Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Amazing Five-Hour Duck

This was just ridiculously good.
From The 150 Best American Recipes: Indispensable Dishes from Legendary Chefs
and Undiscovered Cooks
by Fran McCullough and Molly Stevens
(Reprinted in Cook's Illustrated)

1 Pekin (Long Island) duck, wing tips cut off (not necessary, but more elegant)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 small handful of thyme sprigs

"Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and set a rack in the middle level.

Remove the giblets from the duck; save the giblets and wing tips for stock, if you like. Dry the duck well with paper towels. Remove any loose globs of yellow fat from the two cavities. Rub the large cavity with salt and pepper and the garlic and put the thyme in it. With a small sharp paring knife, make dozens of slits all over the duck, piercing the skin and fat but being careful not to pierce the flesh. The easiest way to do this is to insert the knife on the diagonal, not straight in.

Put the duck breast side up on a rack (a cake cooling rack is fine) set on a jelly-roll pan and put it in the oven. Every hour for 4 hours, take the pan out of the oven, pierce the duck all over with the knife, and turn it over. Each time, pour off the fat in the pan.

After 4 hours, increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees (see note). Sprinkle the duck with salt and pepper and cook for about 1 hour longer, or until the skin is crisp and browned. Let rest for 20 minutes before serving.

Mindy Heiferling suggests taking the duck in a couple of Asian directions. For a Chinese duck, put peeled, chopped fresh ginger, scallions, and garlic in the cavity and brush the duck during the last hour of cooking with a mixture of hoisin sauce, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, and a little honey. For a Thai duck, put chopped fresh lemongrass, fresh cilantro, and garlic in the cavity and brush during the last hour with a mix of Thai curry paste, unsweetened coconut milk, and lime juice."

Blackberry Vinaigrette

1/2 cup Ripe Blackberries, pureed and strained
Balsamic Vinegar
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Agave Syrup
Salt and Pepper
(to taste)

Field Salad

This was one exciting little salad, and so pretty to look at. I wish we had gotten a good pic. Next time.

Endive spears
Baby arugula
Half a bulb of fennel, sliced very thin
Handful of ripe blackberries
Crumbled goat cheese
Candied pecans
Chopped chives
Blackberry vinaigrette

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Microwave Mixed-Fruit Marmalade

If John were here, I could shout "Dude! I made marmalade in the microwave! Without any pectin!" and I he would really get just how exciting that is, and would also not mind at all that I still go around yelling "dude!" at my age. Everyone should have a friend like that, I say.

I improvised this recipe after first looking at a few microwave preserve variations online and then surveying the landscape of citrus fruit that was beginning to lose its shape in the fridge. All of the online recipes called for equal parts fruit to sugar, which sounded like too much; so I cut down on the sugar, but ended up cooking the mixture about twice as long as recommended just to get it to thicken. No matter; I couldn't be more pleased with the results.

1 red grapefruit
1 naval orange
1 lemon
1 1/2 cups sugar
Zest all of the fruit. Mince the zest finely and reserve. Cut the pith away from the fruit and cut the fruit into small chunks, removing any seeds. Pulse the chunks of fruit in a food processor until uniformly blended. Pour the fruit into a 4 cup pyrex measuring cup with a pour spout. Add the sugar and reserved zest, mix well, and cook on high in the microwave for 8 minutes. Continue to cook at 2 minute intervals until the marmalade is slightly thickened. Can according to your favorite canning method.
Makes 3 8-ounce jars

Monday, December 29, 2008

Helen Boltz's Spoonbread

The Kansas Heritage website boldly proclaims that "Helen Boltz's spoon bread is the best that Kansas Cooking has to offer" Well, we'll just see about that now, won't we...

1qt milk
1 cup corn meal
1 1/2 t salt
2 T butter
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Heat milk and gradually stir in corn meal mixed
with salt. Cook, stirring, until smooth and thick. Cover, cook until mushy.
Add butter.Meanwhile, in another bowl mix the eggs until well
blended. Then stir slowly into the mush.

