Thursday, May 19, 2016

A low carb gourmet meal for two featuring spring delights

Today I want to write about food again, but this time it will include some recipes.  It's fairly simple, low carb and luxurious. It's for two people, and can be scaled up but will take some help in the kitchen while you are finishing the main course. For only two people, you can handle it alone. Detailed instructions follow. Read through before beginning. It's all there, from start to finish. Reading through it and doing your mise en place  (click the link for more on that) will make your task easier.

What you need to buy:
2 pieces wild Pacific salmon, 6 to 7 ounces each (not steaks, but from a fillet)
6 to 8 stalks asparagus, depending on their diameter.  (Here's something to keep in mind.  Each asparagus stalk is the same diameter when it is one inch high or one foot high.  Fat ones aren't "old and tough" and skinny ones aren't "young and tender." The skinny ones are from younger plants but no more tender than fat ones. Just be sure to snap off any woody ends before cooking, no matter what the diameter.)
Scallions and radishes if using
A couple or three shallots
Spring greens (buy up to two days before your dinner)
White wine vinegar
French cheeses preferably soft such as Camembert, brie and chevre - or whatever you prefer
Nuts of your choice. See a good list here to minimize carbohydrates.  Lowest carb nuts

What you may already have in your pantry - add to grocery list if you don't:
Herbes de Provence or Italian seasonings (they are a lot alike, just a matter of taste)
Light olive oil
Peanut oil and/or canola oil
Unsalted butter
Fresh garlic
Garlic powder
Sea salt
One lemon

Pan fried wild Pacific salmon with asparagus
Spring greens salad
French cheese and organic nuts
Coffee or tea
Serves two people generously

Pan broiled sockeye salmon with buerre blanc

Organizing your time -- Set out the cheese (I recommend soft French cheeses such as French Bucheron, Camembert and chevre), which should be at room temperature for serving. Give them at least two hours, so plan your time accordingly. Put a bowl of nuts and the cheese on a cheese board in center of table. Set the table. Put salad plates in fridge to chill. Keep serving plates by stove. If serving coffee, get it measured out and ready to brew. Put small dessert plates on table beside the cheese board. Now you are ready to start preparing the meal.

First thing is to check the fillets for any pin bones and to make sure that all of the scales have been removed.  You can use a tweezers for the pin bones, and the side of a spoon for the scales.  It's not a big job for two pieces of fish.

Prepare the salad dressing. Do it first and refrigerate until ready to use. Wash, sort and spin dry the spring greens; put in fridge in a plastic bag until ready to serve. (You can do this up to two days before your dinner.)  Keep extra vegetables to a minimum. Thinly sliced scallions and radishes are my additions of choice, since this is a spring meal. If using, slice them thin and keep in ice water. Drain and put on paper towel to dry when ready to assemble salads.

Salad dressing:

2 small or one large clove(s) garlic, roughly chopped
1 shallot, roughly chopped
1/4th cup white wine vinegar
1 tsp. salt
3/4 C. light olive oil or canola oil (first press olive oil overpowers light spring greens, IMHO)

Whir the first four ingredients well in a food processor or blender.  Then slowly dribble in the oil - really, as in drops to begin with. As it begins to emulsify, you can increase the speed at which the olive oil is incorporated to a slow steady small stream.  Put into a glass jar until ready to use.

Finely mince the shallots for the buerre blanc.  Put in a heavy saucepan along with the white wine vinegar. Let sit on the stove with no heat - yet!

Snap the base of the asparagus spears by bending the end. Bending will find the beginning of the tender part of the spear. Put spears on a half sheet or jelly roll pan lined with foil or parchment paper. Drizzle with 1 or 2 tbsp. olive oil, then sprinkle lightly with salt, pepper, garlic powder and Herbes de Provence or Italian seasonings. Shake the pan to distribute the oil and herbs. Preheat oven to 450º F.

While the oven heats, prepare the salad by tossing the greens with a shy two tablespoons of dressing.  Add radishes and scallions if using.  Now sit down and enjoy your salad with your dinner companion. Take your time. Enjoy! The main course is going to take less than 10 minutes. Your guest can spent a few minutes digesting while you get busy with the main course. Don't be shy about asking your dinner guest to stay out of your way for the next few minutes! This is crunch time.

