The cost of restaurant dishes is due in part to ingredients, but this factor is compounded by the time and effort involved in preparation. Part of the secret of a fast-food operation's relatively low prices is the short time and small amount of talent required to complete a customer's order.
Chef Jean Pierre Goyenvalle's lobster creation is within the nouvelle cuisine framework because of the brief time the shellfish is cooked, the absence of a thickening agent such as flour and the visual beauty of the dish. The rabbit in Cantina d'Italia's recipe is much less expensive than veal, yet the expense of such lavishly used subsidiary ingredients as cream, sage and bay leaves and raisins lift it into the luxury category.
The American Cafe's Mark Caraluzzi combines a carefully cooked green vegetable and sauce with standard ingredients to extend sandwich horizons. Germaine Swanson's soup is so light and pure that it would be a failure if the stock was ill-made. Ginger and fresh coriander are the "exotic" ingredients that produce an Oriental accent. The hand-wrapped cabbage packets are a symbol of individual hand labor beyond the scope of any fast-food operation.
Here are recipes for preparations featured in four of Washington's leading restaurants. They can be prepared in the home kitchen, although an investment of time and cooking skill is needed to execute them.
LE LION D'OR'S NAVARIN OF LOBSTER (4 appetizer or 2 main course servings) 2 lobsters (about 1 1/4 pound each) 2 ribs celery, one cut in 1-by-1/4-inch julienne strips, the other chopped 2 medium carrots, one cut in 1-by-1/4-inch julienne strips, the other chopped 1 tablespoon peanut oil 1 tablespoon chopped onion 1 teaspoon chopped shallot 5 or 6 sprigs parsley 1/2 cup dry white wine 2 cups fish stock, or 1 cup clam juice and 1 cup water Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 2 egg yolks 1/4 cup heavy cream 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Cook julienne strips of celery and carrot in simmering salted water until just tender. Plunge into cold water, drain and pat dry with paper towels. Reserve.
Separate claws and tails from head and body of lobsters. Reserve. Cut head and body through shell into small pieces and cook with oil in a high-sided skillet until shells are red. Add chopped celery and carrot, onion, shallot and cook another minute or so.Add wine, fish stock and parsley sprigs. Bring liquid to a boil, stir well and add lobster claws and tails. Continue only until meat is barely cooked, about 3 minutes, then remove claws and tails.
Allow broth to bubble briskly until liquid has reduced to 1 cup. Meanwhile, remove claw and tail meat and cut into small pieces. Mix yolks with cream in a small bowl.
Strain broth. Whisk into egg and cream mixture. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Pour into a pan or chafing dish suitable for serving. Stir over low heat(the sauce must not boil or it will curdle) until the mixture thickens, about 1 minute. Add lobster meat, julienne celery and carrots and chopped parsley. Allow these to heat up and serve at the table directly from the pan into warm soup plates.
CANTINA D'ITALIA'S RABBIT IN LEMON RAISIN SAUCE
(6 to 8 servings) 3 rabbits, each cut into 8 pieces 1 quart lemon juice 1/2 cup olive oil 8 ounces unsalted butter 1 cup grated lemon rind 5 cloves garlic, minced 1/2 cup chopped parsley 1 cup dried sage leaves 1/2 cup crumbled bay leaves Salt 2 quarts heavy cream 5 cups dry white wine 1 tablespoon wine vinegar 1 cup potato flour 3 cups golden raisins Freshly cracked black pepper
Place rabbit pieces in a large bowl Cover with water, into which mix 3 cups lemon juice. Cover and leave in a cool place for 24 hours.
Drain and dry the rabbit pieces. Using 1 or 2 frying pans, heat olive oil and 1/2 cup butter. Sprinkle with lemon rind and garlic. When hot, add parsley, rabbit, sage, bay leaves and a sprinkling of salt. Reduce heat and saute rabbit until golden brown on each side. Remove from heat.
In a separate (large) pan, heat the remaining butter and the cream. Add the browned rabbit pieces and simmer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile remove the sage and bay leaves from the initial pan (pans) with a slotted spoon. Add the wine and vinegar, return pan to heat and scrape up browned bits from the bottom. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove rabbit pieces from cream and return to frying pan. Add potato flour to cream and stir constantly until blended.