Pour into a well greased 1 1/2 qt bowl and bake uncovered at 425 degrees
for 50 to 55 minutes. Serve immediately, with lots of butter.

If you are lucky it will serve 4 or 5. Generally one or two can demolish this dish.
Photo by Ian Smith

Friday, December 26, 2008

Slow-Cooked Turkey with Pecans and Cranberry Mostarda

Now...what to do with all that lovely mostarda...

Spice rub:
1/4 cup dried minced onion
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 envelope onion soup mix

1 (3 to 4 lb) skin-on boneless turkey breast, fully thawed
11 oz. cranberry mostarda
1 bag frozen pearl onions
1 cup pecan halves

Rub the spices all over the turkey breast. Brown the turkey breast, skin side down, in a heavy saute pan, 8 minutes. Place the turkey breast in the slow cooker, on top of the frozen onions. Mix the mostarda and pecan pieces together and spoon over the turkey. Cook for 6 to 8 hours on the low setting, occasionally spooning some of the mostarda mixture back over the turkey breast. Taste the sauce and adjust for seasoning before serving.

Serves 6 - 8

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Lemon Chess Pie with Blackberry Compote

This pie was a hit at xmas. My mother-in-law was completely blissed out while eating it, and that's really why we bake, after all, isn't it? I'd like to get the pie to slice a little more cleanly next time. (More cornmeal? Next time I'll try 3 tablespoons. More eggs? Dunno. We'll see)
The blackberry compote is essential to the dish, and such a welcome, unexpected flavor -- like a sudden burst of sun-drenched-August-well-being right smack in the dead of winter. The compote comes from a recipe in Gourmet magazine, but the chess pie recipe is all mine. Gourmet makes their lemon chess with buttermilk and six eggs and a coconut shortbread crust, and I'll certainly get around to trying all of those variations at some point -- but for now, I'm very happy with my lemon pie.

1 9 inch pie shell
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup half and half
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
Zest of 2 lemons, finely grated
Blackberry compote

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a mixing bowl, cream together sugar and butter. Beat in eggs, milk and vanilla. Add flour, cornmeal, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Mix until smooth. Pour mixture into prepared pie crust. Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until set in center. Cool completely and serve chilled or at room temperature, with blackberry compote.

Blackberry Compote:

1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 whole allspice
3 cups fresh or frozen blackberries (1 1/2 pints)


Bring water, sugar, juice, and allspice to a boil in a small saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil until reduced to about 1/4 cup. Cool syrup to lukewarm and discard allspice. Purée 2 cups blackberries with all of syrup in a blender. Force purée through a fine sieve into a bowl to remove seeds. Stir remaining cup berries into sauce.

(Photo by Romulo Yanes)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Mario's Cranberry Mostarda

I've become mildly obsessed with mostarda, since Bill brought a couple of jars of the stuff home from Milan. John and I conjured up this first batch together in the sinkless-and-still-under-construction kitchen tonight. So much fun.

2 cups water
2 cups granulated sugar
1 lb fresh cranberries
3 tbsp Colman’s dry mustard
1 tsp mustard oil
2 tbsp black mustard seeds
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, ground cayenne to taste

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar and 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add the cranberries and cook over high heat for 10 minutes, or until the cranberries begin to burst.

While the cranberries are cooking, place the mustard in a small bowl and add just enough water to form a thin paste.
In a saucepan, heat the mustard oil to smoking, add the mustard seeds, cover tightly until popped and fragrant. Allow to cool slightly. Add the mustard oil, seeds, salt and peppers to the Colman's mixture. Stir this mixture into the berries and cook over high heat until the mixture is thick and syrupy, 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. The mostarda can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week. It can also be canned.

Prep time: well under an hour.

