Roast Duck with Sweet Cherry Reduction

>> Monday, July 27, 2015

Roast Duck with Sweet Cherry sauce


I'm always thrilled when a food I love suddenly becomes so trendy that I can find it anywhere! I have had a longtime love affair with duck, and luckily so does Joe, so he understands my desire to eat it early and often. Now duck fat fries and duck breast are on lots of menus, and "duck confit" is something I hear coming out of the mouths of ordinary people. Woo hoo!

Sweet cherries seem a little late this year because the Great Lakes region, unlike the rest of America, is having the coldest, rainiest summer I can ever remember. It's fabulous mosquito weather. If you are having trouble finding (and pitting) sweet cherries, frozen ones are good, too.

Fruit is always good to pair with duck because the meat is rather oily and a little tartness sets it off perfectly. The first time we made this roasted duck recipe, I wished I had made about twice as much sweet cherry sauce to freeze for later. I can think of about ten other things I'd like to pour this sauce over.


Ingredients


1 4 lb. duck
1 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

For the sauce
1 tsp olive oil
1 small shallot, finely diced
1/2 cup Merlot
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup chicken stock
1 cup pitted and halved sweet cherries
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp butter

Instructions


Preheat the oven to 400°F. Put roasting pan on lower oven rack and fill with 2-3 inches of water. Oil a poultry rack and place in the pan with the bird on top, breast side down. Rub with the remaining oil, then sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Roast duck for 1 hour, basting occasionally.

Turn duck breast-side up and roast until dark brown, about 25 minutes per pound in total. The internal temperature should be at least 140 degrees when finished. Let it set for 15 minutes before carving it.


While the duck is roasting, make the cherry sauce.  Heat the oil in a small pot and then add the shallot. Saute until tender. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, about 30 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced by half. Put half of the sauce into a blender or food processor and process until smooth, then stir into the sauce.

Serve the duck with sauce drizzled over it, and pass the remaining sauce.

Serves 4-6.

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Thai Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao)

>> Monday, July 20, 2015


Thai Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao)
The leftovers on my desk the following day. Yum - but yet again I apologize for photo quality.

Last Friday, I went to a Thai restaurant for lunch with my friend Peg - the first time I've seen her since school let out and the teachers let down their hair. With acclimating to my new job, prepping work for my July art show, and getting some new social justice initiatives going at our church, I haven't had any girlfriend time in a LONG time. It refreshed my heart like always.

I admit that I love sticking to favorites in Thai restaurants, even more so when the menu is longer than two pages and I can't make up my mind. I was certain there was Tom Kha Gai (chicken and coconut soup) in my future until the waiter set down bowls of clear mushroom soup. My script was rewritten and the "Drunken Noodles" description sounded wonderful.

It was so good that I went home and looked up recipes immediately. I learned that it got its name from the spicy umami that goes well with lots of beer or probably any other drink you like. Some people also say it's good for a hangover, but I didn't test that theory.

Thai birds-eye chiles for Pad Kee Mao
Thai birds-eye chiles. Tiny little pepper torpedoes.


During my research I also discovered the mouth-watering blog High Heel Gourmet, where the author shares stories about life in Thailand and California along with authentic recipes and lots of wit. She also gave me the most wonderful tip about scrambling eggs in a wok so they don't soak up all the sauce. You'll see it below.

While I toned down the heat and changed the recipe toward my own tastes, it's pretty close to several recipes written by Thai cooks. We made it without meat one night, but of course you can add whatever you like!

Remember, anytime you're cooking something in a wok or with a stir-fry method, the whole process goes quickly. Have everything ready to go and lined up next to the pan so you can toss it in when it's time.

Ingredients

For the sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp white pepper

For the stir fry
1/2 lb chicken, shrimp, beef or pork, thinly sliced against the grain (substitute firm tofu if you like)
1 tbsp cornstarch
3 tbsp canola or peanut oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Thai birds eye chili
2 jalapenos, sliced (2 peppers tasted just hot enough for me, but I like spicy)
1 tomato, sliced into thin wedges
1 onion, sliced into thin wedges
2 cups mixed vegetables, like carrots, broccoli, green beans (try the Asian foot-long beans!), bok choy, sliced green onions, or anything else you like
4 cups thick rice noodles
3 eggs
1 cup Thai basil leaves, coarsely chopped

Instructions

Dust the meat with the cornstarch to tenderize it and seal the surface. The cornstarch will also thicken the stir-fry sauce. Set aside. Whisk together all the sauce ingredients and set aside.

