Monday, 29 February 2016

Kasha with Potatoes, Mushrooms & Cabbage

It occurred to me that I have not done anything with buckwheat in quite a while, which is too bad because it is good stuff. Maybe it would go with potatoes, I thought, and I have these mushrooms that need using up as well. Green veg? Could throw in the last of our (home grown!) cabbage... delicious, absolutely delicious, but I realized as I was doing it that I have basically just swapped out the bow-tie pasta from Kasha Varnishkes for potatoes. Well, a little different and awfully good!

I used duck fat, no surprise, but chicken or bacon fat would work as well. Or even vegetable oil, if you had to.

4 servings
40 minutes prep time

Kasha with Potatoes, Mushrooms & Cabbage

2 or 3 medium potatoes
1/2 cup toasted buckwheat groats (kasha)
2 medium onions
150 grams (5 ounces) fresh shiitake mushrooms
3 tablespoons bacon (or duck) fat
1 teaspoon salt
lots of freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped green cabbage

Wash, trim, and cut the potatoes into bite sized slices. Put them into a large pot with plenty of water to cover them, and bring them to a boil. When the water boils, add the toasted buckwheat groats and boil steadily for 12 minutes.

Peel and chop the onions. Remove the stems from the mushrooms and discard them (stems, that is). Slice the mushrooms caps.

Heat the bacon fat in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and mushrooms, and cook until just softened, about a minute or two. At this point the potatoes and buckwheat should be done; drain them well and add them to the pan. Season with the salt and plenty of pepper, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly to keep the mixture from sticking.

Meanwhile, trim and chop the cabbage. Give it a quick rinse, drain it well, and add it to the pan. It should go in when the potatoes and buckwheat have been in for about 5 minutes. Continue cooking and stirring until the cabbage is crisp-tender, and everything well amalgamated; another 5 or 6 minutes. Serve it up.

Last year at this time I made Flourless Peanut Butter & Honey Cookies.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

So How Big Should Your Vegetable Garden Be? Part 2

This is a follow-up to a general overview of the factors to consider in deciding how large your vegetable garden should be. (So How Big Should Your Vegetable Garden Be? Part 1) You should also consider this in conjunction with my older post on prioritizing vegetables to grow in a small garden; What to Grow in a Small, Basic Garden.

The following list of likely yields of individual vegetables, their space requirements, and likely amounts for consumption is based on my own experiences, as it has to be. Keep in mind you may have very different consumption patterns, also that yields may vary quite a bit from one garden to another. Practically speaking though, the more different vegetables you grow the less you will eat of any one particular one.

Also, if you are serious about eating mostly vegetables that you grow yourself, you will need to be realistic about their habits. Everybody loves broccoli but, no matter what type I plant or when I plant it, it all produces around the same time, and it's a big space hog for what it does. Result; I eat a lot less broccoli than I would like, and a lot more green beans than I would like, especially since they also freeze much better than broccoli.

I'm also assuming you wish to produce as much of your own vegetables yourself as possible, because that's what I'm aiming to do.

Please let me know about your own experiences with yields and requirements!

Monday, 22 February 2016

Cream of Tomato Soup

If you made Canned Tomato Sauce last summer, you already have the soup base you need to make cream of tomato soup in about 10 minutes. I guess that's twice as long as it takes to open and heat a can, but I am full of ambition. (*snork, snork*) 

Only I bet you didn't make canned tomato sauce last summer, in which case you will need to make it now. I left out the vinegar/sugar, since it's not being canned, and added a little celery and bay leaf. Pretty close, though. And yeah, we ate it with grilled cheese. Why not?

By crushed tomatoes I mean tomatoes, canned. They should be fairly liquid, if you are buying them. (I've seen cans of crushed tomatoes that are more like sauce. Canned whole or chopped tomatoes would work fine too; just chop them up a bit before you start simmering if you are using whole ones.)

