sturgeon and Quail Egg on Petit Lettuce with Pancetta Lardons a la Blue Lotus Flower Licorice Vinaegrette

A nice composed gourmet salad that features exotic flavors!

     It has been quite some time since I have posted a salad recipe.  Ever since GMO produce has become standard issue at grocery stores, salads and raw vegetable recipes have gone by the wayside.  Organic vegetables are overpriced and local old fashioned organic farm stands are not an option in the high Mojave desert.  There is a couple of great farmer's markets in Las Vegas, but the food tends to be priced for the yuppy crowd.  Because of GMO produce and high price organic Non-GMO Project produce, salads have become a once in a blue moon item at this food site.
     Salads at this food site are easy comfort style recipes, classic salads and formal composed salads.  Hard to find items are sometimes featured in the salad recipes, but I do let readers know what kind of market stocks those items.  I found some nice imported cryovac packaged Russian smoked sturgeon that was pre-sliced at an eastern european market in Las Vegas.  If Russian smoked sturgeon is available in an eastern  european market in Las Vegas, then the chances are that it is available in a similar market in any other city around the globe that has a population of eastern europeans.
     Quail eggs are a gourmet item and they are perfect for making canapes and hors d'oeuvres.  Quail eggs are used as garnishes in fine dining restaurants.  Many western world gourmands and chefs do not realize that quail eggs are popular in asia.  Thailand and China are two of the top producers of quail eggs.  There are a few options for purchasing quail eggs at asian markets.  Fresh quail eggs are the first option.  Hard boiled fresh quail eggs do not take much time to cook because of their size.  
     The second option is quail eggs that are buried in lime, so they cure like thousand year eggs.  Thousand year quail eggs require no cooking, but they do have an acquired taste.  Many cash register clerks at asian markets freak out and exclaim that a western world customer chose the wrong egg, when an American like me tries to purchase some.  They figure that westerners do not know the difference and to avoid problems with returned merchandise, they choose to tell the unknowing customer that they probably would not like the thousand year quail egg.  This happened to me at a few asian markets in Chicago where there are plenty of middle of the road midwestern shoppers who do not have a clue about exotic asian food.  In Las Vegas, asian cash register clerks assume that every customer knows what they are buying, even if the customer is not asian, so buying thousand year quail eggs is not a problem for me in this city.
     The third option is to purchase canned boiled peeled quail eggs.  Some people scoff at the thought of any kind of canned food, but they are wrong in doing so.  Many food items do particularly well when they are canned.  Many great executive banquet chefs use canned hard boiled quail eggs when making canape platters.  Canned quail eggs that are packed in brine are a nice product.  The best canned quail eggs that I have ever seen come from Thailand.  Issan Thailand is prime quail hunting territory and Thai chefs demand top quality quail products.  Thai canned quail eggs packed in brine were used in the salad recipe.
     Licorice grows wild worldwide.  Licorice root is a traditional spring tonic medicine and it rids the body of toxins.  Licorice root is known as sweet root.  High quality dried slices of licorice root can be purchased at Chinese apothecary's and at asian markets.  Licorice root adds a gentle interesting sweet flavor to light sauces and vinaegrettes. 
     Blue Lotus Petals?  Nile River Sacred Blue Lotus from the days of ancient Egypt have been listed as an extinct species for a very long time.  Sacred Blue Lotus is a regional asian plant that was not restricted to the middle east or mediterranean islands where it went extinct.  Sacred Blue Lotus is a narcotic plant that was made famous in ancient Grecian lore.  In Homer's Odyssey, the island of the Lotus Eaters (Djerba) was a place of sleepy bliss.  Odysseus confirms that Jason and the Argonauts were captives of the Lotus Eaters and many of the crew were turned into farm animals by the queen of the island, so the Island of the Lotus Eaters was no sleepy narcotic paradise.
     Sacred blue lotus is one of the strongest of the medicinal lotus plants.  Medicinal lotus is strongest when a fairly large quantity of the petals are added to a mild alcoholic beverage like wine.  The alcohol extracts the active narcotic chemicals from lotus petals.  Many species of lotus are narcotic, but they are listed as hypnotics and not opiates.  White lotus extract was an Allied Forces substitute for morphine when there was a shortage of opiate pain killers in WWII, so the active chemical is potent in its pure form.  The effects produce drowsy sleep and not much else, but sleep is something that sounds good to a person who suffers.  
     Blue Lotus of the Nile is still considered to be sacred by modern Egyptians who respect the commands of the ancient Pharaohs.  There are modern Egyptians who will not eat molokhia, because it was banned by a pharaoh in ancient times.  Showing polite respect for Egyptians who value tradition is a must do when visiting that country.  
     A similar species of blue lotus that is possibly related to Nile Sacred Blue Lotus was discovered in Thailand a few decades ago.  This may be the only existing species of blue lotus in modern times, but who knows.  The age of discovery never seems to end.  
    Lotus flower petals have an exotic wonderful flavor.  Blue lotus flower petals possibly have the nicest lotus flower flavor of them all.  I personally have tasted all kinds of lotus flowers over the years.  I know about the narcotic sleepy time powers of lotus, because I made lotus flower teas to get to sleep while in chemo therapy a few years ago.  Large quantities of blue lotus flowers are narcotic and they are a potent hypnotic.  When a couple pinches of dried blue lotus flowers are added to a vinaegrette, only the flavor is noticed and there are not enough active alkaloids present to cause narcotic side effects.  Many medicinal plants can be used as herbs in minute quantities and blue lotus flowers definitely have a pleasant unique gourmet herb flavor. 
     Anyway, blue lotus is usually sold as Sacred Blue Lotus.  The petals are hand picked and dried with care, so the full flavor profile is retained.  Where does a gourmet cook find dried blue lotus petals?  Thailand is one place or try the Bouncing Bear link at the bottom of this page.  Bouncing Bear is a great source of sustainable medicinal plants and the company is run by natives of the Americas who have protected tribal land in Bolivia and the rain forest, so it is a good cause to support.  By the way, blue lotus flower petals combined with licorice root flavored vinaegrette is a superb flavor combination. 