Pour this mixture over the rabbit and sprinkle with raisins and cracked pepper. Stir well and heat in a 300-degree oven for 30 minutes before serving.
THE AMERICAN CAFE'S NEW ORLEANS JAZZ SANDWICH
(Makes 4) 1 large stalk fresh broccoli, washed, trimmed, peeled and cut into strips lengthwise 4 tablespoons butter 2 teaspoons lemon juice Salt and pepper to taste 4 or 8 slices egg bread or 4 kaiser rolls, toasted 12 slices ham 8 slices Swiss-style cheese American Cafe House Dressing (recipe follows)
Cook broccoli strips in boiling, salted water until just tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Plunge into cold water to stop cooking, drain and pat dry with paper towels. Heat butter in a skillet. Add broccoli, lemon juice, salt and pepper and saute for 3 minutes. Set aside. (This may be done ahead.)
To construct the sandwich, top each of four slices of toasted bread with 3 slices of ham. Divide the broccoli and place it atop the ham. Finish with 2 slices of cheese for each sandwich and place them under the broiler until cheese melts. Serve open-face with dressing on the side, or add dressing and cover with remaining 4 slices of toast.
Note: In season, fresh asparagus may be substituted for the broccoli.
AMERICAN CAFE HOUSE DRESSING
(Makes About 1 quart) 1/2 cup very finely chopped parsley 1 cup very finely chopped carrots 1/2 cup buttermilk 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder 1 teaspoon onion powder 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt 1/4 teaspoon salt
Prepare parsley and carrots. Combine remaining ingredients to make a smooth sauce, then stir in parsley and carrots. If possible, cover and refrigerate overnight before using. This sauce will keep for a week or more, if kept covered and chilled.
GERMAIN'S VIETNAMESE CHICKEN SOUP WITH STUFFED CABBAGE LEAVES
(6 or more servings) The broth: 3 packages chicken backs and wings 2 gallons water, or enough to cover chicken by several inches 1 whole ginger, unpeeled but crushed slightly with the side of a cleaver 1 medium onion, peeled
Wash chicken pieces and place in a large pot or kettle. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Skim off surface scum, add ginger and onion and simmer, partially covered, for 2 hours. Strain liquid, refrigerate and before using, skim off most of fat that has solidified on the surface. (If the stock underneath hasn't a jelly consistency, cook it down before making soup.) The cabbage leaves: 1 small, loosely packed white cabbage, washed and tough outer leaves removed 2 bunches scallions 1/2 pound ground pork 3 tablespoons finely chopped onion 1/2 teaspoon minced ginger 1/4 teaspoon salt White pepper to taste Fresh coriander (Chinese parsley) *, washed (FOOTNOTE)
* Available in Oriental and Latin markets.(END FOOT)
Heat 2 quarts of water to a boil. Plunge a pronged fork into the stem of the cabbage and immerse it in the water until outside leaves soften. Remove cabbage, peel off leaves and place on paper towels. Repeat process until you have 24 leaves or more as desired.
Cut green tops from 2 bunches of scallions and blanch them in the hot water for a minute. Scoop out and drain on paper towels.
Mix pork with 2 tablespoons minced scallions (white part), onion, ginger, salt and pepper. Chop fine enough fresh coriander to yield 2 tablespoons and an equal amount of scallion green. Set aside.
Cut the hard stem from each cabbage leaf, then cut the tender part into a 2-by-4-inch rectangle. Place 1/2 teaspoon of pork filling on each piece, then roll it up or fold it envelope-fashion and tie the bundle with a piece of blanched scallion. (These may be done ahead and refrigerated.)
Shortly before serving, reheat the broth. Taste it and add salt and pepper as desired, then add the stuffed cabbage packets. Allow 4 per person if the soup is to be followed by a full meal; use more as desired. Cook them in the broth for 5 minutes, then spoon packets and broth into individual soup plates or bowls. Garnish with chopped coriander and scallion and serve.