Just have to share this duck recipe!

I love duck breasts–it’s a great way to have duck when you are trying to do single-serving cooking since the breasts are readily available frozen from the supermarket. There are some in my freezer now, and one of my favorite citrus fruits is a lovely blood orange.

I was just perusing the WordPress and my FaceBook updates and saw this recipe for “Duck and Orange Salad with Duck Crackling”  from Mrs Portly’s Kitchen.  The pictures came very close to having me drooling all over by keyboard–such perfectly cooked duck and that jewel-like blood orange gel!

I’ve never tried cooking duck breasts without the skin–but that would make it much simpler than searing them with the skin on but this looks like it would be well worth every bit of effort. And the crackling–yum!

I think I saw blood oranges at The Fresh Market last time I was there!

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Duck breast salad

For my Christmas Eve supper I fixed pan-seared duck breast–there were two in the package and that meant leftovers. I could have had a second meal had I not been a bit greedy and 20170107_182359eaten part of the second one. So leftovers–just enough for a salad.

A very simple salad made with arugula and radicchio for the greens (just a bit of bitterness to counter the fat of the duck),  Fuyu persimmon, pecans, and the thinly sliced duck breast.

For the dressing, I decided that the leftover sauce that was used for the cabbage and rutabaga side dish for Christmas dinner could make a second appearance–with a little help from an infused oil from Bull City Olive Oil. (Yes, I’ve gotten into infused oils since I discovered some quality ones.) The sauce was lime juice, lime zest, and buckwheat honey but I needed something more–I tasted it with plain (but very good olive oil). That gave me an excuse to go back and do some more tasting and shopping. I tasted several infused oils and decided that the chipotle infused oil would add just the right bit of spark to the leftover sauce.

I made a vinaigrette using about 2:1 proportions of oil and sauce, tossed the greens, persimmon, and some pecans with it; making a perfect bed for the sliced duck breast that was quickly warmed in a skillet. The finishing touch was just a bit more chipotle oil–just a few drops–on the sliced duck breast.

Yum! A great light supper from recycled leftovers, although I’d be more than happy to serve a freshly cooked duck breast this way as well.

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Christmas evening supper

Christmas eve–what’s for supper? Your basic duck breast, pan-seared and dressed with some of the spoils of my visit to Bull City Olive Oil. Just a take-off on a vinaigrette, but what fun. A nice fatty duck breast pan-seared so that the skin is cracklin’ crispy–with a very simple sauce–fruity.

Turn off the smoke alarm so you won’t be interrupted while cooking. You need to start with a skillet that will tolerate high heat–it needs to be almost smoking hot to begin–and no worries about sticking given the fat in the duck skin. I used my favorite carbon steel skillet–very well cured (now black and nonstick), and has the advantages of cast iron, without the weight. Just the right size for two duck breasts.

20161224_173256I had thought that perhaps just a drizzle of one of the infused vinegars would be good, but after tasting the vinegars with a piece of breast that was loose in the package, I decided it needed  more complexity, so I started with  extra-virgin olive oil infused with mushroom and sage–awesome as a condiment in its own right, but for nice fatty duck it needs to be brightened a bit with one of the infused balsamic vinegars. Decisions, decisions!

I had black mission fig, black cherry, and blackberry with ginger. After tasting I decided that blackberry-ginger was what I wanted this evening, though any of these would have been good with duck. I didn’t use typical vinaigrette proportions but I did emulsify the oil and the vinegar (1:1). The mushroom-sage oil is very earthy and a great contrast to the fruitiness of the blackberry with that little spark of ginger.

20161224_174026To prep the breasts I patted them dry and scored the skin side, careful not to cut into the meat–just to help the fat render while pan-searing. You need a very sharp knife so that just the weight of the knife pulled across the skin will cut into it. Then I salted the meat side of the breasts and let them sit for about 20 minutes to season.

After patting them dry I put them into a  very hot skillet, skin side down, and cooked until most of the fat rendered and the skin side was brown and crispy (about 5 to 8 minutes), reducing the heat a bit to keep them from getting too brown before a sufficient amount of fat had rendered. Then turned them and continued to cook until the temperature was 135ºF by instant read thermometer (about 5 minutes).

While the breasts were searing, I whisked the oil and vinegar together, and got the roasted potatoes out of the oven. While the breasts rested (and continued with carry-over cooking), I poured off the excess fat from the pan, left just enough to  sauté a mix of  baby arugula and radicchio for a side. Very quick. Very tasty!