     Pancetta Lardons:
     Pancetta is an Italian dry cured seasoned rolled pork belly.  The best pancetta is imported from Italy and sold at Italian markets.  For a salad like today's recipe, go with the best!
     Heat a saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of blended olive oil.
     Add 2 tablespoons of diced pancetta.  
     Saute till the pancetta becomes golden brown.
     Use a slotted spoon to place the pancetta lardons on a dry towel to drain off any excess oil.  
     Keep the pancetta lardons warm on a stove top.

     Blue Lotus Flower Licorice Vinaegrette:
     Blue lotus flowers are a hypnotic narcotic.  In minute quantities, they add flavor and there is not enough active alkaloids present to cause sleepy side effects.  
     Place 1/5 cup of dried licorice root slices in a sauce pot.  
     Add 2 cups of water.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of granulated sugar.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Add 2 ounces of dry white wine.
     Place the pot over low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce, till the liquid becomes full of licorice root flavor and only 1 tablespoon of liquid remains.  (1/2 ounce of thin licorice syrup)
     Pour the thin licorice syrup through a fine mesh strainer into a cup and set it aside till it cools to room temperature.
     Place 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar in a mixing bowl.
     Add the 1/2 ounce of thin licorice syrup.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of dried blue lotus petals.
     Allow the liquid to stand for five minutes, so the flavors develop.
     Add a thin stream of 2 tablespoons of good vegetable oil while stirring, so a loose emulsion is created.
     Add a thin stream of 1 tablespoon of pomace olive oil while stirring.
     Set the blue lotus flower licorice vinaegrette aside.
     Stir before serving. 
     Salade of Russian Smoked Sturgeon and Quail Egg on Petit Lettuce with Pancetta Lardons a la Blue Lotus Flower Licorice Vinaegrette:
     Trim the tough skin off of a 2 ounce to 2 1/2 ounce slice of Russian smoked sturgeon.
     The two lateral bones and backbone can be removed, but it is best to leave them intact, so the slice of smoked sturgeon looks nice.
     Chill the slice of smoked sturgeon.
     Use a 5" ring mold to place a small mount of mixed petite lettuce on the back center of a plate.  (Leave the ring mold in place.)
     Evenly space 3 slices of plum tomato near the lettuce on the front portion of the plate.
     Cut several supremes of Persian preserved pickled lemon.  (Lemon supremes = no seeds, no membrane, no pith and no skin.)
     Bruniose dice the pickled lemon supremes.  (Brunoise = 1/8"x1/8"x1/8" dice.)
     Place 1 teaspoon of brunoise pickled lemon on the plate between each tomato slice.
     Spoon a small portion of the blue lotus flower licorice vinaegrette over the lettuce.
     Bend the edges of the slice of smoked sturgeon and place it on the mound of lettuce.  Ben the edges of the slice of smoked sturgeon so it stands tall and so there is room on top of the lettuce for the quail egg halves.
     Cut 1 hard boiled quail egg in half. 
     Tuck the quail egg halves on both sides of the smoked sturgeon on top of the lettuce.
     Spear the lettuce behind the sturgeon with a pointed trimmed scallion spear.
     Carefully remove the ring mold.  Repair any damage if necessary.
     Spoon a generous amount of the blue lotus flower licorice root vinaegrette over the tomato slices and on the plate around the lettuce.
     Sprinkle some of the pancetta lardons on the back half of the plate around the lettuce.
     Place 1 bias sliced green onion top sliver on each tomato slice.
     Place a few bias sliced green onion slivers on the lettuce greens near the smoked sturgeon. 

     This is actually a pretty easy gourmet composed salad presentation to make, but French precision knife cuts are required if it is done right.  The blue lotus flower licorice vinaegrette not only tastes nice with the salad ingredients, it tastes great with Russian smoked sturgeon.  