Yield: 4 cups.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Joan Nathan's Hummus

1 cup dried chickpeas
1 cup tahina
1/2 cup lemon juice, or to taste
2 cloves garlic, or to taste
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, or to taste
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons pine nuts
Dash of paprika or sumac
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or cilantro

1. Put the raw chickpeas in a bowl with cold water to cover and soak overnight.
2. Drain and rinse the chickpeas, then place them in a heavy pot with enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer, partially covered, for about an hour or until the chickpeas are soft and the skin begins to separate. Add more water as needed.
3. Drain the chickpeas, reserving about 1-1/2cups of the cooking liquid. Set aside 1/4cup of the cooked chickpeas for garnish. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process the remaining chickpeas with the tahina, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, and at least 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking liquid. If the hummus is too thick, add more reserved cooking liquid or water until you have a paste-like consistency.
4. Heat a frying pan and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Spread the pine nuts in the pan and stir-fry, browning on all sides.
5. To serve, transfer the hummus to a large, flat plate, and with the back of a spoon make a slight depression in the center. Drizzle the remaining olive oil on top and sprinkle the reserved chickpeas, pine nuts, paprika or sumac, and parsley or cilantro over the surface.
6. Serve with cut-up raw vegetables and warm pita cut into wedges

YIELD: About four cups, or six-to-eight servings

Syrian Red Lentil Soup

This is one of Bill's faves. I think he likes the drama of the presentation (red sumac thumbprints, a dollop of Greek yogurt, chopped fresh cilantro against a bright yellow background) almost as much as the taste. Its delicious too.

2 cups red lentils
3 quarts of chicken stock
6 cloves of garlic
2 t ground coriander
1 t kosher salt
2 T vegetable oil
chopped cilantro, mint, lemon wedges, Greek yogurt, ground cumin and crushed red pepper for garnish

Simmer lentils in chicken stock for 40 minutes, until soft.
In a mortar, pound the garlic, coriander, oil and salt to a paste. Add to soup and simmer for another 20 minutes.
Garnish with cilantro, mint, cumin, sumac and crushed red pepper, as desired.
Serve with lemon wedges, a dollop of yogurt and warm bread.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Potaje de Garbanzos (Cuban Chickpea Stew) Slow Cooker Version

1 lb. dried garbanzo beans, soaked overnight, water discarded, rinsed and picked through.
2 quarts chicken broth
2 chicken boullion cubes, or, preferably, a packet of sazon with achiote
2 links of chorizo, sliced ¾" thick
1 1/2 cups sofrito
2 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced in ½" rounds
3 cloves garlic, peeled, mashed and finely minced
½ cup tomato paste
2 teaspoons paprika
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 bay leaves
1/2 lb flank steak, cut into large chunks
1 small ham hock or part of a smoked turkey drumstick
handful of chopped cilantro
Ground black pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a 4 quart slow cooker, adding additional water as needed, to cover all ingredients. Cook on low for 6 - 8 hours. Adjust seasoning. Remove bay leaves and ham hock or turkey drum. Serve with crusty bread for dunking.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Syrian Tomato-Rice Soup with Kibbeh

I took a great many liberties with a recipe for tomato rice soup in the Jewish/Syrian cookbook Aromas of Aleppo, and then adapted the results to the slow cooker. Completely fabulous and incredibly easy.

Tomato Paste
1/2 cup white rice
2 1/2 quarts beef or chicken broth
2 cloves of garlic, mashed to a paste

1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 t allspice
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t cayenne
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t garlic powder
salt and pepper, to taste
1 t olive oil
2 t raw white rice
handful of chopped fresh cilantro, plus additional for garnish

Combine tomato paste and broth in the ceramic insert of a 4 quart slow cooker. Add the rice and garlic, and set the cooker on low.

In a mixing bowl, combine the beef, spices, rice and chopped cilantro, mixing well, until all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Form into 15 meatballs (kibbeh) and drop them gently into the broth in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours, turning the heat up to high during the last 30 minutes of cooking time. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with warm bread. Serves 6

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Nancy Silverton's Hot Fudge Sauce

7 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tablespoon instant coffee granules
3 tablespoons Cognac or brandy

1. Melt chocolate pieces in large stainless steel mixing bowl (or top of double boiler) over saucepan of gently simmering water. Be sure water does not touch bottom of mixing bowl to prevent chocolate from burning. Turn off heat and keep warm over warm water until ready to use.

2. Bring sugar, corn syrup, water, cocoa powder and instant coffee to boil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly to dissolve cocoa powder and sugar and to prevent burning on bottom of pan.