The bitterness of the arugula and radicchio was a great contrast to the richness of the duck, and the blackberry-ginger/mushroom-sage sauce. (Blackberry and sage are awesome together–makes me want to try a sorbet with that combination.)  The Les Hérétiques wine (old vine Carignane grapes) has lots of berry fruit (blackberry  with some earthiness, and minerals) all in all a great wine for this meal even though it’s just my “house” wine.

All together a very flavorful supper for no more time than it took.  So many possible flavor variations possible with this simple sauce. A son gôut!

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Always Hungry? An improvised meal

One of the problems I have with rigorous meal plans is that I refuse to shop for my food according to a menu! Even though I’m shopping in the supermarket, I want the freedom to buy what looks good–not what I need for a menu. When I find lovely ahi tuna for a measly &7.99 per pound, you be I’m having that for a meal. That was what I found on Friday, so I had an ad lib meal constructed from the simplified meal plan (page 152).

My high-quality protein was the tuna–pan seared to medium rare. The carbohydrate and vegetable were spicy mixed greens (a mix of radicchio, shredded broccoli stems, kale, and a few other robust greens) steam-sautéed with borlotti beans, seasoned with just a dab of bacon fat and red pepper flakes. Since tuna is not as oily/fatty as sardines, salmon, or mackerel, I followed the “pour on the fat” instruction by adding with a dollop of the lemon dill sauce.  YUM! Dessert? Raspberries and heavy cream (though these were not on the menu for today  either but I used the quantities suggested in the meal plan elsewhere.

(The dill sauce thins and spreads quickly when it hits something hot–next time it will go on the side!) The tuna steak that I had was close to a half pound, so there will be some for a lettuce wrap or salad tomorrow.

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A good home-cooked steak

Steak is not something that I order when I splurge for a meal in a fine restaurant; it’s too easy to do at home and good for single-serving cooking since it’s portioned when it comes home, and it’s easy to cook.

A good thick-cut, home-cooked steak is one of the things that I don’t mind having left over, since it’s usable as “roast beef” for a yummy sandwich.  (No, the roast beef from the deli simply does not do it.) My favorite way to cook the steak is from Cook’s Illustrated, 01 May 2007–it does take a little time and minimal effort, but it’s well worth it.

steaks in butcher caseMy usual choice of steak is a strip, or New York strip, cut 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 inches thick, with fat cap intact.  If I don’t find one lolling about   in the butcher case (you won’t likely find this in the pre-packaged section)  ask to have it cut the way you want it; my local Harris Teeter will cut to order but generally has thick-cut steaks in the butcher case.

This works fine with rib eye or with filet mignon, as long as it is thick-cut. Personally, I prefer strip or rib-eye to filet. Even with rib eye, it’s still not a substitute for real prime rib roast, but a good “second” so that I plan to have “leftovers”.

Ingredients

  • 1 boneless steak (1 1/2 to 1 3/4 inches thick (about 1 pound), strip or rib eye
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil for searing

Preparation

  1. Adjust oven rack to  mid-position and pre-heat oven to 275 °F .
  2. Pat steaks dry with paper towel and season liberally with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Place steak on wire rack set in rimmed pan and place in oven.  (Steak does need to be raised rather in contact with pan).
  4. Cook until instant-read thermometer inserted in center of steak registers 90 to 95°F for rare to medium-rare, 20 to 25 minutes  (or 100 to 105°F  for medium, 25 to 30 minutes).
  5. Heat oil in  heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat until smoking.
  6. Place steak in the skillet and sear until well-browned and nicely crusty–about 1-1/2 to 2 minutes, lifting once halfway through to redistribute fat under the steak.
  7. Using tongs, turn steak and cook until well browned on the other side, about 2 to 2-1/2 minutes.
  8. Use tongs to stand steak on the sides and sear on all sides. (This really is worth the effort–and it really does not take long.
  9. Transfer to cooling rack, tent with foil, and let rest for about 10 minutes–this also is really worth the wait.
  10. You can prepare a quick pan sauce while the steak is resting, or simply add a pat of herb butter, horseradish,  or some blue cheese crumbles to the warm steak.

Add some simple sides like salad or baked potato. Now pour yourself a another glass of that luscious  red wine that was  breathing while you were cooking, and enjoy.

A son goût!

Veal chop

Today I absolutely HAD to go to the grocery store to retrieve some “paper products”…just no way to put it off any longer.  Procrastination was definitely not an option.  So, after giving my lecture this morning, I had a bowl of oatmeal (I try not to go to the grocery store when I’m hungry), and headed out to the store for one item.