Clark County Bar and Restaurant Supply

     The Clark County Bar and Restaurant Supply Store of Las Vegas has been in business for over thirty years.  This restaurant supply store is open to the public.  The location is 1117 Commerce Street just a half of a block north of West California Avenue and one building south of Charleston.
     If you are looking for restaurant quality, heavy duty pots and pans that will last a lifetime, then this is the place to go!  I get tired of overpriced pots and pans from department stores that literally fall apart after a short time.  Most department store pots and pans seem to fall apart after less than one year of home kitchen use.  Especially any pan that is made with screws or small rivets.  A pan with a plastic handle is really just a disposable item that may fall apart after only a few months use.
     Restaurant pots and pans are designed to last under extreme conditions.  Restaurant grade pans use large rivets to hold the handle in place and the handle never becomes loose.  Purchasing restaurant quality pots and pans at a good restaurant supply store is a good choice, if you do a lot of cooking.  The prices of pots and pans at the Clark County Bar and Restaurant Supply Store are very reasonable.  In fact the price is a bargain, when you consider the quality of the merchandise!
     Nearly every useful kitchen utensil or dining room item is available at this restaurant supply store.  A wide variety of professional chef cutlery is available at the Clark County Bar and Restaurant Supply Store too.  I found a Swiss Forschner fluting tool at this store that I have been looking for for years!  Fluting tools have to be very sharp, if you flute mushrooms.  I also found my favorite work horse paring knife at this restaurant supply store.
     I like performance oriented knives much better than a fancy looking knife that causes blisters.  I do not like knife blades that are backed with thick metal near the handle.  I prefer a knife with a blade that runs from end to end with no backing.
     Do not waste your money on second rate, hard to sharpen knives that do not hold an edge.  Do not waste money by purchasing overpriced fancy looking knives that do not perform or knives with sharp edges on the handles that cause blisters.  Some of the worst chef knives that I have ever used were made with hard to sharpen Brazilian steel.  Those were pretty looking knives that really did not perform.  I do not use serrated knives at all, but they do come in handy for slicing bread.
     My work horse chef knife and work horse paring knife are high grade American Dexter knives with white safety handles that do not cause blisters!  The choice of higher grade steel in the Dexter brand knife line is easy to sharpen and the edge stays sharp, even after hours of chopping or paring hard vegetables.  These high grade Dexter knives are not pretty, but they work hard and last a long time.  No thief in a restaurant kitchen steals ugly Dexter pro chef knives either.  A thief usually steals the fancy looking european knives!  Low grade steel Dexter knifes are not worth the cheap price, because the steel is way too hard.  Dexters are also available with rosewood handles.
     I have a set of good German Heinkel paring knives that include a tourne knife.  These thin blade paring knives are great for delicate work.
     I use high grade Swiss Forschner and German Heinkel steel boning, filet and chef knives for butchering, fish cutting and veal cutting.  High grade Swiss 440-10 stainless alloy is a good steel.  Carbon steel is best avoided because of modern sanitary health standards.  The Germans and Swiss have a long history of making the best chromium steel alloys for knives.  High chrome moly flex steel alloys are best avoided for heavy duty use, because they are hard to sharpen.
