Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fusion Duck for any Holiday

Duck is a great holiday choice. It is very rich so large portions are not needed, with a bevy of sides one duck can feed 4. I am talking duck here, Long Island fatty duck, if you get a smaller duckling it will feed two to three.

This prep has become my favorite, it is a combination of  Asian and Italian style that imbues the duck with savory herbal flavors.

Purchase the duck two days before you plan to roast it. When you get it home remove the giblets (eat the lovely liver) and rub all over, inside and out with an Italian herb mix, dried herbs are perfect for this (and always in season.) Place duck in a plastic bag and add one cup good balsamic* vinegar and one cup dark soy sauce, along with a cup of star anise. Squeeze the air out and seal the bag and put in a pan or bowl. Refrigerate for 24 hours.

Remove duck from bag and place on rack and leave uncovered in the refrigerator for the skin to dry.

When ready to roast lightly salt the skin and cavity, hit with a grind of black pepper and place on a rack with a roasting pan containing some water underneath. Prick the skin all over and place in a 425 oven for 30 minutes. Lower oven to 250, but do NOT open the door. Roast for 3 hours. Check the skin, if further crisping is required up the oven temp until you get the brown you want.

Make sure you let it rest for about 20 minutes before carving.

The low temp allows much of the fat to melt and you will get a succulent tasty meat.

Though the flavors are Italian and Asian this duck is particularly good served with saurkraut.

MMMMMM duck.

*Much of what is sold as Balsamic is fake. Trader Joes' does not have one real balsamic. They take red wine vinegar and add color and flavor. The fake stuff may be passable in a salad but not in a dish like this. Look for REAL balsamic, if caramel color is added it is a fake.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Jeannie's accidental chocolates

My Aunt Jean just died. I don't know that chocolates are the best tribute, but she loved chocolate and recipes are what I do.

When I was a young child Jean was a mythological figure. She lived in Paris with her husband and sons, she spoke french and the only photos of her I had seen showed a very fashionable woman. Geographically none of my family were close and we did not see each other often. I will never forget those rare occasions we saw one another.

I have a memory of her and in it I see very detail. I can tell you what she was wearing, how unsuitable her shoes were for the long walk we took, how her hair looked; and how enchanted I was coming face to face with my Aunt Jean.

She knew how enthralled I was and suggested we go for a walk. I poured out my young heart to her. My mother was married to a very abusive man whom I hated and Jeannie learned all of the unhappiness of my young life.

What I learned from Jeannie...I learned that none of this had anything to do with me. I was reminded how much my Mother loved me and was doing the best she could under the circumstances. I learned a bit of the adult world and how hard it was and how choices had to be made. She asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up...At the time it was a combination Astronaut and Veterinarian. She told me that I could be all that and more, that childhood was short, but life was long; and only a fraction of it would be spent being a child. She told me to stop hating, that if I could not love someone it was best to let them go, because they never got hurt by my hatred, but it would make me feel bad. As a result of out day together; I learned to respect my mother, honor that it was her life and as wrong as I thought she was, she always did the best she possibly could by her children. As a kid you are defined by family and those relationships, but I began to see who I was separate; and imagine myself grown up and happy in the larger world.

When we returned my mother noticed I was happier and for years we referred to Jean and our walk. Most of our relationship after that was via long handwritten letters and phone calls. In my entire life I only saw her two more times.

Jean loved chocolate, we had that in common and I melted a big pan of dark in anticipation of making some form of candy. When you are distracted and sad, melt chocolate, it's very comforting.

I rooted around in the refrigerator looking for something to inspire me and I found some prunes that I had put to soak in Cassis about a week ago. I could not remember for what I had originally intended them so I pulled their plump bodies out of the Cassis dried them on a rack and stuffed them with roasted almonds. One by one I dipped those succulent plums into the chocolate.

They were incredible and the best I can do.

Jeannie's Accidental Chocolates

24 Prunes soaked in 2 cups of Cassis (French Cassis of course)
24 Roasted Almonds
1/2 pound of Dark Chocolate melted

Soak prunes in Cassis for a week or so, remove and dry on a baking rack in the refrigerator. Stuff each prune with an almond (or a cashew for that matter) and one by one dip in the chocolate. Refrigerate on a parchment lined baking sheet until fully chilled. Eat or store to serve later.

While eating call up someone you love and tell them so.