Archive for the ‘Cookbooks’ Category

Surprisingly manageable duck confit

28 April 2017

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‘Why on earth make duck confit in the first place?’ Fair question. ‘Why on earth make duck confit again?’ Even more to the point. And again?! Because there is a happy ending.

Many moons and about a decade ago I made duck confit. Why? Well, I was in New York, where confit duck is not, as in France, available on every supermarket shelf. I must have been in an experimental mood. And I certainly had no idea what I was getting myself into. As I remember the experience — faintly (the worst ones fade) — I see endless vats of rendering, handling, splashing, filtering duck fat (it was actually probably goose fat). It took hours, days, perhaps weeks? In the end the thighs were much too salty.

And yet, I did it again. — Why?

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Perhaps because so much time had gone by that I had glossed over the experience? Because I was again/still in a country where duck confit is somewhat elusive? Because I don’t like to leave things on a frustrating experience?

Because in April Bloomfield’s book A Girl and Her Pig there is a duck confit recipe that fits on one page.

It works. It’s not that hard. It’s worth the adventure.

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Duck confit recipe from A Girl and Her Pig by April Bloomfield adapted for 6 duck legs. The process takes 2 days and is best made some time in advance.

36 peppercorns
36 juniper berries
8 dried pequin chilies or pinches of red pepper flakes
1/2 small cinnamon stick
Small handfull fresh thyme
10 medium garlic cloves
1/3 cup coarse sea salt
6 duck legs
About 1.4 kg duck (or goose) fat

In a mortar, crush together the peppercorns, juniper, chilies, and cinnamon. There should be fine and coarse bits. Add the thyme leaves picked from the stems and the garlic and crush some more to obtain a coarse paste. In a small bowl, mix the spice mixture with the salt.

Place the duck legs in a shallow dish and rub the salt/spice mixture all over the legs. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, very slowly heat the fat in a small pot that will perfectly fit the duck legs (I used a 10″/25cm pot). Rinse the duck legs and pat them dry with a paper towel, then carefully put the legs in the fat. The legs must be completely submerged — if they are not, use  a smaller pot or add a bit more fat. Cook on extremely low heat for about 2 1/2 hours. There should be barely a simmer. Adjust the heat as necessary.

Remove the pot from the heat and leave the duck legs in the fat to cool completely before placing in the refrigerator, covered with a lid. The legs submerged in fat will keep for a few weeks.

When ready to eat, remove the legs from the congealed fat, and carefully scrape off as much of the fat as possible. Thoroughly heat a heavy skillet/frying pan, add a few generous spoonfuls of the duck fat, and fry the legs over high heat, skin side down, until deliciously crispy. Turn around and fry the other side of the legs too. Serve immediately.

Crispy duck confit is best served with roasted potatoes and a salad of bitter greens (traditionally frisée, but also escarole, radicchio, arugula, etc…).

Cookbooks | Moro The Cookbook (Roasted almonds with Spanish paprika)

14 October 2011

I think I own more than a hundred cookbooks, and yet often, when I look for inspiration, I am tempted to reach for the same one (or four): the River Café Cookbooks. I know them, I trust them. Over the years, with their reliable support, I have become confident in their flavor profiles.

I don’t know all my cookbooks so well. I often use them as a reference, comparing similar recipes for a dish — braised rabbit? — from which to distill a personal take. In many I have found a few recipes I like. Some I’ve made once, some I’ve repeated many times, some I plan to make one day. But I don’t feel I know these cookbooks intimately.

I want to get better acquainted.

So I am delving into my library. And Moro The Cookbook is where October led me. Moro is a restaurant in London opened by two former River Café chefs, Sam and Sam Clark. The cooking is familiar in its simplicity, but while the River Café is Italian in inspiration, the Clarks look to Spain, and the Southern Mediterranean, and therefore use herbs and spices very differently. I was already enamored with Moro’s lentil soup and have often served hard-boiled quail eggs dipped in cumin and salt, but that was about it.

So I have plunged. In the past few weeks I have made many dishes from this cookbook, and here are some of the things I’ve discovered.

Roasted almonds with Spanish paprika (method below) is an excellent complement to marinated olives for an apéritif.

