Nothing defines a feast like pure outright indulgence. eating the foods you like, cooked the way you like them and damned be the consequences… these were my first thoughts when i was organizing this weeks meal. i wanted to make something that would satiate me completely and utterly. i’m not sure about the rest of you but the one thing that i just can’t get enough of is duck. i don’t have it often but when i do i am always struck with how damned tasty it is. it’s the closest to steak that my wife will eat so i have used it on a few occasions to simulate that flavor and texture in dishes made for her. but i digress, here is the lineup and the fallout of this weeks meal.
Three courses this week, a protein, a starch and a veg, a formula you will probably see repeated many times over the next 10 months, it just works for me in terms of balance in a meal. I decided this week to roast a whole duck, crispy skin and all. on the side, i made a bechamel based potato casserole and experimented with a vegetable i had never had before, bok choy. results, if i don’t say so myself, were pretty darned astounding.
this is definitely the dish that takes the longest out of today’s offerings. the duck itself needs to roast for an hour and a half plus around 15 minutes resting time before service. the sauce served atop it took almost as long to make, mostly because of the homemade stock used as a base. the rich flavors made it well worth the while so don’t let a few hours work deter you.
take the whole duck and clip off the wings. put these and the neck/gizzard in a stock pot with one chopped carrot, one chopped celery stalk, one chopped onion, 6 cloves of crushed garlic and 4 1/2 cups water. bring this to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. simmer for about an hour. strain the stock into a smaller sauce pan and cook at medium heat until its reduced by half. set aside.
next, melt 3 tbsp butter in a sauce pan and toast another 6 cloves of sliced garlic until soft. you don’t want these crunchy so be careful not to overcook them. add to this 1 cup of nice red wine. i used a 2003 Chateau de Malleret Haut Medoc but a nice cabernet or similar will do the trick as well. i was looking at what to do with the rest of the bottle after the one cup for the sauce and a nearby wineglass answered that question in short order. tasty! anyway, bring the wine to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. add in the reserved stock and 2 tbsp or so of flour, cook to reduce to a nice thick gravy texture, however thick you like it. salt and pepper to taste and wait for the rest of the meal to be ready.
the duck itself was very simple yet a bit time consuming. i really could have used a roasting tray but in the absence of one, i made do with a baking dish. the duck would have been a bit crispier if elevated out of the drippings but neither i nor eddie complained one single bit. first, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. then, using a fork, pierce the skin of the duck in a few places along the breasts. brush with soy sauce. sprinkle the exterior and interior with salt, pepper and dried thyme. next, in a small bowl, mix together 4 crushed cloves of garlic and 3 tbsp of dijon mustard. spread this mixture over the duck evenly. roast the duck, breast side up for 45 minutes, turn and roast for 30 minutes then turn one final time and roast for 15 more minutes. after the second turn i backed the heat down to 350 but your individual stove may vary. keep an eye on it and don’t kill your duck.
slice 4 red potatoes into thick slices. boil these in enough salted water to cover until they are just getting tender. drain and arrange the potatoes in a buttered baking dish, two layers thick. meanwhile, make a bechamel sauce by melting 4 tbsp butter then adding 4 tsp flour and cooking until the flour and butter become a paste and starts to brown in the pan. add to this 2 1/2 cups of milk and whisk over medium heat to smooth out. cook until you are happy with the thickness and then salt and pepper the sauce. i then grated in about 4 ounces of asiago cheese. pour the sauce evenly over the potatoes. chop up three or four slices of proscuitto and sprinkle over top of the potatoes. sprinkle over about 1/2 a cup of panko breadcrumbs, generously salt and pepper and stick it in the oven around the first time you turn the duck over. this should give the potatoes plenty of time to brown up and the sauce to smooth out over the potatoes.
the bok choy:
i saw this in the store and decided i absolutely had to make it into something. trouble is, i had never even been served bok choy much less made it into something myself. so, i turned to the ever helpful internet, more specifically epicurious.com and their fabulous recipe section. it was also a blend of a recipe on this site and a chapter from nigella lawson’s book “how to eat” that directed my duck recipe as well. credit where credit is due after all.
the bok choy was a simple stir fry, starting with some canola oil in a large pan (the wok takes up too much room on my tiny stove). first, mix 1/3 cup of chicken broth, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 1/2 tsp of cornstarch and 1/2 a tsp of salt. then, heat the oil over medium high heat until a drop of water sizzle on contact. i usually drop some water in with the oil, a few drops off the fingertips and then start the heat. when the pan starts screaming at you, its ready for cooking. to the hot oil, add todays ingredient of the day, around 8 cloves of sliced garlic. again, don’t overcook these, you want them soft and golden, not crispy and brown. add to the garlic three heads of baby bok choy, trimmed and quartered lengthwise. cook this until the leaves begin to wilt and the bottoms start to soften. re-stir the cornstarch mixture and pour over the bok choy. cover and cook for another few minutes then serve, finishing it off with a little sesame oil for flavor.
the reaction: well, what can i say, everything did turn out really nice today. i was quite pleased. the duck was very moist and flavorful without being greasy and overly rich. the potatoes gave a nice creamy counterpoint to this and the bok choy was flavorful with just enough crunch left in the stems to not be soggy. this meal is best enjoyed while finishing a bottle of red wine and watching a zombie movie (28 weeks later in this case), just to let you know. individual mileage may vary but it added up to a nice evening in my book. hope you enjoyed the description and pictures and hope you will join me again next week.
6 down, 42 to go.