4 to 6 servings
1 hour to make the base - 15 minutes prep time
15 minutes prep time to make the soup

Make the Base:
1 medium onion
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
1 medium sweet red pepper
1 medium carrot
a stalk of celery
OR a slice of peeled celeriac, chopped
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
4 cups crushed tomatoes
1 bay leaf (optional)

Peel and chop the onion coarsely. Peel and slice the garlic cloves in half. Core and chop the pepper coarsely. Peel and slice the carrot. Peel and chop the celeriac slice, if using, or wash, trim, and chop the celery.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, and cook the vegetables in it for several minutes, until softened and slightly browned in spots. Add the tomatoes and bay leaf, stir well, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes until the carrot slices are tender. Add a little water if it seems like too much liquid is evaporating.

Let the soup base cool a little, remove the bay leaf, then purée it thoroughly in a food processor or blender. Keep in the fridge until ready to make soup; the base should keep for at least a week if kept in a clean, well-sealed container.You should get about 4 cups of base.

Make the Soup:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 teaspoons (1 1/3 tablespoons) flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk or light cream
2 cups prepared soup base
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cook the butter, flour, and salt together over medium heat in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Slowly stir in the milk or cream a little at a time, mixing really well to keep a smooth, lump-free paste. Once all the milk is in, let the cream sauce (that's what this is) thicken for a minute or two; stir regularly. Then add the soup base, season with pepper, and stir to blend it thoroughly. Let the soup heat though, stirring regularly, but don't let it simmer.

Last year at this time I made Eggs in Purgatory.

Friday, 19 February 2016

So How Big Should Your Vegetable Garden Be? Part 1

Someone asked me this question; and I thought... I dunno; how much space do you have? That's always going to be the first question, and on further thought, my answer is mostly going to be a whole bunch more questions.

 - How much time and energy and knowledge do you have now?
 - How much do you expect to have in the future?
 - How much do you want to have? (That is; what percentage of your energies do you want to go into gardening, compared to other interests and obligations?)
 - Do you have reliable help?
 - What is your soil, sunlight, and water access like?
 - Why are you growing vegetables?
 - Who are you growing vegetables for?
 - What vegetables do you want to grow?
 - Do you expect to dry, can, or freeze some of your vegetables?
 - If so, how much?

Basically, these break down into 2 major points:

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Pennsylvania Neck Pumpkin

Obviously, this photo was not taken recently. That was Mr. Ferdzy with the most impressive specimen of Pennyslyvania Neck Pumpkin (also known as Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck, Amish Neck Pumpkin, and Gooseneck squash) that we grew this year, harvested very early in November. It's been sitting on the top shelf in our laundry room ever since, until it drew itself to my attention by falling off during a particularly robust spin cycle and breaking into 3 pieces on the floor. Time to cook it, I guess.

It has kept really well. The flesh was still solid and sweet, here in the middle of February, even though the skin is on the thin side and easy to peel. The seeds were just showing a few signs of sprouting but most of them are good enough to save for planting this spring.

If you think it looks like an overgrown Butternut squash, it basically is. This is a pretty typical shape for moschata squash, which is the same family as Butternut. Like Butternut it's dense, dry, and sweet in flavour. A lot of people think moschatas are the best tasting species of squash.  

As you may suppose by the name, this particular variety comes from central Pennsylvania where it has traditionally been popular with Amish and Mennonite farmers, who regard it as the proper variety for making pumpkin pie. They have had versions of it since at least fairly early in the 19th century. It hasn't had a wider circulation until recently but like a lot of vegetables from Pennsylvania it does well in the southern Ontario climate, since they are very similar. This is such a great squash I can only suppose the reason it is not more popular is that it is a bit of a challenge to any family that doesn't have 10 children on hand to tackle it... it's been sitting on my shelf for 3 months as I took down other, smaller, squash from around it for a reason.

Grow Pennsylvania Neck Pumpkin as you would any other Butternut squash. You will need to have adequate space, and you will not get more than 1 or 2 squash per plant. Which given their size is plenty, really. I did not notice that they were any better or worse than any other squash when it comes to susceptibility to squash bugs, cucumber beetles, or mildew; the 3 big squash problems around here. Given the size of the plants, you soil needs to be fairly decent and water is critical while the squash are swelling, although it's better that they don't get too much water as the fruits ripen. As usual, a warm dry summer will produce better fruits than a cool wet one and they will keep better too. Bakers Creek says 105 days to maturity, and that squash may get to 20 pounds. I've heard of bigger ones! We didn't weigh ours, I'm afraid.

