Foie gras is the liver of force (gavage) fed ducks or geese. The force feeding system makes use of the birds’ natural propensity to store extra energy as fat in their livers (as they would before migrating for the winter) to produce a liver that is so full of fat that it becomes creamy and soft.
Despite the unique flavor and texture of foie, it is still the liver. Like other offal, (in fact more so than a lot of offal) the liver is extremely perishable and will start to lose quality very quickly, which is why freezing is necessary.
As with everything else, the faster you freeze something, the smaller the ice crystals will be. With meats, produce, seafood, etc – the problem is that ice crystals poke holes in the product if they’re allowed to get too big. This is particularly a problem with foie, as the holes allow the fat to escape faster than it should during cooking, rendering out the goodness that you’re hoping to serve to your customers.
This is why commercially frozen product is inherently better than the same item frozen from fresh in a home or restaurant freezer – commercial freezers work much more quickly, producing smaller crystals and preserving quality. Commercially freezing is fine for most foods, but to preserve foie’s unique texture and succulence, some companies do something even better: flash freezing.
The ultimate freezing method used in the culinary world is flash freezing, often through the application of liquid nitrogen. Flash freezing happens so fast that the crystals are absolutely tiny. Because foie is something best purchased frozen anyway, it thus follows that flash freezing produces the best finished product.
For more information about the specifics of why flash frozen foie is the best, we recommend checking out Modernist Cuisine, Volume 3, pages 138 & 140.
The Kurobuta hindshank is a cut with versatile characteristics: rich flavor, high fat content, and a nice thick shank bone for developing a delicious finishing sauce/braising liquid. After a few hours of gentle heat, the meat begs to fall off the bone and challenge your acumen with dozens of possible applications. I chose to stick to my second nature, which happens to be piling delicious food on top of tortilla chips.
Makes 4 Servings
2 Kurobuta (100% Berkshire) pork shanks (hind or fore can be used)
1/2lb Unsalted Butter
3 Tbsp EVOO
16-20oz Frying Oil (vegetable or like)
1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tbsp Lime Juice
7oz Chicken Broth
2 tbsp Fresh Oregano
2 Bay Leaves
12 Cherry Tomatoes
3 tbsp Sour Cream
½ cup Onion, minced
½ bunch of Cilantro, chopped
4 large Flour Tortillas
2 cobs of Corn
14oz Black Beans
Habanero Sea Salt
1. Combine dry rub ingredients together and generously rub onto raw shanks. Add half of butter to pot (use oven ready pot if possible) over medium heat. Add shanks once butter is melted, browning all sides.
2. Place pot in a 325 degree oven for 1.5-2 hrs. Brown cob of corn over open flame and put into oven as well to finish roasting.
3. Once corn is fully cooked, remove to cool, and cut all kernels from the cob. Strain, cook black beans in sauce pan & combine with corn, cilantro (save a tbsp), 1/8 cup onion, 1 tbsp olive oil, lime juice, & salt & pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
4. Once shank is roasted, remove from oven to cool slightly. Once cool enough to handle, tear meat from bones in large chunks. Discard all bones but one and ensure juice from shank remains in the pot.
5. Deglaze pot on med/high heat, scraping up all the crusty goodies stuck to the bottom. Add remaining onions, the 1 saved shank bone, 2-3 of the cherry tomatoes, the herbs, and the rest of the butter.
6. Place shank meat back in pot, adding chicken stock until the shank pieces are 50-75% covered.
7. Bring heat down to a low simmer and cook for another 1.5-2 hours, or until fork tender.
8. While shank is braising, cut remainder of cherry tomatoes in half and marinate in EVOO, balsamic vinegar and cilantro, with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
9. Heat oil for frying in large enough pan to fry one tortilla at a time. Once the oil is above 350 degrees, fry each tortilla until golden brown, flipping halfway. Remove to drip/pat dry.
10. Once the pork is fork tender, remove the shank meat and tear into small pieces.
11. Temper sour cream with braising liquid, adding sour cream to liquid and reducing until desired sauce consistency.
12. Place pulled shank meat on fried tortillas with salsa and tomatoes. Add sauce as desired and garnish with cilantro.
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A great recipe for cooler summer nights where less humidity leaves room for a warm and comforting meal.