It’s okay to cook loin of pork in milk with bay and cinnamon rather than, more traditionally, sage and lemon. It’s heady, subtle, surprising. It doesn’t taste like cinnamon. It tastes pretty great.

“Beets with yogurt” sounds deceptively innocuous for something quite as good as this. The beets are simply boiled then drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice. The yogurt is mixed with garlic. That’s it — but it’s incredible.

Given a great piece of pork belly you can make rillettes yourself, and flavor them with herbs and spices that are not French but completely addictive.

And the best mashed potatoes are cooked in milk.

The book’s 200-odd recipes are punctuated by personal anecdotes as well as history, and interspersed with information about Spanish ingredients such as pimentón (Spanish paprika), piquillo peppers, mojama (cured air-dried tuna), and the many different types of sherry.

In their introduction, the authors say: “We hope, like us, you will be excited by these flavours and enticed by the romance and tradition inherent in each dish. We […] want to impart something of the ‘language of spice,’ how a teaspoon of ginger or five allspice berries can speak of different continents. ” The book achieves exactly that.

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Roasted almonds with Spanish paprika from Moro The Cookbook

2 cups (250 g) whole blanched* almonds
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp smoked sweet Spanish paprika
1 tsp sea salt

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*To blanch the almonds, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Drop the almonds in the water and let sit for about 10 seconds, strain immediately and wash under cold water. The skins will have blistered and can easily be removed.

Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C).

Place the blanched almonds on a roasting tray at the top of the oven and dry-roast for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.

Meanwhile, in a mortar, grind the sea salt to the consistency of powdered sugar.

Remove the almonds from the oven and sprinkle with the olive oil, paprika, and salt. Return to the oven for just a couple more minutes.

Let cool before serving.

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Related posts

Lentil soup with cumin   **   Pork rillettes

Cookbooks | The River Café Cook Books

10 March 2011

It wasn’t exactly fair that my first mention of the River Café Cook Books was about one recipe – the only recipe from these books until now – that didn’t turn out to be at least as good as I had anticipated. The truth is that these cookbooks have, more than anything else, inspired the way I cook.

The River Café in question is the London restaurant created by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers in 1987 as the employee cafeteria for Richard Roger’s architectural practice, which became a culinary phenomenon with far-reaching repercussions as its young chefs (Jamie Oliver, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Sam and Sam Clark, April Bloomfield, etc) created ripples of their own (and yes I do own cookbooks by all of them, well, except April Bloomfield who is currently working on hers).

I acquired the Yellow River Café Cook Book in 1998, and the others since, and I have cooked many recipes from each of them, some of which many times.

The biggest impact has possibly come from the chapter on wood-roasted vegetables (Riv Caf Yellow pp146-179). It includes a slew of recipes for carrots, beets, cherry tomatoes, asparagus, red onions, etc., which are tossed in a dressing of olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and herbs before being roasted in the oven. Frankly, I didn’t use to like cooked vegetables that much (salad is another story). But prepared this way, they become mouth-wateringly vibrant, exciting, completely delicious, and I seem to have lost the ability to make vegetables any other way – it may be time to revisit my repertory.

The other big revelation were the Café cookbooks’ cakes, which are usually high in eggs and butter, gently sweet, and incredibly moist. I have yet to find one that I wouldn’t want to make again, and again, and again. In fact I feel bad for the dessert sections of my other cookbooks. For just a taste – and really I should include photos and descriptive notes – consider these: polenta, almond, and lemon cake (Blue p288); bitter chocolate toasted hazelnut torte (Yellow p322); pear, honey, and polenta cake (Green p356); the completely addictive pistachio and almond cake with lemon sugar syrup (Easy p240).

But there are other recipes I cannot repeat often enough. The zucchini and prosciutto bruschetta with herbs and lemon zest (Green p270); a fig, buffalo mozzarella, and basil salad (Green p332); sea bass slashed and stuffed with herbs (Yellow p232); guinea fowl pan-roasted with milk and marjoram (Yellow p258); or the insanely time-intensive but completely-worth-it ribollita (Blue p36).

And the wonderful thing is, there are plenty of recipes I still haven’t tried.


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