In spite of the apparently fairly dry flesh, this let off quite a bit of liquid as it cooked. A number of people note that it continues to drain off liquid even more after cooking; it's a good idea to let it strain before puréeing  it. The liquid thus given off was very sweet; I'm considering saving it and seeing if I can do something with it. Even drained, it's still a very sweet and flavourful squash. When I lifted the first forkful to my mouth, it smelled amazingly of nutmeg, even though I knew I hadn't put any in.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Ham & Potato Dumplings

This is a recipe that came out of one of my old cook books - I thought maybe The New Galt Cook Book (1898) or The Canadian Home Cook Book (1877), but I can't find it in either or those. So; a different one.

Rather than spend all day in the basement going through cook books, I will just recount my personal history with this recipe. The first time I made it, a little over a decade ago, it worked out perfectly. I published it on line; it was reviewed by someone for whom it failed, and every time I made it after that it was at least a partial failure for me too. The dumpling was to be boiled before being fried, but there was a definite problem with disintegration. I tried different flours, and it does seem to hold together better with stone ground organic flours, but this does not seem to be completely guaranteed. Mashing your potato as smoothly as possible helps too. But I never got successful enough results to call it a good recipe again.

This time I finally smartened up and tried something different. I made 2 dumplings, and instead of boiling both dumplings, I boiled one - which promptly partially disintegrated - and I steamed one. The steamed one held together beautifully, sliced beautifully, and fried beautifully. Hurrah, success! So, much as I wanted to stick to the original technique, I have to say NO - steam them.

These remind me, oddly enough, of Lo Bak Go; the radish cakes found at pretty much every dim sum restaurant. Like Lo Bak Go, they are delicious served with a chile-garlic sauce. I served mine with Beet and Red Cabbage Relish, though, and that was very good too.

If you want to make these, it makes a lot of sense to have a dinner of ham and mashed potatoes first, making plenty of mashed potatoes and saving some of the leftovers.

That very impressive egg, by the way, is a turkey egg from Cirrus Hill Farm. Wow - turkey eggs are great! I thought expensive at $6 per dozen, but upon reflection a dozen seem about equivalent in size to 18 large chicken eggs, so pretty standard, actually.

45 minutes to make the mashed potatoes - 15 minutes prep time
45 minutes to make the dumplings - 15 minutes prep time
15 minutes to fry the dumplings
4 to 6 servings (12 dumpling slices)

Ham & Potato Dumplings

Prepare the Mashed Potatoes:
900 grams (2 pounds) floury potatoes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup buttermilk or milk
salt & pepper to taste

This is basic mashed potatoes. Wash them, trim or peel them, cut them into chunks and put them in a pot with water to cover; boil until tender. Drain well and mash with the remaining ingredients. Set aside 2 cups of mashed potatoes to proceed with the dumplings. (This should make a bit more than you need, but not a lot.)

Make the Dumplings:
3/4 cup soft unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
2/3 cup finely chopped ham
2 to 3 tablespoons bacon fat

Fill the bottom of a large steamer with water to just below the level of the insert, and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, measure the flour and mix in the baking powder and salt. Mix the egg and ham into the mashed potatoes, then mix in the flour.

When everything has amalgamated into a smooth dough - if it is more than slightly sticky, add a little more flour - turn it out onto a piece of parchment paper and form it into a rectangular patty about 2" thick. Steam for 30 minutes, until firm, and allow it to cool. Keep covered in the refrigerator until ready to serve (overnight). Slice the dumpling into 12 long slices. Heat 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the dumpling slices until browned nicely on each side - you will probably need to do 2 batches. Keep warm at 200°F in the oven, or of course you don't have to cook them all at once.

Last year at this time I made Parsnips au Gratin.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Pink Fir Apple Potatoes Fried in Duck Fat

Well this is hardly a recipe, and it is definitely not breaking any new culinary ground. Potatoes fried in some sort of fat are almost certainly the most consumed vegetable in North America, and an awful lot of other places too. This is more of a comment on how much carefully sourced, good quality ingredients matter. They matter so much.