By now, your oven should be hot.  Put in the asparagus and set the timer for five minutes, just to remind you to check the pan and give it a shake if necessary.

Buerre blanc:
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 tsp. finely diced shallots
1-1/2 to 2 sticks cold unsalted butter diced (cut each quarter in fourths lengthwise and then cut in 3/4" chunks) and kept in fridge until ready to use
Pinch salt (taste - the vinegar creates illusion of salt, so you don't need much)
Pinch white pepper

Turn the burner on under a 12" iron skillet and the vinegar/shallot mixture for the buerre blanc. Bring the cold butter chunks from refrigerator and sit beside stove. The vinegar and shallots should reduce to about a tablespoon, kind of "syrupy." Now turn burner to low and begin to beat in the butter. Take pan from heat. Separate the chunks of butter and throw in about four or five at a time. Beat hard with wire whisk. When the first chunks of butter are just about melted, throw in more chunks of cold butter and beat, beat, beat! Hold the pan off the heat, but put back over low heat if it gets too cold. You will see it begin to emulsify.

Pan fried salmon:

2 pieces salmon cut from filet, 6 or 7 ounces each
   (Clean well - check for pin bones and scales when you get the filets home so they are ready to go.)
1 Tbsp. peanut oil (it's best oil to use at high heats)
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

This is the trickiest part because you are going to have to jump between the fish and the buerre blanc. By the time half of the butter is beaten into the reduced vinegar and shallot mixture, your skillet for the salmon should be screaming hot. Put in the oil, then the butter. Immediately add the filets, skin side down. Set timer for three minutes and turn heat down to medium, then go back to your buerre blanc. Check the asparagus and shake the pan. If it is starting to brown a bit, turn off the oven and leave it until you are ready to plate.

Once you have all but the last half stick of butter in the buerre blanc, add salt and pepper to taste. You probably won't not need the last half stick of butter.  Set the buerre blanc on a warm part of stove, no heat under the pan now.  It's ready to go!  If it starts to separate before you are ready to serve it, beat in two or three more chunks of butter.

Your three minutes for the salmon should be about up.  Carefully use a chef's slotted fish turner or a wide metal pancake turner to flip your fish. If it sticks, give it another minute, then flip it no matter what. Set timer for two or three more minutes (should be a total of six minutes for both sides). When the six minutes is up, press the fish. It should still have some give in it. Immediately remove from heat. Don't overcook! Once the fish feels completely firm, it is too, too done. Better a little undercooked than overcooked. Remember that it will continue to cook while you are grabbing your serving plates and putting the asparagus from the oven onto the plate.

On each serving plate, first put half the asparagus spears, then one salmon filet.  Put buerre blanc over the salmon filet, and put a small custard size dish of buerre blanc on the plate for dipping asparagus spears.  Dress the plate with some lemon wedges if you wish.

Now it is time for your low carb dessert. When you take your empty plates back to the kitchen, hit the switch on your coffee maker. When the coffee is done, bring to the table and choose cheese and nuts from the cheese board. Heavy whipping cream in your coffee adds to the dessert experience.

Here's the scoop on the carbs in this meal.

1 g. carb in every 2 tablespoons of buerre blanc
Zero carbs in salmon
2.4 g carbs in each serving of asparagus
2 g carbs in each cup of spring greens
0.5 g carbs in each tablespoon of salad dressing
1 g carbs in each ounce of soft cheese
Nuts - best are Brazil nuts, pecans and macadamia nuts; stay away from cashews. Click here for Lowest carb nuts

A note to low carbers - if you want to stay in ketosis, keep your total grams of carbs at or below 50 per day. Subtract fiber from carbs for net carbs. A low carb ketogenic diet can contribute to better health, physically by keeping the alimentary tract working more effectively and by reducing inflammation. Physical disorders that are aggravated by inflammation require a whole separate blog so I won't go into them here.  Later.  In the meantime, Google "ketogenic diets and inflammation" if you want to see for yourself.  Neurologically, a ketogenic diet can help to control (or even eliminate as in epileptic seizures in children) such anomalies as depression, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, autism and Parkinson's disease.

À votre santé et bon appétit!

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