Archive for January, 2013

Duck, You Sucker

30 January 13

Fesenjan

Persian (Iranian) Duck with Walnuts

1 duck, quartered
2 onions, sliced
10 oz ground walnuts
2-1/2 cups water
salt
pepper
4 Tbs pomegranate syrup
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs lemon juice

Remove all the excess fat from the duck and brown the quarters lightly in a large casserole. Lift out the duck and fry the onions until browned, then add the walnuts and 2 1/2 cups of water. Season with salt and pepper. Return the duck to the pan, and bring the sauce to the boil. Simmer for about an hour until the duck is almost tender. Stir the pomegranate syrup and sugar into the lemon juice. Skim as much fat as possible from the casserole and then stir in the juice mixture. Simmer for another 30 minutes until the sauce is quite dark. If the sauce is too thick, add a little more water.

Serve with rice.

Duck à l’Orange

1   5-6-pound   duckling
  salt and pepper, to taste
8   oz   chicken stock
1   Tbs   sugar
1   Tbs   champagne wine vinegar
2   Tbs   brandy
12   oz   orange juice
3   Tbs   lemon juice (1 lemon)
1   tsp   butter
4   oranges, peeled and sectioned
4   Tbs   orange zest, julienne
Canard à l'orange

Canard à l’orange (Photo credit: franziskas garten)

Prick the duck with a fork and rub well with salt and pepper.

Roast the duck at 400°F for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350°F and cook until done, approximately 45-60 minutes. Remove the duck from the roasting pan and hold in a warm place.

Degrease the roasting pan. Place the pan on the stove top and deglaze with the stock.

Melt the sugar and vinegar together in a saucepan and lightly caramelize the mixture.

Remove the caramelized sugar from the stove top and add the brandy.

Add the stock, pan drippings and juices to the pan of sugar and reduce until the sauce is slightly thickened, approximately 10 minutes. Monter au beurre. Strain and degrease the sauce.

Blanch the orange zest in boiling water.

Place the duck on a warm serving platter. Arrange the orange sections around it. Sprinkle the zest over the duck. Pour the sauce over the duck and serve additional sauce on the side.

Duck Breast with Red Rice, Chard and Apricot Mustard

 8   duck breasts, skin on
  salt and pepper, to taste
  3   oz   chard leaves, torn
  4   oz   butter
  1   pint   chicken stock
  2   quarts
  Red Rice, recipe follows, cooked
  3   Tbs   parsley, chopped
  1   cup   Apricot Mustard, recipe follows
  1   oz   sliced almonds, toasted
duck

duck (Photo credit: stu_spivack)

Score the skin of the duck breasts in a crosshatch pattern with a sharp knife. Season with salt and pepper and place the breasts skin side down in a rondeau. Without turning the breasts, cook them over low heat, rendering the fat from their skin, until the skin is golden brown and crisp, approximately 15 minutes. Turn the duck breasts in the pan and turn off the heat. Allow them to rest in the pan for 30 seconds. Then remove the breasts from the pan and allow them to rest in a warm place for 10 minutes.

Sauté the chard in 2 ounces (60 grams) of the butter until it wilts. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring the chicken stock to a boil. Add the cooked Red Rice and season with salt and pepper. Vigorously beat in the remaining butter and parsley and heat over moderate heat until the rice is hot, approximately 1 minute.

Slice the duck breasts and arrange on eight warm plates. Garnish with the wilted chard, brush the breasts with the

Sprinkle with almonds and serve with Red Rice on the side.

Red Rice

  1/2
  Tbs   butter
  2   Tbs   shallots, minced
  1/2   lb   red rice
  1   quart
  chicken stock
  1   bay leaves
  1   tsp   salt

In a heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter and sweat the shallots, without coloring for approximately 10 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat.

Add the chicken stock, bay leaves and salt and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the liquid is absorbed,  approximately 20 minutes.

Spread the cooked rice on a sheet pan, remove the bay leaves and refrigerate.

Brioche

30 January 13
Brioche

Brioche (Photo credit: joana hard)

Brioche is supposed to be a difficult and intimidating bread. Well, I don’t see that unless you decide to do things the hard way. Like any other bread, brioche can be made pretty much by the numbers if you do things correctly.

This is the size for two small bread pans or one Pain de Mie pan.

520   g   bread flour
160
  g   high gluten flour
63   g   cold water
6   cold eggs
17
  g   salt
82   g   sugar
1   pkg   yeast
3   sticks
  cold butter
1   egg, beaten with a dollop of water

This stuff is not really bread. It is not really pastry either. It is a bridge between the two, and shares characteristics of both. It is rather magical the way it does. Those who are totally nuts might think about doing this by hand. Those who are sane will use a good mixer.

