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Duck cups February 21, 2012

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Duck.
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I think if he had a choice, my partner H would eat everything in canape form. Lots of little bite-sized morsels, all delicately arranged and beautifully presented. Of course this means a great number of canapes to make a full meal – as in this case.

I read a recipe for using wonton skins as cups to hold other ingredients (apologies, I did not note where I read the recipe) and used this idea as the basis for this dish. I wanted to use duck, and began by making a marinade with garlic, ginger, lemongrass, sesame oil, hoisin sauce and fish sauce.

I coated the duck breasts in the marinade, and then scored them quite deeply before searing them. I started with the skin side down, and basically cooked the duck in its own fat as it rendered out.

Once they were cooked, I let them rest while I prepared the rest of the meal. I put the rest of the marinade in the frying pan and heated it until the ginger and garlic were cooked. I deglazed the pan with some white wine, and used the liquid to steam some bok choi.

I then turned to the wonton dough. Like similar doughs, wonton dough is made of water, flour and egg. I mixed the dough together then rolled it out as thin as I could. I cut large circles from the dough, then folded them into a muffin tin.

I baked them for about 10 minutes, and after they had cooled a little, found them easy to pop out of the muffin tin and cool further on a rack. They were quite hard, and very crunchy. Perfect to hold other things!

Once they were cooled, I sliced the duck and bok choi. I also boiled down the remaining marinade until it was quite thick and could be spooned over as a sauce. In each wonton cup, I put a piece of bok choi, a couple of slices of duck, a spoonful of the sauce and some fresh coriander. Here’s a shot of the duck cup assembly line.

I assembled a big platter of these duck cups to act as our dinner and I was very happy with how they turned out. The duck was still a little pink inside and beautifully juicy. With the bite of wonton, bok choi and sauce, it was like roast duck, in reverse.

Of course, now the expectation is that all meals come in canape form. While I’m not planning to do this any time soon, this was a fun way to serve a nice dinner.

Duck roulade October 15, 2011

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Charcutepalooza, Duck.
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I was so excited by this challenge. Skin a duck then mince the meat and put it back into the skin to cook?! Brilliant. I started the same way as I did with the chicken – but following the instructions properly this time, so I ended up with a much larger piece of skin to work with.

I stuck the skin in the freezer while I worked on the rest of the dish. First I removed the duck breasts, and chopped one of them into strips. I seared them well over quite high heat.

When they were cooked, I put them in the fridge and cut up the rest of the duck meat, including the remaining duck breast, and minced all this with some pork fat, sage leaves, salt and pepper.

I cooked some chopped shallots in some sloe gin (no sherry, which is what the recipe called for) until they were quite soft, and put them in the refrigerator. When everything was cool, I added the onions and pieces of duck breast to the minced meat. I put this mixture back into the fridge while I scraped the fat off the skin.

Yes, you read that right. I took a sharp knife and began scraping the fat off the skin. I worked so slowly I ended up having to freeze the skin when I got about halfway through – the fat started melting, which made it a lot harder to scrape off.

I didn’t find this overwhelming or disgusting, but it did take a lot longer than I was expecting. Finally, I ended up with a mostly fat-free skin.

I trimmed the skin to make a more even shape, then added the minced duck mixture to the middle. I tied the whole lot up with some butcher’s twine and placed the duck on some precooked vegetables, and put the whole thing in the oven.

While the duck was cooking, I set to work turning the bones into stock and rendering the fat I’d scraped off the skin – I definitely used up as much of the duck as I could! After about 40 minutes, the duck was up to 60 degrees celcius.

I turned the oven up to brown the skin, and added some snow peas and beans to the vegetable mixture to cook. I turned the duck every 5 minutes, and after about 15 minutes the duck was nicely browned. I served it on top of the vegetables I’d cooked with the duck.

All the things I didn’t like about the chicken, I liked about the duck. The skin was flavoursome and moist, the minced duck was tasty, and the pieces of duck breast added texture and a nice seared flavour. The only thing I would change is maybe smoking the duck breasts before adding them to the roulade, to give even more flavour.

I love the idea of using the whole duck (almost) to make this meal. While I normally prefer duck meat in whole pieces, I really appreciated the combination of the skin, mince and pieces of meat in this dish.