Makes 2 Generous Servings
3 Coturnix Quail (semi-boneless)
1 cup Durum Wheat 00 (or all purpose white flour)
½ cup Semolina Flour
1 cup warm Water
1-2 tbsp EVOO
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
¼ cup Fresh Porcini Mushroom, chopped (could substitute Shiitake)
1/8 cup Fresh Garlic Scapes, minced
1/2 clove Garlic, thin sliced
1/8 cup Parsley, minced
4-6 whole Olives
¼ cup Heavy Cream
2 tbsp Butter
1 tbsp EVOO
Grated Parmigiano/Romano Cheese
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
1. Blend dry pasta ingredients together, slowly adding egg, EVOO and then enough water to bring ingredients together until mixture appears wet, but not runny (this step can be done in a food processor/mixer or done with the Well-Method).
2. Move dough ball to floured surface, kneading together for about 10 minutes until glutens develop and dough stiffens. Add flour as needed to achieve dry dough that doesn’t stick to fingers.
3. Wrap dough in towel and store in dry, dark place for 20 minutes.
4. Run dough through pasta maker or use rolling pin to flatten to desired thickness.
5. Hand cut pappardelle ribbons, typically 1-2 inches wide, dust with flour and leave to dry on board or rack.
6. Oil coturnix quail and salt and pepper to taste. Grill on high/med heat for 2-4 minutes per side until cooked through. Pull Quail and let sit (covered) until needed.
7. Boil 6-8 quarts of water, well salted. Add pasta once ready. Expect shorter cooking time than with dried pasta, typically 3-6 minutes. Strain.
8. Get sauteuse pan (sautee pan with side wall) and add butter on low heat. Once butter melts add garlic scapes, garlic, olives. Once garlic is translucent, add mushrooms and EVOO.
9. Cook on med heat until mushrooms begin softening. Temper cream and add slowly to pan. Increase to high heat until cream reduces ½, then return heat to low. Salt and pepper to taste.
10. Add al dente pasta directly to pan, combining with sauce. Top with parsley and grated cheese.
11. Separate quail legs and tear/chop breast meat. Plate pasta and sauce with breast meat and legs.
12. Enjoy with dry white wine of choosing. My choice was Vigna Corvino Trebbiano d’Abruzzo.
4 whole NZ Petite Veal Hindshanks
4 cloves of Garlic
1/4 cup diced Onion
1/4 cup sliced Mushrooms (bella, crimini, porcini…anything earthy n beefy flavored)
6 whole de-skinned Plum Tomatoes (halved if fresh)
1/4 cup whole Olives
4 pc Kurobuta Uncured Bacon
1/2 cup Beef Stock
1/4 cup Red Wine (Chianti, Sangiovese, or any med. body earthy red)
1/8 cup EVOO
1/8 cup Butter, solid
1/2-3/4lb Bucatini Pasta, dried
4-6 leaves Basil, fresh
2 Bay Leaves, dried
2 tbsp Oregano Flakes, dried
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper, powder
Sea Salt to taste
Finishing to taste:
Parmigiano or Romano Cheese
1. Cut a small incision in each garlic clove and insert a whole clove (makes it easier to fish them out later).
2. 6-8 quart pot, season pot with butter over med heat until light brown.
3. Sear all sides of shanks, remove once browned and keep warm on side.
4. EVOO in pan to deglaze, scrape all meat and brown bits off pan into EVOO.
5. Reduce heat, sweat onion, garlic, olives.
6. Wrap shanks in raw bacon, using toothpick to secure.
7. Add shanks back to pot.
8. Add plum tomatoes. Lightly salt, then cover pot for 2-3 minutes for caramelization.
9. Add wine, beef broth, and EVOO if necessary to cover shanks halfway.
10. Cover pot, reduce heat to very low and let cook for 2-5 hours, rotating shanks every hour for even cooking.
11. Uncover the pot. Add sliced mushrooms, basil, bay leaves, oregano, and cayenne pepper, sea salt and pepper to taste.
12. Cook, uncovered, for another hour minimum.
13. Boil 5-8 quarts of water depending on amount of pasta desired with portion.
14. Salt the water heavily once a light boil begins (Italians say pasta water should taste like the sea). Cook the pasta.