Well, while I don’t like shopping for some things, I do find it hard to go through the grocery store without meandering around through the produce, fish, seafood, and meat counters, and occasionally (especially around the holidays when they have chocolate cherry bread) the bakery.

Today my meandering took me past the meat counter.  I usually do check what might be on special–especially when I’ve not decided on that night’s supper–I might well find something that’s not usually in the budget marked down because, while it’s still fine, it’s sell-by date is approaching.   Today is wasn’t a “need to move it” but a “manager’s special”.

I found a lovely veal rib chop (bone in and thick) as a store special (read cheap for veal).  My oatmeal just was not enough to allow me to pass that up–so I came home with a veal chop–since chops of any kind are always wonderful for single-serving cooking.  Now, what to do with this chop?

veal rib chop with whole fresh sage leavesAs comfortable as I am with improvising, I do sometimes want a recipe.  I know that some where in all my cookbooks there is a recipe for “sage-sage scented veal chops” that I just want to look at.  How do I find that recipe?  Off to Eat Your Books. (I know I’ve mentioned it before, but Eat Your Books is wonderful if you’ve got cookbooks and want to find recipes–and they are now indexing magazines and blogs as well as books.)

The recipe is from Every Night Italian (p. 127) by Giuliano Hazan was the inspiration for this (but could not remember who or where to find it).  Thank you, www.EatYourBooks.com!  This is so simple that you really don’t need a recipe.

Sage-scented Grilled Veal Chops

Ingredients

  • one veal chop (at least 1 inch thick, and I prefer about 1-1/2-inch thickness)
  • fresh sage leaves cut into strips or chopped
  • olive oil

Preparation

  • Cut the sage leaves into strips (chiffonade)
  • Pat the sage, with the olive oil, all over the chop
  • Let stand (at room temperature) until your grill is ready–about 30 to 40 minutes.
  • See Ready to Cook (below) for cooking method

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I’ve followed these directions, but I’m a sage lover and I want a bit more sage flavor (even with mild veal) than I get with that standing time, so I’ve tried to find ways to bump up the sage.

I’ve tried processing the sage leaves with some olive oil into a nice green slurry and rubbing that on the chop.  That works well in you have only a short time to get your sage flavor into the chop–but don’t leave that one more than about an hour or you’ll totally over-sage your chop.  Sage is potent even as a fresh herb, some varieties more than others.  I would not cook a chop this way if I did not have fresh sage.

veal chop covered with coarsely chopped sage leaves

I’ve gotten the flavor that I want by very coarsely chopping the sage or even just thoroughly bruising the leaves and patting them over my chop, wrapping it in plastic film, and letting it sit in the refrigerator at least over night, or up to one day, and then cooking it.
So here’s my chop, rubbed with olive oil covered with the sage leaves, ready to go into the refrigerator until I’m ready to cook in tomorrow evening. Depending on the weather, it will be ready to  charcoal grill it, or griddle it, or even pan-sear it.

Ready to cook…..

When you’re ready to cook the chop, wipe off the sage leaves. The high heat doesn’t improve the flavor of sage, and can actually burn them, so I like to remove them.  You’ll want to salt and pepper the chop as you start to cook it.  You want to cook the chop to an internal temperature of 130 ° F (medium rare–for my taste) or a bit longer for medium.

  • If you’re cooking on a gas or charcoal grill, you will want to have  two-levels of heat–high to start brown the chop, and a lower temperature to finish the cooking since it’s a thick chop.
  • If you are pan-searing you’ll need about 2 tablespoon of oil.  Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it starts to smoke, and put your seasoned chop in the pan.  Let it cook without moving it for 4 to 5 minutes when it should be browned on one side. Using tongs, flip the chop and reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking until  it’s at 130 ° F (or desired doneness).
  • For griddling, I use a cast-iron griddle that fits over two burners–so I can kind of have  “two-level” heat with the two burners at different levels. Again, let the chop cook for about 5 minutes without moving it.  Once I’ve turned the chop and moved the chop to the somewhat cooler end, I can put veggies on to cook while the chop finishes.   (If you’re working on a grill-pan, then adjust the heat as you would for the pan searing, but with the heavy cast iron it does take a bit for the heat to adjust.
So quick and easy!

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I ended griddling my chop because it was a damp, rainy day–it was still wonderful.  Added a few steamed fingerling potatoes and some sautéed  broccoli raab (with garlic and red pepper flakes). It was a fine  meal.

(I’m sure I won’t  do this again until there’s another special as it’s a splurge even then, but worth every penny!)

A son goût!