Duck pie with blue cheese September 20, 2011

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Duck.
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Flush with the (mostly) successful Pate en Croute, I was keen to try another recipe using the same sort of pastry I’d used for the pate. I found the pastry light and flaky, and loved the taste with the addition of the goose fat. Having lots of goose fat remaining, I decided to make a pie filled with duck; then, because clearly that wasn’t heavy or indulgent enough already, I thought the addition of blue cheese was needed.

I started with some duck breasts I’d bought, and scored the skin before searing it well. I was hoping to get some of the seared flavour into the pie filling, and maybe a textural change in the skin as well.

I chopped up onion, carrot and garlic, and diced up the duck once the skin was seared. I cooked everything in some goose fat, and when it was softened, added red wine and a bit of water (although really, why did I bother adding water at this point?!) and let it all cook for a while.

I used the time the filling was cooking to cook the pie dough I’d previously made and left to rest in the fridge. I again used the Charcuterie pate dough recipe, substituting the butter for goose fat and adding a bit more flour to make it workable.

I blind baked the pie dough for about 15 minutes, and by this time, the pie filling was also done. I tipped the filling into the shell, and dotted the top with pieces of blue cheese.

I added a top of dough, decorated it with a few bat cutouts, and cooked it for another 10 minutes or so.

I served the pie with a simple salad with lots of vinegar in the dressing!

I was very happy with both the pastry and the consistency of the filling. The duck meat was still soft, the blue cheese was tangy and the pastry was flaky. Overall, it was delicious. However, it was also possibly the richest pie I’d ever eaten! Duck is a fairly rich meat anyway; this, coupled with the blue cheese and the goose fat, made that small slices were the way to go.

This pie is not something I imagine even Nero Wolfe wanting large portions of, but it was a lot of fun to make and meant we had fantastic leftovers for the next few days!

Duckling (poussin) in Flemish olive sauce July 27, 2011

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Chicken, Duck, Wolfe recipe.
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Once again, the Nero Wolfe recipes have surprised me. In this case, the balance of the dish was not what I was expecting. It was lighter and fresher than the impression I got from reading the recipe – which included large quantities of butter! While this recipe called for ducklings, I decided to use poussin (small chickens) instead, as I was only cooking for two.

I prepared the birds by brushing them both with lemon juice, and seasoning them with salt and pepper. I roasted them skin-side down, turning them over for the last 15 minutes to crisp up the skin. Meanwhile, I started on the sauce.

I melted butter in a saucepan until it was foaming, and added chopped parsley and shallots. I cooked them for a few minutes, until they were soft.

Once they were cooked, I added flour and stirred it until it thickened. Then I added 1 1/2 cups (!) of champagne – although I used a sparkling Australian rather than the proper French stuff. It frothed up in a most dramatic manner.

I continued to stir it and after about 5 minutes, it started to thicken. I took it off the heat, strained out the onions and shallots, and added some chopped olives. I was also meant to add some diced truffle – having none on hand, I minced a little raw garlic and threw a few tiny pieces in as a substitute.

I also cooked up some leeks and mushrooms in a bit of red wine vinegar (figuring we had enough butter in the sauce), and served the poussin on top of the leek/mushroom mix, and drizzled the sauce over everything.

This dish was a lot lighter than I was expecting! The sauce wasn’t at all heavy, even with the amount of butter, and the champagne taste came through strongly. I was concerned that the champagne would be lost in the mix, so I was glad that my 1 1/2 cups hadn’t gone to waste. The poussin itself was juicy and tasty, with the lemon juice permeating the meat.

When I read recipes, I get an idea in my head of how they will behave and taste. Based on reading this recipe, I was expecting something quite heavy and rich. While it was still very flavoursome, it was not overly rich or heavy and I found this very interesting. I do know by now to trust Nero Wolfe’s recipes, I was still pleasantly surprised by how this turned out.

Trip 2011 Part 1: Eating and drinking June 5, 2011

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Drinks, Duck, Innards, Pork.
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As you may know if you’ve read some of my previous entries, I’ve recently been travelling through parts of America and Europe, returning home about 3 weeks ago. Much of the holiday was taken up with eating and drinking, and many places we visited were because of recommendations on twitter, or from blogs that we read. And I must say, using the collective power of twitter results in some very fine eating! A few people have asked for photos and chronicles of our adventures, so I present to you some of the food we ate and drank…

A note about the photos: we didn’t take any cameras so had to rely on our phones for photos of food. This means that the photos are not great, but hopefully they at least communicate a sense of what we ate and drank.

