Thursday, March 28, 2013

Eating Omily: Spring is Coming--Duck!

We're almost home-free, everyone! Kale and tender salad greens are popping up in the Farmer's Markets, and rhubarb will be along soon.  Tender, angelic strawberries (if you think I exaggerate you never waited ten months for the first local strawberries of the year...and you should try it) will pop up for exorbitant prices sometime in May, and the asparagus will be popping up like phalluses with a Spring fetish as early as next month. The growing season tends to be behind the callendar season, since things can't be planted till the soil warms up sufficiently, but you'll be more excited about that come October when delicious summer veggies are still rolling in.

I've had an easy meal-planning week since it's Holy Week: pan-seared duck breast with a red wine-cherry preserves pan sauce, duck fat-fried potatoes, and baked kale, potato-leek soup on Tuesday, slow-cooker beans on Wednesday, pizza tonight, and we'll go out for fish and chips tomorrow night.  What's that?  You want to hear more about the duck?  Oh, well, alright.
 Mmmmm...the skin side of the duck breast is super-fatty.  The fat helps the duck to float, and it insulates him or her against cold waters so he or she stays warm.  You score the fat, by cutting into it first one way, then the other, to make a diamond pattern, the way people do on hams, then you put the duck in a cold, dry pan skin-side down, and turn the heat up to medium.   After maybe fifteen minutes you'll have a lot of duck fat in your pan, and a beautiful caramelized diamond pattern on the skin side.  Don't throw out that fat!  It's amazing for frying potatoes.  They won't stick! Drain and reserve most of the fat, then turn the duck and cook for another five minutes, or more depending on thickness.  Duck isn't like chicken.  You'll want to serve it medium rare, leaning toward rare for optimum taste and texture, so expect it to still be fairly red in the middle.
 I added the fat back to the hot pan and fried potatoes right in it, then scooped them out, and cooked a few sliced cloves of garlic before deglazing the pan  with red wine.  I stirred in a few spoonfuls of home-made cherry preserves, added salt and lots of cracked black pepper, and let the wine and preserves cook down to a glaze before adding some turkey stock. I let the stock reduce too to make a sauce.
The yellow on the kale is frost damage from the snow we've been getting the last few weeks.  It does knock out some nutrients, but not much, and they tend to knock the price down since people shy away from yellow kale.  Old kale will look yellow, too, but it will yellow evenly, slowly turning pale green, then yellow uniformly, instead of the edges going first like this.

If you're fairly comfortable cooking meat in a pan on your stove, then give duck a try! If a chicken breast makes you nervous, hone your skills on less expensive types of meat before you go for duck.   This duck breast, which was enough for the husband and I to share, was $11 and change at the Farmer's Market, which is of course where you should be getting your meat...but I'll allow Whole Foods meat with a yellow or above rating in a pinch. What does duck taste like?  Like delicious, delicious meat. It's hard to explain.  The flavor is mild, though not as mild as chicken, but the texture is decidedly that of steak.  It's awesome.

If Christianity is your thing, I hope you have a beautiful, meaningful Holy Thursday and Good Friday, and a deeply joyful Easter.


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