3. Whisk in melted chocolate. Boil hot fudge for few minutes to reduce to consistency you desire. It should be quite viscous and surface should have glossy shine. Cool slightly and beat in Cognac or brandy.

Slow Cooker Poulet Yassa

The kitchen still isn't finished, but I'm happily cooking away in my electric slow cooker, in the meantime. Poulet Yassa is one of our Senegalese favorites, and we were both pretty thrilled with this slow cooker variation. Spicy, lemony and rich.

3 1/2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs
Juice of 3 lemons
Salt or Maggi seasoning, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste
4 cloves of garlic, minced
5 yellow onions, sliced into thick half moons
2 T Dijon mustard
knob of butter

Combine all ingredients (except the butter) in the slow cooker ceramic insert. Marinate for at least 12 - 18 hours, turning the chicken pieces a few times if possible.
Brown the chicken in a saute pan, skin side down, for 5 to 7 minutes.
Place the onion mixture in the bottom of a 4 quart slow cooker, and stack the chicken pieces on top. Cook on low for 5 - 6 hours. Remove chicken and keep warm on a serving plate. Transfer the onions and accumulated juices to a large saucepan and reduce over high heat until all the liquid has evaporated, about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Off the heat, swirl the butter into the onion mixture. Serve chicken over rice or couscous, topped with the onion mixture. Serves 4

Friday, December 5, 2008

Slow Cooker Boeuf Bourguignon

Adapted from Rick Rodgers

1 lb baby carrots
1 lb pearl onions
4 ounces of slab bacon, cut into 2 inch strips
2 lbs beef bottom round, cut into chunks
1 Tbs vegetable oil
10 oz mushrooms, quartered
4 shallots, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup beef broth
2 Tbs tomato paste
2 Tbs chopped parsley
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs flour
salt and pepper, to taste
Place the carrots and the onions in the slow cooker.

In a large skillet, brown the bacon. Remove and ad to slow cooker. Brown the beef in the skillet full of bacon drippings. Brown the beef on all sides. Transfer the beef to the slow cooker and season with pepper.

Into the skillet, add the mushrooms and shallots. Cook, stirring often until the mushrooms gave given off their liquid and are beginning to brown. Add the garlic and cook for a minute. Transfer all to the slow cooker.

Add the red wine, broth, tomato paste and spices to the skillet. Cook over medium heat for one minute, scrapping up any browned bits. Pour over ingredients in the slow cooker.

Cover the cooker. Set heat to low and cook for 8 hours. With a slotted spoon, discard the bay leaf. Transfer the meat and vegetables to serving platter and cover to keep warm. In a saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat and add the flour. Cook for one minute, do not let brown. Slowly whisk in the liquid from the crock pot. Cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Pour sauce over the meat and vegetables. Serve immediately.

Serves 6


My first solo apartment was up in Rhinebeck, NY, where I floundered through nine strange and lonely months after dropping out of college, halfway through my junior year. I was up there working with emotionally disturbed adolescent girls at The Astor Home for Children, and trying to live through a string of phenomenally bad choices. The kids (all too damaged to find homes in foster care) left an unhealable wound in my heart; and I still think of them, often. It was soul-crushing work, really, and I found myself in need of comfort almost all the time. (Which is how I came to fall back into old bad habits, drinking and smoking much too much for a while, but that's another story.)

I found refuge at the Copper Kettle II - a diner where I ate lunch or breakfast almost every day before my shift, and where the ancient waitresses looked after me and kept the tuna melts and lemon pie coming all through that long, snowy winter and cold, rainy spring. (By the time summer came I was starting to search for an exit, and fall found me back on the UWS.)

Toad-in-the-Hole, a Copper Kettle breakfast special, is pure Americana. To me it seemed almost exotic, I guess - the epitome of the non-Jewish, working class Hudson Valley where everything was different from the world I had known growing up. I made Toad-in-the-Hole for Bill this morning, tucking a little chopped ham under the egg and grating some fresh parmesan over the top. Still a marvelous, welcome comfort after all these years.