     Flexible steel boning knives are good for a few applications, like Frenching bones and removing silver floss.  A curved boning knife is best for breaking down racks and draw down cutting between ribs.  Straight blade boning knives are good for all meat cutting applications.
     The Swiss Forschner carving fork in the photos above is expensive, but it will last a lifetime.  After two weeks of picking up whole beef briskets and whole prime rib sections, the rivets did not come loose on the handle.  That is a strong straight tine carving fork!  I have a Mundial straight tine carving fork that literally fell apart after two weeks doing the same thing as what I did with the Forschner fork.  Now I can only use the Mundial carving fork for twisting Italian pastas.
     When working at a dining room carving station in public view, I prefer rosewood handle Swiss Forschner steel carving knives and rosewood handle Swiss straight long tine carving fork, because they have a high nice eye appeal!  Customers actually compliment my choice of carving station knives and forks.  Rosewood handles and the Swiss Victorinox logo are signs of quality that customers can identify with.
      If you are a pro chef or butcher, it is best to have several sharp paring and boning knives on hand.  When a blade becomes dull and starts to drag, it is time to switch to the next paring or boning knife rather than to waste time sharpening a knife.  At the end of the shift, the knives can all be honed at one time for the next day.  A heavy cleaver, breaker knife and a 14" scimitar are necessary for chefs or butchers who fabricate meat products.  The 14" Forschner curved scimitar in the pictures is by far the best scimitar of them all.
     All these knives that I have mentioned and more are available at the Clark County Bar and Restaurant Supply at a very reasonable price.
     I also bought a tomato coring tool, a heavy duty scoop, a standard easy to sharpen metal vegetable peeler, mellon baller and a mini whisk for doing small amounts of fine sauces to order.  After more than twenty years in the restaurant business, I simply know what works best for the task!  Old traditional standard kitchen tools and equipment are usually better than modern fancy looking tools.  Just because a vegetable peeler looks like it can go one hundred miles an hour, it does not mean that it is the best peeler!  Boars hair pastry brushes are the best, but some health code districts only allow nylon bristle pastry brushes.  The hairs do not fall out of a well crafted pastry brush like the one in the pictures.
     Specialized mandolins and garnishing tools are available at this store.  New and rebuilt heavy duty restaurant machinery, sinks and coolers are well stocked too.
     Triple stones are the best for sharpening knives.  Mundial makes an affordable one that is good for home use or light restaurant use.  Stone oven slabs are necessary for baking unleavened breads and perfection pizzas.  Silicone bakeware is stocked.  Silicon pastry mats like the one in the pictures can be used to make fancy creations like caramel sugar and fresh mango fruit dessert garnishes.  Good tough narrow blade kitchen shears with a bone clipping notch are the best.  Teachers and students at Le Cordon Bleu really liked how the shears in the picture above performed.
     I highly recommend The Clark County Bar and Restaurant Supply Store in Las Vegas!  This is one of the best restaurant stores of its kind!  The staff is friendly and very helpful.  They do offer a ten percent discount to chef school students.  That discount really made my day!  ...  Shawna