Duck fat is famous for producing fabulous fried potatoes, and Pink Fir Apple is a potato made for fried perfection. This is the time to break out your fancy pink or Malden or Guerande salt too, I suppose, although plain old table salt is in fact just fine.

I get to like Pink Fir Apple more and more. It stores so well, its flavour is great, and it turns out, according to Rebsie Fairholm in her book The Lost Art of Potato Breeding, that it is one of the few modern potato varieties around that does not have T-type cytoplasm, meaning it won't pass on male sterility to its offspring. Many people find Pink Fir Apple pretty shy of producing seed, but it has generally produced a few berries each year in my garden so I am looking forward to trying some breeding projects using it as the maternal parent.

4 servings
50 minutes prep time

Pink Fir Apple Potatoes Fried in Duck Fat

800 grams (1 1/2 pounds) Pink Fir Apple potatoes
3 tablespoons duck fat
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Wash and trim the potatoes, and cut them into 1/2 cm (1/4") slices. Put them in a pot with water to cover, and  turn the heat to high. Time for 10 minutes, during which time they should come to a boil and boil for several minutes, then drain them until very dry.

Heat the duck fat in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat; the temperature at which you would cook pancakes or eggs. Add the well-drained potatoes and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until touched with brown and the fat is mostly absorbed. Sprinkle with a little salt at the beginning of the cooking time, and season with a bit more and some pepper before turning them out onto a plate to serve.

Last year at this time I made Tartar Sauce

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Chocolate Waffles with Marmalade Cream & Fruit Sauce

Pretty decadent! These are dessert, really, rather than breakfast - although I suppose you could, if you wanted to really go for it. Valentine's brunch, anyone?

The good news about these is they are really no harder to make than any other waffle, and like all the waffles I've made so far they froze and toasted beautifully. That means these are very easy to serve at a fancy dinner to guests; sauces made ahead and standing by, the cream in the fridge and the fruit sauce not. I would heat up the sauce in the microwave, in fact, while the waffles toast. Not super hot, just warm. Apply cream and sauce to the hot toasted waffles, serve, aaand Wow!

p.s. Don't get that nasty gummy cream cheese in bars. Get the soft kind, in a tub. I wouldn't go too low fat either, because I'm not sure it would whip properly. Also, we ate 2 waffles each because we *did* eat them for breakfast, but one waffle is probably plenty for most people as dessert.

12 to 16 waffles
45 minutes prep time

Chocolate Waffles with Marmelade Cream & Fruit Sauce

Make the Waffles:
2 1/2 cups soft unbleached flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Sucanat  OR dark brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
4 ounces (120 grams) unsweetened chocolate
2 cups buttermilk
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
mild vegetable oil to brush waffle iron

Measure the flour, baking powder, salt, and Sucanat into a large mixing bowl. Stir to blend.

Put the butter and chocolate, broken into pieces, into a heavy-bottomed pot, and heat over low heat until both are melted. This could also be done in the microwave in a glass bowl, heating in short bursts and stirring well between times.

Meanwhile, preheat the waffle iron. Have a little bowl of vegetable oil and a pastry brush standing by.

Measure the buttermilk and mix it in another mixing bowl, or right in the measuring cup, if it is big enough (hint!) with the eggs and the vanilla extract. Whisk well.

Mix about 2/3 of the buttermilk and egg mixture into the dry ingredients. Scrape in the slightly cooled melted butter and chocolate mixture, and mix it in. Add the rest of the buttermilk and egg mixture, and mix well.

Ladle into the heated, oil-brushed waffle iron so that the bottom is evenly covered in a slightly convex layer, and cook in batches; my waffle iron took about 7 minutes per set of waffles. Keep warm in a heated oven; or, if you are freezing them for later, let them cool quickly on a wire cooling rack.

Make the Marmalade Cream:
1/2 cup whipping cream
4 tablespoons soft cream cheese
2 to 4 tablespoons orange or ginger marmalade,
 - or strawberry or cherry jam to match sauce

Put the whipping cream in a cool glass or metal mixing bowl and beat it with an electric mixer until fairly but not completely stiff. Add half the cream cheese and marmalade, and beat them in; repeat with the rest. Beat until the cream is stiff.

Either dollop onto the waffles just before serving, or pass the cream in a nice bowl for people to apply their own.