First rule – everything must be cold. This is not optional. You must refrigerate all ingredients overnight. This includes the flour, water, salt, sugar, and yeast. Also refrigerate the mixing bowl and dough hook. Only take things out as you need them. Work quickly and all will be well.

Mix everything except the butter on first speed until everything is incorporated, usually about 3 to 5 minutes. Mix on second speed 5 to 7 minutes until the dough is strong and tough.

Meanwhile beat the cold butter with a stick between sheets of plastic wrap until pliable (but still cold). Use a French style rolling pin (just a tapered stick), not an American, which has ball bearings. If you don’t have a good French rolling pin then use a cut off broomstick or something similar.

With the mixer still running toss in chunks of the butter. You can toss them in one after the other; you don’t have to wait for the preceding to incorporate. Another 8 minutes and the dough should be smooth, silky, slick, and deliciously buttery.

Turn it out into a lightly floured bowl and wrap with plastic wrap so that NO air gets to it. I do a wrap around the dough and then a layer across the top of the bowl secured by a large rubber band. Works well.

Rise for 1 hour. This is not going to double in size. Don’t panic, just fold it and keep on going. Rise for 2 hours, fold. Rise for 3 to 4 hours, fold and place in the refrigerator overnight. You will note that there were 3 rises, and between 6 and 7 hours rise before you put it in the refrigerator. The reason that the last one is 3 to 4 is that I won’t stay up an extra hour.

The next morning set it back on the counter and let it warm just enough so you can handle it. Fold, divide, shape it whatever you like and let it rise some more. You want about 50% of your form filled. Rise until 85% or a little more of the form is filled. Do an egg wash for anything but a Pain de Mie pan.

Bake at 375°F to 380°F. Time is dependent on the form. For a small bread loaf (this recipe makes two), you are looking at around 40 to 45 minutes. Set the pan on top of an airfoil cookie sheet in about the middle of the oven. If you don’t have an airfoil pan you can double stack just about any type of jelly pans. What you are doing is keeping the bottom from burning. Take a look at things somewhere around 20 minutes and if it is starting to get too brown tent with a bit of aluminum foil.

You really want to use a good digital insertion thermometer. That is really the best way to tell when it is done. 205°F is the target. It is not a good thump test type bread. When it is done properly it will be golden brown and smell wonderfully rich.

Last caution: Be very careful to not under bake this bread.

Spaghetti

13 January 13

I’m going to tell you that the greatest hoax in town is packaged spaghetti. The real stuff is so easy to make and so much more delicious that you will never want the packaged stuff again. Italian mamas knock this stuff out without blinking an eye. The big secret is that anyone can do it.

Here are the complex and arcane ingredients:

100 g
flour per person (4/5 Cup)
1 large egg per person

That’s all folks!

Some discussion about the flour. You can use all-purpose or Semolina (made from Durham wheat), or a mixture of the two. I like 50 g of each per person.

2013-01-12-AddSemolina

Adding Semolina flour to AP flour. Note processor container on scale, which has been tared.

Mixing is no big deal: the traditional is to make a bit of a mound of the flour on your counter, put a well in the middle, put the eggs in the well, and scramble with a fork. As you stir in more and more of the flour it will get to the point that it is too stiff for the fork and you should switch to your hands, kneading until all the flour is mixing in and the dough is smooth. An easier way for the lazy or old or puny (I’m getting to be all three): put the flour into a food processor and pulse a couple of times. This mixes and sifts the flour the easy way.

Add eggs - in this case, 2 - to the flours. Pulse to mix.

Add eggs – in this case, 2 – to the flours. Pulse to mix.

Add in the eggs and pulse around five or six times or until all is mixed together. You will have a crumbly sort of mixture which you dump onto the counter and knead a few times until the dough is formed.

There is argument here. Some favor making a ball, wrapping it in plastic wrap and refrigerating for a half hour. I don’t bother, I just get on to the rolling stage.

Knead until the dough holds together

Knead until the dough holds together

Rolling it out: You can use your favorite rolling pin or whatever technology you like to get a nice thin, pliable, dry dough. It will take you a bit of work to get the dough down to the 1/16” that you need. A test: with the dough rolled out near the edge of the counter put your mouth at the edge and blow air between the dough and the counter surface. If it flutters you have achieved thinness. Almost all Italian mamas seem to say that they do it this way. However, they sell a ton of pasta machines in Italy. As one commentator noted: The mamas say that they do it by hand, then hurry home to their machines. Look here – pasta machines go from $30 to thousands on Amazon. Then there are the powered machines. I got the $30 jobbie and it works just fine. The only caution is that your countertop must have enough of a lip to clamp the machine firmly. The Kitchenaid goes somewhere around $160 and, although I love Kitchenaid, I didn’t want to spend that much. A word of caution: do look on YouTube for various people using the rolling machines. Be aware that it takes a bit of practice before it is as easy as they make it look. You will probably cuss right salty the first time you try to use one.