In San Francisco, we met up with some friends (including a vegetarian – eek!) at Incanto (possibly the worst place to take a vegetarian), Chris Cosentino’s restaurant devoted to weird and unusual cuts of meat that others avoid, including offal (of course). The things we ate included…

Venison pate…

Foie gras, trotters and red & green strawberries (the green strawberries gave a wonderful tartness to the dish)…

Duck confit with giblet salad and green peas

Pork cheek, pork belly, slow roasted onions, and mash.

We also got the opportunity to visit the farmers’ market at the San Francisco Ferry Building, and as well as looking at all the fabulous produce, we sampled a wonderful, magnificent porchetta sandwich from the Roti Roti truck:

This was ridiculously good – porchetta with crispy skin, with rolls wiped with the juices from the porchetta, caremelised onions and rocket and extra pork skin! We got it with a side of potatoes cooked in the fat of the pork, with rosemary and salt.  It was a great balance of flavours and textures.

We were also lucky enough to meet up with Shirley from the Modern Mourner in the Haight-Ashbury area, where, after shopping for vintage clothes, we adjourned to the Alembic bar, where we had duck’s hearts and cocktails, including this one with gin, chartreuse, orange flower water and gold leaf on top:

Other highlights in San Francisco included lunch at Absinthe, cocktails at the Walnut Creek Yacht Club, and charcuterie at the Fatted Calf.

On to New York! Again, thanks to advice received on twitter, we ventured to The Breslin, where we started with this magnificent charcuterie plate:

This included chicken liver parfait, headcheese, duck pate, and of course lots and lots of pork! We had other fabulous food at The Breslin, including a cookie platter which was a meal all in itself.

We also went to Prune, where all my good resolutions about eating more vegetables went out the window when I saw the tongue salad on the menu…

It was wonderful – but I must admit I was a tad jealous of H, who had what he described as “the best hamburger ever”.

I also had the wonderful Ghost of Mary cocktail, made from their homemade Bloody Mary mix, which is distilled a number of times before vodka and olives (and other things too?) are added. It reminded me of drinking pickle juice (what? doesn’t everyone drink pickle juice?!) with other flavourings added.

Other highlights of New York included New York-style pizza at Vinny Vincenz (particularly welcome on a cold and rainy day) and an entire pork shoulder at a place near our hotel. We also visited Momofuku Ssam Bar, which I’d very much been looking forward to, but found that the hype didn’t quite live up to the food. We tried a number of the dishes there, and while they were very nice, I didn’t find the combination of ingredients or flavours particularly new or mind-blowing. In retrospect, I think I have been spoiled by the great food we can get in Melbourne (including Korean, which David Chang borrows from quite a lot), and therefore didn’t find Momofuku Ssam Bar as wonderful as I was expecting.

In London and Berlin, we rented apartments and for the majority of the time, did our own cooking. So there’s not many photos of meals from those places. Highlights in London were St John Restaurant, and the Fat Duck (which will get its own post). In Berlin, we again ate in most of the time, after buying food at the local market, except for sampling some of the Berlin street food (currywurst, donor kebab, etc). However, in Berlin we did manage to visit a number of cocktail bars, the highlight of which was Lebensstern, above the Einstein Cafe on Kurfürstenstrasse. We had wonderfully inventive and unique cocktails, and the surroundings were very pleasant too:

I was impressed that they had their own herb garden so they had fresh herbs for the cocktails. Other cocktail bar highlights included Victoria Bar (nice bar food here too), and Stagger Lee, where it looked like we were in a 19th century saloon.

After Berlin, we moved onto Singapore, where we did eat our way through four days before getting on a plane back to Melbourne; however, I must admit that the food-eating took over the photo-taking, and I don’t have any photos of our food in Singapore. Highlights included the crispy skin duck at the (aptly named) Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck Restaurant, and hawker food at the Maxwell Food Centre.

Thanks again to all who provided recommendations, directions and advice! We ate and drank very well thanks to all the recommendations we received, and since one of the aims of the holiday was to experience wonderful food and drink, we certainly succeeded in that aim.

Stay tuned for part 2, where I look at what we ate at the Fat Duck…