Fruit Sauce:
2 cups frozen strawberries or pitted cherries
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon arrowroot or cornstarch

Thaw the strawberries or cherries, and put them in a pot with the remaining ingredients. Stir well to dissolve the starch. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the sauce is clear and thickened; under 5 minutes.

Last year at this time I made Quick 'n' Dirty Pan-Braised Cabbage

Monday, 8 February 2016

Duck Broth with Cellophane Noodles

After you have roasted your duck, and eaten the breasts, and set aside the legs for Pulled Duck Sandwiches, you have a carcass left, as well as a couple of wings, and the bits of meat still clinging to it. These will make a meal, as long as you have not been too efficient in the removal of the breasts and legs. Pro-tip: efficiency is was inefficient, if you want to make this meal. Now though; now is the time to get efficient.

Tear every bit of meat that you can from the carcass and wings, and set it aside in little chunks and shreds. There should be a cup to a cup and half, with luck, and skin definitely counts. Wrap these meat scraps up and keep them in the fridge until wanted, and proceed with making the broth. 

2 to 6 servings

1 to 1/2 cups duck meat shreds
the denuded carcass that supplied the above
all the fat and drippings accrued in the roasting of the duck
1 1/2 litres (6 cups) water
2 or 3 slices peeled fresh ginger
1 piece star anise
8 to 12 dry shiitake mushroom stems (optional)
2 to 4 tablespoons soy sauce
300 grams cellophane noodles
2 to 3 cups prepared green vegetable of your choice
 - blanched or frozen snow peas, broccoli, bok choi, choi sum, etc. 

Put away the duck meat shreds removed from the carcass; they will not reappear until quite near to serving time.

Break up the carcass and put it in a pot where the water will cover them. Add the fat and drippings from the roasting pan, and the water. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 2 or 3 hours. Add the seasoning elements, up to and including the shiitake stems if using, to simmer with the duck for the last hour. Top up with a little more water if it seems to be getting down below 4 cups worth. Strain the broth, discarding the solids, and set it in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, or whenever you are ready to proceed, remove the cold solid fat carefully from the surface, removing any bits of stock that cling to it. I put it into a strainer and let it drain off back into the stock for about 10 minutes. Then, melt it and put it in a very clean (straight out of the dishwasher, ideally) glass storage jar. The easiest way to do this is put the drained bits of fat into the jar cold, and heat them gently in the microwave until melted. Cap the melted fat and keep it in the fridge for cooking with (once the jar is cool enough to go back in).

To serve, put the broth on to boil. As soon as it does so, add the cellophane noodles and your green vegetable. If raw, the veggie should be blanched (put the cut up pieces in a strainer and pour boiling water over them) first. If frozen, the veggie should be thawed. Cover and let the temperature come back up slowly. After about 5 minutes, the noodles should be cooked and the vegetable too.

Meanwhile, once the broth is on to heat, put the duck bits into a pan to heat. Add the bits of skin first; they will crisp up and render a little more fat. Add the rest of the duck bits and heat through.

Ladle the noodles and vegetables into serving bowls with the broth, and top with the hot duck bits.

Last year at this time I made Beet & Potato Salad.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Deli Style Creamy Coleslaw

Here is a very simple, basic cole slaw, very similar to the kind sold in tubs and deli cases all over the continent. If you make your own it will be fresher, even if it sits for a week, and also probably lower in salt. Definitely lower in sugar.

This is classic with grilled or barbequed meats of all kind, and fried chicken or fish. We're finding it very handy to have a little salad with a sandwich at lunchtime. You can dress it up with a sprinkle of chopped red cabbage - none goes into the basic cole slaw as it will tint everything greyish-pink - raisins or chopped apple for a touch of sweetness, or chopped sauerkraut or pickles for a little more zing,

8 to 12 servings
30 minutes prep time
at least 2 hours in the fridge

Deli Style Creamy Coleslaw

Make the Cole Slaw:
6 cups finely grated green cabbage
2 cups finely grated carrot
1 cup finely grated celeriac (optional)
1/4 cup finely minced onion
a little salt

Use a small, solid head of plain cabbage. Trim of any battered leaves, then, just pick it up and start grating it, using the finest side of your grater. You will likely use most if not all of your head of cabbage. Any bits of leaf that fall off, collect until you are done then mince them as fine as you can and add them to the rest of the cabbage. Put it in a mixing bowl, preferably one with a cover.