[Herself Sez: more photos and a movie coming later.]

After you get the dough thin enough you can cut it up into strips. First off, whack the dough into reasonable lengths, a foot or so will do. If you are doing the hand thing or don’t have a cutter of the width you want, no big deal. Just roll up the dough or fold it loosely and cut strips with your knife. If you have a machine you probably have at least a spaghetti cutter and a linguini cutter. The more expensive jobs have all sorts of widths available. Be sure that you have the output going into a bowl or onto the counter and not the floor.

Look! Spaghetti!

Look! Spaghetti!

Sprinkle the strands with a bit of cornmeal and separate any strands that are sticking together. Cornmeal is used because when you cook it will drop to the bottom of the pot. If you use flour it will make a sticky mess when cooked.

There is no big secret to drying it. You can buy fancy drying racks or trees. No need. The mamas just have little mounds of pasta around the countertop drying for an hour or two.

When ready to cook use a big pot and lots of water – you already knew that. Use at least twice the salt you normally use.  Like a heaping tablespoon or more. The water should be like seawater. Don’t add the salt until the water is really boiling, just before adding the pasta. This is not like the dry stuff out of the box; it only takes a couple of minutes. Test at 1 minute intervals after coming back to the full boil. Drain thoroughly, and do not wash. Don’t add butter or oil to pasta if you are going to want a sauce to stick to it.

There are those who add salt to the dough. There are also those who add oil to the dough. I don’t, but try them sometime. About a 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of oil per serving for starters. Adjust to your liking from there.

I did a marinara gravy/sauce recipe somewhere previously. But here are a couple of simple ones:

Drizzle olive oil over the pasta, add some finely minced garlic and some shredded Parmesan. Get good Parmigiano-Reggiano if you can afford it. This is kind of a traditional Italian snack.

Another way: Sorta’ depends on what’s in the fridge and your mood.

Cook the spaghetti somewhere in here so that it is ready before the last step.

Some trinity: onion, celery, carrot, chopped. Mushrooms, rough chopped. Ham or beef or chicken or shrimp or scallops or whatever you’ve got, thin cut or rough cut, depending. Anchovy – be sure to get good stuff – a couple mushed up in their olive oil. Remove bones as needed.

We use the King Oscar anchovies, packed in olive oil. Heat the olive oil, mush them with the back of a spoon in the hot olive oil, then rub through a fine strainer with your fingers (carefully), which will leave the bones behind. A wonderful treat: take a nice cracker (I’ll teach you to make crackers another time), spread a bit of Philly Cheese and put just a dot of this anchovy paste. Much goodness. It may take a time or two before you know how you want the proportions. Too much of this or too little of that and they are terrible. Get it right and they are heavenly.

Lessee – back to the spaghetti. Sauté the trinity and the mushroom slowly and gently until nicely softened, but not brown. Toss in the garlic and, when it smells good – about 30 seconds or so, add the meat and anchovy. Stir gently or toss if you can. I’ve lost too much wrist strength to do the one handed jerk, toss and roll anymore, so I stir. When everything smells right add the previously cooked spaghetti and stir in some more olive oil or butter. Butter gives a smooth, sweet taste. Finish with salt and pepper as needed. You don’t always need either.

Someone who knows how can make spaghetti in less than ten minutes. Closer to 5 minutes after practice.

You’ll notice that I didn’t mention macaroni, rigatoni, and such. These are formed by extruding. Made with pretty much the same dough, and extruded through a machine with the proper forming plate. There are attachments for Kitchenaid and Cuisinart, but they are kind of pricey. There are also some manual machines that look (and work) a lot like a meat grinder. I get the sense that they are more trouble than they are worth, but you can check them out on Amazon and YouTube if you are interested. Mostly what I see on YouTube is industrial stuff.

It has been said that some of the poorest people in the world have some of the best food. This can be true. What can be cheaper and simpler than flour and an egg? Topped with olive oil, garlic, and a good local cheese this is about as cheap as it gets. Remember, no matter how expensive or status-y a cheese is – somewhere in the world it is just everyday cow, sheep, or goat juice that has gone bad.


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