As I wandered around this morning looking at the blogs I like to read (I keep meaning to ask if I can link to some of them) I noticed a lot of cooking posts. Seriously, about five! I documented my cooking adventure Sunday (well, Christopher Robin documented a lot of it) and I’m embarrassed at how many things there are in my freezer. Bags and bags and bags of frozen soups and stews and casseroles, divided into neat serving sizes. I’m either preparing to write 17 hours a day or expecting blizzards any second. Maybe both.
People do tend to nest and cook at this time, me included. But my Sunday cooking adventure is really about the MIP. Food is a huge part of this book and I’m trying out recipes like crazy. Some of them are taking me way beyond my skill levels, let me tell you! Sunday’s adventure was a southwestern version of duck l’orange : Chili-cumin-dusted, pan-roasted duck breast with orange cider chipotle glaze, marinated grilled tomatillos and roasted-chili-spiked green apple chutney, a recipe published in The Dish, from the Colorado Springs Independent . The recipe had so many steps I couldn’t wait to try it, and I’ve been wanting to cook duck because CR, being English, loves it insanely. I have eaten it at times, but tend to be a little squeamish.
The protagonist, however, would not be. She’d know how to handle duck or mussels (which defeated me entirely once upon a time) or elk or beef bones. So I have to at least get a feeling for it. What does duck even look like raw? While cooking? How does it smell? I had no idea.
CR was more than happy to let me experiment on him (and went around all day more like Winnie the Pooh, humming "we’re having duck for dinner, duck for dinner, duck for dinner" instead of "honey, honey, honey.") so we collected all the ingredients on Saturday afternoon. We found duck breasts at Whole Foods, of course. Big and luscious and plump, if you’re wondering. Dark meat with thick white skin over them, nearly a pound per breast (and quite dear at more than $16 per pound.)
Safeway had everything else—and I loved buying the tomatillos ("husked and rinsed in warm water"), green apples and red onion, and apple cider (reduction) as much as the duck. Sunday morning, I started with the chutney, so the flavors could stew, letting the sweet/hot scent perfume the house.
What I learned: I loved the chutney. Sharp and smoky and hot and cidery, I could eat it by the spoonful. The marinated, grilled tomatillos were spectacular, though CR did not care for "those little green tom-ah-to things."
The duck is a dark, hefty, game meat. Rich and very fatty. It took much longer to cook than we expected, and I felt worried about overcooking it, ruining it, somehow making it the wrong experience. CR said, "it’s for play, remember?" and I relaxed and put the breasts back in the oven and let the glaze reduce while I opened the wine, an inexpensive Beaujolais, and ladled roasted red chile peper jam into a tiny bowl to go with the cornbread (which was my addition to the menu). Finally, it was all ready and CR took a picture of the table. (Those are my sari curtains in the background. :))
And you know, it was amazing. The musky, deep flavor of the meat, the sharp sweetness of the chutney balanced by bland, buttered cornbread and the light red wine. The roasted red pepper jam was not only great on the bread, but really, really great on the duck.
I can’t say I’d order duck on a menu any time soon (though I think I’d like to try this dish at The Margarita Restaurant), but CR tucked away a lot of bird and he’s not always a big eater, so I had a big rush of Me Woman, Feed Man that will probably lead to more experiments. Maybe something traditional like roast duck with cherries.
After dinner, I went upstairs and wrote five pages, so I suspect my heroine liked it, too.
PS: We made duck pizza with the leftovers: boboli crust, duck stewed in duck sauce from a jar, hosin sauce as the base, green onions and very light scatters of goat cheese. VERY good.
Have you ever experimented with a dish that was a little beyond you? Or try and flop?