Peel and grate the carrots and celeriac and add them to the cabbage. Peel and mince the celeriac, if using. Add it to the cole slaw. Peel and mince the onion. Put it in a strainer with a sprinkle of salt and let it drain for a couple of hours before adding it to the cole slaw. 

Make the Dressing:
1/4 cup mayonnaise (light is fine)
1/4 cup thick yogurt
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon celery seed, ground
1/4 teaspoon salt

Whisk the mayonnaise, yogurt and apple cider together, then grind the celery seed and add it. Add the salt. Pour this over the vegetables and mix well. It should be quite thick and seem a bit stiff and skimpy in the cole slaw; the vegetables will exude liquid as they sit and thin it out. Keep the cole slaw in the fridge for at least 2 hours - mixing in the onions before serving - or up to a week. Stir well before serving.

Last year at this time I made the fabulous Bableves; Hungarian Bean Soup.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Pulled Duck Leg Sandwiches

Here is our second meal from our little roast duck of Monday. This one is more lunch oriented, rather than dinner, but one does eat lunch, after all.  Serve with salad or cole slaw, and pickles if you are so inclined, but the sauce is pretty distinct and we didn't think they would quite go. In retrospect, I think a couple of slices of fried onions would have been the ideal finishing touch.

2 servings
20 minutes prep time,
   always assuming you have already roasted your duck

Pulled Duck Leg Sandwiches

the meat from 2 roasted duck legs

1 medium shallot
1 large clove of garlic
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon duck fat
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon hot paprika
2 good sandwich buns

Pull the meat from your roasted duck legs and shred it. Recipes always say with forks, but I'm here to tell you that a cold roasted duck leg is a ... firm roasted duck leg. Start with your hands, and have a good little sharp knife standing by.

Peel and mince the garlic and the shallot. Peel and grate or mince the ginger.

Heat the duck fat in a heavy-bottomed but not too large pot, and cook the shallot and garlic in it until softened and slightly browned. Add the ginger, then add the shredded duck and all the rest of the ingredients, (except the buns, strangely enough).

Heat the duck in its sauce over medium heat, stirring regularly and keeping the lid on between times, until the duck is hot through and the sauce at least partially absorbed by the duck. Meanwhile, slice and toast your buns and put them on plates. Top them with the duck, lifting it out of the pan with a slotted spoon and discarding excess sauce. I mean, you can put the sauce on the sandwich if you want, but it will definitely make the bun quite soggy.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Chopped Duck Liver on Toast

Oh how I hate to throw out the giblets that come with poultry. Mr Ferdzy won't eat them though, so this was my own little treat. Really too much for one person, if you are also about to each chunks of the roasted duck, so I kept it and reheated it for breakfast. Very tasty, but I think it would have been better fresh out of the pan.

The third giblet found inside the duck was the gizzard. I find it too tough for this sort of treatment so it went into the duck stock to give its flavour there when the time came.

Chopped Duck Liver on Toast

2 servings
20 minutes prep time

1 tablespoon dried tomato bits
2 or 3 fresh shiitake mushrooms
2 teaspoons finely minced peeled shallot
1 duck liver
1 duck heart 1 tablespoon duck fat
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 to 8 green peppercorns, lightly crushed
1/8 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
 4 slices baguette

Chop the tomato bits finely, and put them in a small bowl with just enough boiling water to cover. Set them aside to soak for about 10 minutes.

Remove and discard the stems of the shiitake, and chop them fairly finely. Peel and mince the shallot. Chop the duck liver and heart; the liver fairly coarsely and the heart as fine as you can manage.

Retrieve the duck fat from the pan of the cooking duck, and place it in a very small skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, shallots, and tomato bits, drained if they are still sitting in any significant quantity of water. Add the seasoning. Cook, stirring well, for just a minute or two. When the mushrooms and shallot are soft, add the duck heart and continue cooking and stirring for a minute or so longer. Add the liver, and cook for just a minute, again stirring all the time. Remove the mixture to a dish to cool slightly. The liver should still be fairly pink, although seared all over. It will continue to cook a little as it cools.

