Barking Kitten

Fiction, musings on literature, food writing, and the occasional Friday cat blog. For lovers of serious literature, cooking, and eating.

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Close to forty. Not cool. Politically left. Atheist. Happily married. No kids.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Luck with Duck

Today is "Black Friday."

"Did the stock market crash?" I asked Hockeyman.

"No. It's called Black Friday because it's the busiest shopping day of the year."

Hell is not just other people. Hell is other in people in a mall, with only a Waldenbooks selling the complete Chicken Soup series.

There is only one rational response to Black Friday: holing up at home, simmering the duck carcass from last night's dinner into soup.

Last night's dinner (I am afraid to write the T-word, lest I get more spam from some lady whose cyberexistence appears to center on garnering hits to a "blog" that is purely commercial. I doubt she really reads this. If she does, you know who you are. Knock it off.) was my first colonialist holiday success. Our friend the Flyers Fan, who is a particular eater, pronounced the meal "excellent."

The menu:
Raspberry Armagnac Aperitif
Ginger Duck
Rice cooked in ginger duck broth
Hubbard Squash pureed with butter and sesame oil
Green Salad with oranges, pine nuts, and capers with olive oil vinaigrette
fresh bread, courtesy of Flyers Fan

White wine

Mixed berry galette (store bought)
Coffee

The breakdown:

The aperitif came from Paula Wolfert's Cooking of Southwest France. One is to take raspberries in season, cover them with sugar, then cover it all with Armagnac, seal in a bottle or jar (I used canning jar with a rubber gasket), and forget about it for six months.

I assembled this in July, then put it on a high shelf in our coat closet, where the liquor would be protected from light.

Last night seemed a fortuitous time to decant it. I did the honors while Hockeyman prepped the salad, carefully straining off the fruit, which is unfit to eat, then poured us a small glass of the deep red liquid.

Six months of sugared fruit in brandy means more fermenting, and the resulting liqueur tasted deeply of berry while packing quite a wallop. We were quite pleased with out little experiment until Flyers Fan said it tasted like cough medicine. She is a good enough friend to say things like this, but still.

"Does it really taste like Robitussen?" I asked H-man after she'd left.

"No!"

On to the duck. For all my experimentation with duck legs, this was only the second time I'd dealt with a whole duck. It was a frozen Maple Leaf Farms Pekin from Canada, weighing about four pounds.

I found Ginger Duck with Rice cooked in Ginger Broth in Amanda Hesser's Cooking for Mr. Latte, a diary of her courtship with writer Tad Friend, including recipes. The duck recipe actually comes from Hesser's mother-in-law, Elizabeth Friend, who adapted it from her family's housekeeper, Margaret Dunn. The recipe is directly from the book, and may be found on pages 68-69.

1 duck, giblets removed
1 onion, peeled and halved, or three peeled shallots
2 stalks celery, cut into three-inch pieces (I forgot to buy celery, and did not miss it)
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup sherry
1 bunch watercress, trimmed and washed (No watercress for us. We have more salad greens than we can eat. I wasn't about to buy more.)

The day before you plan to serve, stuff the duck cavity with the onion and celery. Place the duck in a deep soup pot. Fill the pot with water until it comes about halfway up the duck. Add the ginger. Cover. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat until you have a lazy simmer.

An hour later, turn the bird over. Add the sugar, soy sauce, and salt. Allow to cook for another hour, then turn a final time and cook for another hour. The bird will begin falling apart. That's okay.

Remove the duck to a platter and allow to cool. Refrigerate.

Pour the poaching broth into a container. Taste it, then call your significant other at work and inform him/her it didn't come out, so you can eat it all yourself. Or employ willpwer, allow the broth to cool, and refrigerate until the next day.

The next day....

A layer of fat will have risen to the top of the broth. Discard it.

Bring the duck to room temperature. Put it in a roasting pan.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Add one cup of the cooking broth to the duck along with a half cup of sherry. Allow the duck to brown for a half hour to forty-five minutes, basting occasionally. Hesser advises serving the duck on the bed of watercress to disguise where the wings have come loose. I just put it on a platter and subjected to the poor thing to my terrible carving skills. Flyers fan and Hockeyman didn't care. Neither did Kitty.

Not only was it sublime, poaching meant the fat that can make duck greasy did not permeate the meat.

The rice...

Chop one onion and one clove of garlic. Melt two tablespoons butter in a pot, then saute the onion and garlic until translucent. Add one cup rice and stir until nutty-looking. You may need to add more butter.

Pour in two cups duck broth. Bring to a boil, then cover and cook at low heat until the rice is cooked.

Cook's Notes:

--I used a five quart Le Creuset to poach the duck. I also roasted the duck in the same vessel with fine results.

--I used a scant half-cup sugar in the poaching broth and will use less next time. It was just a hair too sweet for my taste.

--The leftover broth can be frozen and used in soups, stews, and rice. (This from Amanda Hesser)

The squash was simple: I roasted it whole for ninety minutes. H-man sliced it, scraped out the seeds, mashed the pulp, and added butter and sesame oil. The sesame worked nicely with the ginger/soy flavors.

I am proud of the salad, which I invented. Duck with orange is a classic pairing, and I knew my sweet-with-savory aversion needed to be set aside in the interests of culinary greatness. We used crisp lettuce, meticulously dried and chopped by H-man, tipped in capers, segmented Valencia oranges, and at the last minute, pine nuts I'd toasted stovetop. I mixed a simple red wine vinegar and olive oil dressing. Not a leaf remained, though I did end up giving my orange segments to H-man.

Non-traditional, but today we aren't overly full, swimming in leftovers, or wondering how to deal with dessicating turkey remains. Nor was the meal terribly labor-intensive; much of the time the duck was left to itself, as were the squash and rice. Numerous side dishes are well and good if you have a large kitchen, numerous serving utensils, and a hungry crowd. I had none of these, so did not miss wondering how I would get brussels sprouts and parsnips and cranberry sauce prepared and plated.

Afterward we ate the berry tart, drank coffee, and played Scrabble. The question of Christmas Dinner has arisen. Hockeyman, being a meat-and-potatoes sort, hazarded the idea of standing rib roast.

I would be just as happy with duck.

Amanda Hesser: Cooking for Mr. Latte. W.W. Norton, New York. 2003.

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