15. Strain pasta, plate shank (thick side down) in center of pasta bowl.
16. Remove toothpick from bacon, plate pasta around shank.
17. Remove the cloves from the garlic & ladle sauce onto pasta and shank.
18. Season pasta with pepper, grated cheese, and parsley to taste.
19. Put on large bib & enjoy!
Looking to invigorate your bar with a new and unusual signature cocktail that people just have to try? North American Import & Export now sells wholesale specialty produce that can do just that!
Sechuan Buttons (aka Szechuan Buttons)
These small yellow flowers possess an unusual secret that will have your customers talking. The tiny yellow petals possess a strong (but not unpleasant) tingling “voltage” sensation. Use it to give your drinks an electric buzz, or the feeling of carbonation without adding soda or seltzer. Sechuan buttons can also be used as a palate cleanser or as an ingredient in salads, sorbets, ice creams, etc.
Pepquinos (aka Cucamelons, Mouse Melons)
Wow customers with what appears to be the world’s smallest watermelon. Pepquinos actually have a flavor closer to cucumbers (with a slight sourness) and are completely edible. Though they’re a unique, eye-catching garnish, they can also be used as an ingredient in drinks, tossed with other small fruit like kumquats to make a tiny fruit salad, or sautéed.
Shiso Leaves (aka Japanese Basil, Perilla, Purple Mint, Beefsteak Plant)
Muddle shiso into drinks for the ultimate herb cocktail. This classic Japanese herb combines a beautiful shape with a complex flavor that includes elements of many herbs and spices. Green shiso tastes similar to a blend of basil, fennel & mint, while purple shiso evokes cumin, cinnamon, and ginger. Shiso leaves are a common accompaniment to raw fish in Japanese cuisine, but they are also great in salads or dipped in tempura batter and fried.
Adding specialty produce to your foodservice menu is easy, just call us at (888) 276-5955 to place your order!
If you’re a home cook, Marx Foods can help. Buy szechuan buttons, buy pepquinos and buy shiso leaves here.
North American Import & Export distributes several species of wholesale salmon for foodservice use. Here is a guide to help you decide which species to include in your next order:
Pink Salmon – Most Tender and Affordable
Oil Content: Low
Flake Size: Smallest
Fish Size: Smallest
Frequently overlooked, Pink salmon (aka humpback salmon, “humpies”) is the smallest of the Pacific species. It is plentiful and therefore relatively affordable and sustainable. Pink salmon is the most tender of all salmon, which unfortunately means its flesh is frequently damaged during large-scale commercial fishing. Because of this damage, it is usually found in cans.
NAIE has partnered with small fishing operations in the Pacific Northwest that clean and refrigerate their Pink catch at sea before hand-carrying them from the boat at dock instead of using vacuum tubes. This allows us to sell you whole Pink salmon that is in pristine condition.
Besides being tender, Pink salmon has other benefits. Its relatively small size (below 4 pounds), low place on the food chain, and youth when spawning mean that there is less bioaccumulation of toxins than larger salmon. Pink salmon meat has a comparatively small flake size.
Sockeye Salmon – Darkest Color and Most Popular
Oil Content: 2nd Highest
Flake Size: Medium
Fish Size: Small
The most popular of all Pacific Salmon, Sockeye salmon (aka blueback salmon) also possesses the darkest colored meat. It is almost ruby in color, giving them their primary nickname, red salmon. It is second in line in terms of flavorful/healthy oil content behind King salmon. It has a medium flake size, and robust flavor, but less fat than the King (which, while reducing richness, may be a selling point for your customers). These fish tend to weigh between five and seven pounds each.
King Salmon – The Largest and Richest Salmon
Oil Content: Highest
Flake Size: Largest
Fish Size: Largest
Also known as Chinook salmon, the King is the fattiest, richest, and largest of the Pacific salmon species. The meat often has ribs of white running through it in a striped pattern. King has one of the highest oil contents, and the largest flake size.
Ivory King Salmon:
While relatively uncommon, it is possible to find King salmon that have not developed their pink color. This is a natural occurrence in the wild. These King salmon are sometimes sold as Ivory Kings or White King Salmon, and should otherwise have the same characteristics as normal Kings.