Re-chop the mixture a bit to make it finer and more inclined to stick together, but it should have a fair bit of texture (for my taste, anyway). Serve on 4 little slices of baguette, toasted. And buttered, if you wish to be really decadent. Garnished with a little pickle if you like. It doesn't need to be super hot, but should still be warm when served. 

Monday, 1 February 2016

Beer-Can Roast Duck

It's duck week here at Seasonal Ontario Foods!

Just before the holidays I was able to purchase a mix of poultry from nearby Cirrus Hill Farm. I got a duck, 2 roasting chickens, 2 Guinea fowl, and a turkey. The turkey is gone, eaten at Christmas, but the rest should make an appearance as the winter progresses. Here's the duck. Not sure what kind exactly, but unless you have a muscovy duck, they should all cook similarly.

This one was fairly small, at about 3 1/2 pounds, but I expect to get three meals and an appetizer out of it for the two of us. Admittedly, one of those meals will be soup, but there will also be a generous amount of duck fat, very suitable for delectable frying; of potatoes in particular.  

The first meal is plain roasted duck; the breasts then carved off and served, and the rest set aside for later in the week. Since the skin is such an important component of a duck, I roasted on an upright roasting frame. The customary frame to use is, of course, an actual beer can, but I am dubious about the safety of the plastic films and dyes used in the labels. You can buy a roasting frame quite reasonably, and it will be well worth the money if you roast any amount or kind of fowl regularly. 

Here the bird has been dried, rubbed with salt, mounted on the frame, wing tips clipped off, and the wings tied to the bird with a bit of kitchen twine. The broth and reserved juices from the duck are about to be poured  into the pan, then it will be covered loosely in foil and into the oven it will go.

2 servings of roast breast meat
PLUS materials for other dishes
2 1/2 hours prep and cook time, plus overnight to dry off

a 1.5 to 2 kilo (3 1/2 to 4 1/2 pound) duck,
   including neck and giblets
1 cup unsalted chicken stock or water
1 teaspoon salt

If your duck is frozen, then it will need to go into the fridge, set on something to catch any leaks, and thaw slowly for 2 days.

The night before you wish to cook your duck, remove it from its packaging, draining it well as you lift it out. Carefully reserve any juices that were with it, though; mixing them with the chicken stock or water and the vinegar. Keep that covered in the fridge. Keep the neck and giblets wrapped and cold as well. Pat the duck dry with a paper towel, then leave it to air-dry on a plate overnight in the fridge.

Check that your duck and its pan will fit into the oven. You will likely need to remove at least one rack, and keep the remainder very low in the oven.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Rub the duck with the salt, then sit it on the roasting frame, making sure it is stable and will not tip. Clip off the tips of the wings at the first joint. Reserve them with the neck piece. Tie the wings to the duck with a piece of kitchen twine. Place the frame with the duck into a deep little roasting pan; it should hold at least a quart to a quart and a half (or litres, ditto); pour the broth and duck juices half into the dish of the roasting frame and half into the larger casserole.

Cover the duck loosely with aluminum foil. You will need to seam together 2 pieces in order to get it to cover the whole bird. This is not for the benefit of the bird, but to keep your oven from being covered with a fine mist of baked-on duck fat once this is all over. If the foil is loose the duck will crisp up nicely, so do be sure to keep it loose. A little hole in the top to vent steam is a good idea.

Roast the duck for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, according to the size of the duck. Remove the foil (but keep it), and increase the heat to 425°F. (If you wish to make and serve the Chopped Duck Liver before this meal, start it now.) Leave the duck to roast for 20 to 30 minutes more, until browned nicely to your liking.

Remove the duck from the oven, and cover it loosely with the foil again. Let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes before you carve it. I found the easiest way was to tip the contents of the dish of the roasting frame into the larger roasting pan while holding it with good sharp forks at stem and stern, then transporting it thus sideways to a carving plate. Be prepared that you will need to pull out the roasting rack by hand, padded with a clean (soon to be not-clean) rag. Carve off the breasts and serve them with whatever else you have planned; after dinner will be soon enough to start the prep for the next set of dishes.