Coho Salmon – Less Flavorful, But More Tender
Oil Content: Medium
Flake Size: Medium-Small
Fish Size: Medium
Coho salmon (aka silver salmon) have flesh that is similar to King salmon in color (and is therefore the color most people associate with salmon). They tend to weigh between six and eight pounds whole. They have a medium flake size like sockeyes (although smaller), but are leaner and have less flavor. Finally, their flesh is more tender than Sockeye or King salmon.
Chum Salmon – Late Season Availability
Oil Content: Low
Flake Size: Small
Fish Size: Large
Also known as Keta salmon or “fall salmon,” Chum salmon is one of the palest and leanest salmon (just above the pink in fat content). These fish are relatively large (weighing around eight pounds each) with a delicate flavor. The Chum salmon season tends to peak later than other species, making them more likely to be available when other salmon is scarce. Chum salmon are the species least commonly sold fresh, and are the most commonly dried Pacific salmon.
A large, robust species. Almost all Atlantic salmon available on the market is farmed due to the depletion of wild Atlantic salmon fisheries. Farmed Atlantic salmon generally is far less flavorful than wild caught varieties and usually contains synthetic coloring agents. Most farmed salmon is raised in Norway, Chile, Washington State and British Columbia. Farmed salmon is outlawed in Alaska.
Consumers can buy wild salmon at MarxFoods.com.
Several varieties of duck are available for restaurant menus. Below is a brief discussion of the different species.
Ducks are packed with flavor that can be leveraged to produce all sorts of dishes in a restaurant kitchen. Duck confit, smoked duck, foie gras, roast duck breast or duck legs are all beloved classics, and rendered duck fat can be used as a cooking medium for other ingredients as well. Duck meat is often paired with fruit, port wine, sage, soy, or ginger.
Easily Controlled Fat Levels
As water fowl, ducks carry most of their fat just under the skin where it acts as insulation and as a flotation aid. While duck fat is considered one of the most flavorful fats available to chefs, this positioning allows it to be easily trimmed away (if desired) to make duck meat leaner. Care must be taken not to overcook duck breasts in particular, as they can become mealy and dry (the meat (especially in Muscovy or Magret breasts) is lean despite a heavy outer layer of fat).
Different Breeds, Different Characteristics
North American Import & Export is a duck distributor that carries wholesale Muscovy duck, Pekin duck, and Moulard (aka Magret) duck. Each of these breeds have gained favor in world cuisine due to different characteristics:
Pekin Ducks – The Standard American Duck
Pekin ducks (aka Peking ducks) are often called Long Island ducks (or Long Island duckling) in America (despite being Chinese in origin) because that is where they were first raised in the US. These are the ducks most Americans think of when they think of duck meat. Pekin duck meat is prized for its tender texture and mild flavor.
Muscovy Ducks – The Leanest of Ducks
Muscovy ducks are perhaps the best option when serving duck to health-conscious customers. While duck has a reputation for being luxurious and delicious, many people associate these qualities with duck fat. Muscovy ducks possess 50% less surface fat than other breeds, and if you remove that fat from Muscovy breasts you are left with meat that is 99% lean.
Moulard Ducks – Crossbred for Flavor
The sterile offspring of a male Muscovy duck and a Pekin female, these domesticated ducks are highly prized in southwestern France, Canada, and the US. Moulards are primarily known for being the breed of choice for duck foie gras production. These ducks possess the strongest game flavor of all the domesticated duck varieties with a taste which lightly evokes wild berries.
Magret Duck Breasts
Despite the fact that they are named “Magret,” these duck breasts are actually from a Moulard duck that has been raised for foie gras production. Magret duck breasts are larger (up to twice as big) and more flavorful than those found on other ducks. Magret duck breasts are sometimes aged for up to 7 days on the bone to further develop their natural flavor.
Because of their robust flavor, Magret breasts can stand up to combinations that could overwhelm other duck meat. At the same time, they are prized for that natural flavor, so simple applications may be best.
Over 170 people entered our “How About Dinner on Us?” fine-dining gift certificate drawing. In their comments they dreamed of superb suppers in several of our country’s finest dining establishments, from famous eateries run by celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Thomas Keller, to smaller name restaurants run by chefs who may not be national household names (yet), but that in no way diminishes their skills and talent.
From this great collection of entries only one can be chosen, and the random integer generator at random.org has selected comment # 154, submitted by Beth as the winner. Beth said she would use the certificate to go to Morimoto in Philadelphia because it is “one of those places my husband and I would never go without a good reason.” Well, Beth…you’ve got a reason!
Jenn from Jenn Cuisine won the secondary drawing and is heading to Rigsby’s Kitchen in Columbus, OH for a romantic evening with her husband.
Congratulations to Beth and Jenn, and thanks to all of the rest of you who entered! We really enjoyed reading about your dream dinners.
Morels (aka Morchellas, Sponge Mushrooms, Merkels, Molly Moochers) are highly sought after wild mushrooms. They are renowned in many cultures for their smoky, nutty flavor. Despite being found throughout North America, Europe, and Asia, they are still considered rather rare, and morel foragers guard their favorite hunting grounds jealously. Morel mushrooms tend to be in season in the Pacific Northwest between April and July.
Morels prefer forests where a fire has occurred as recently as the previous summer, and such spots are the best place to find them. However, they can also be found in unburned forests, often reappearing where they were the previous year, but apart from that trend nobody knows where to expect them (though some foragers swear they prefer growing by certain trees).
Morels are a wild product, and as such are subject to availability fluctuations due to weather variations. They have a very irregular season that is largely dependant on weather conditions, specifically moisture. Morels seem to love warm rains, which increase soil temperature as well as moisture. Dry heat, on the other hand, can bring the season to an early close.
Morels contain small amounts of toxic helvellic acid that is easily destroyed with heat. Because of this they must be cooked for your customer’s safety. Morels are delicate, so gentle stewing, simmering, or sautéing is recommended. They can also be stuffed and/or breaded and deep fried. Morels pair well with most meat and poultry and love butter, sweet peppers and caraway seeds.
How to Select:
Look for mushrooms that are clean, and dry. Size will vary a lot depending on the variety of morels you are examining and when in the season you are buying.
NAIE sells several varieties of wholesale morels including (early season morels first):
Early Season Blond Morels
The availability of these fluctuates from year to year. These morels are rather small (between 2-2 ½ inches on average) and range from a pale yellow to a light grey color. Their shape is rounded, almost like a pear.
These dark-colored morels are large (2-4 inches) and pear shaped. They are meaty and thicker walled than many of the early morels.
Burn Morels (aka Conica Morels)
This is the type of morel most often found in forests where there has been a recent fire. Thinner walled than Black Morels, they are about the same size (2-4 inches).
These morels are found very late in the season (around June) and range from 2 inches to 5 inches in size. They are dense and meaty with thick walls. These robust characteristics allow them to hold up well to the rigors of summer shipping.
Wholesale dried morels are also available, and while perhaps not as good as fresh, can be reconstituted and used to good effect.
Other Morel Varieties (Not Widely Commercially Available):
These are some of the earliest available morels. They’re found in the foothills of the Willamette Valley in Oregon. These morels are quite small, with a Christmas-tree like profile (narrow at the top, opening out as you move towards the bottom). They tend to be dark black in color.
These morels are some of the largest available and range from 3-8 inches in size. Their large internal cavities make them ideal for stuffing applications. They can be either grey or blond in color.
Handling & Storage:
Store morels cool and dry, with room to breathe. The best storage is in a walk-in cooler in a ventilated bin, layered and covered with dry napkins or paper towels. They will last for about 10 days.
Morels possess a unique spongy honeycomb structure that can harbor bugs and dirt if they are not cleaned carefully. A mushroom brush is the traditional cleaning method, although they can be soaked for about an hour in cold, lightly salted water which, while effective, can result in some loss of flavor. Because they are hollow, morels are often cut open lengthwise to clean their inner cavities.
How to Buy:
Just give us a call at (800) 276-5955! We’ll FedEx overnight your order, fresh from the forests of the Pacific Northwest!
For information about some of our other foodservice products, visit our Chef’s Notes Collection.
North American Import & Export has compiled a collection of Chef’s Notes offering important information to assist culinary professionals in making decisions about which products to feature on their menus.
New entries will be linked to this list as they are added to the blog.