Soften the noodles according to the package directions. If the directions are in a language you can't read, soak the noodles in hot water until soft, stirring occasionally so they don't stick together. Drain and use right away.

Crack the eggs in a bowl and whisk them.

Heat a large wok and high heat, and then add the oil. When the oil shimmers toss in the garlic and cook until tender - about 30 seconds. Add the vegetables and cook until they are starting to get tender. Then add the meat. Stir and cook until all edges are seared. 

Stir in the noodles and toss the ingredients together. Pour on the sauce and toss some more until the food is well-coated.

Turn the heat down to slightly. Move some of the noodle-veg mix away from the side, then pour in the eggs. Flip the noodles on top of the eggs and count to fifteen. The noodles are holding the heat over your eggs until they are somewhat cooked.
High Heel Gourmet says: "The counting is the time the eggs need to set a little. If you crack the egg and start to stir-fry right away, the egg will just disappear and leave the fishy smell and fishy taste behind…yuckkkkk! This is how I get the eggs to look like I just scrambled them and added them to the wok."
Toss the egg with the noodles. Finally, throw in the basil leaves and toss until they are slightly wilted. Serve in bowls, with lime wedges if desired.

Serves 4.

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Replay: Salsa Verde and Spicy Black Bean Dip

>> Thursday, July 16, 2015



Tomatillo-Jalapeno salsa (salsa verde)


One of the very first recipes we blogged, and one of the first Mexican foods I learned to make, was salsa verde. And last weekend, when we were preparing for the opening night of my artist show in Wisconsin, Joe decided to cook up a big batch of this green tomatillo salso for the guests. They ate it all, and practically licked the bowl!

Lemon Street Gallery WI, Angela Duea and Becky Stahr, artists
With my friend Becky, and my art behind us on the wall!

I'm thrilled that nearly 200 people came to Lemon Street Gallery for the reception. Two other artists were featured - a sculptor and an acrylic painter. I'm also thrilled that I sold three pieces!

Angela Williams Duea Art
These two pieces are still for sale.

For the show, Joe also made his Light and Spicy Black Bean Dip. It was devoured, too. I only got a taste while he was making it!

Light and Spicy Black Bean Dip


Joe left out cards for our Hungry Lovers food blog so that people could try the recipes for themselves if they liked it. While I'm very last re-posting these recipes, I'm hoping the art lovers aren't too disappointed. Here, then, is how to make Salsa Verde.



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Savory Zucchini Fritters

>> Sunday, July 5, 2015


Savory Zucchini Fritters

These zucchini fritters are so tasty we ate them all up for dinner the other night. Super-fresh zucchini has flooded the stores - it's a glorious time of year for vegetable lovers.

One year we had a perfect storm of conditions to grow tons of zucchini and cucumbers. Every Friday night we had "Drinks on the Drive" with our neighbors, and we got to begging them to take some more zucchini home. Eventually they didn't even look at the baskets we pulled out, but we still had piles to give away. One night after everyone had gone home, we walked around the 'hood and dropped off veggies on everyone's front steps. No one ever mentioned it, lol!

Marjoram is one of my favorite herbs. It tastes like a blend of mild oregano and sweet lavender. It adds a nice subtle extra flavor to these zucchini patties.

Ingredients

2 medium zucchini, grated
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup chives, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 large egg, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
About 1/3 cup vegetable oil, for frying

Directions

Toss the zucchini with the salt and let it sit for about 10 minutes. This will draw the water out of the zucchini, which will make the fritters crisp rather than soggy. Place the zucchini in a towel or cheesecloth and wring out any remaining water. You'll probably be surprised how much water you'll get out of it. We squeezed about a half cup out of ours.

Stir the rest of the ingredients, except the oil, into the zucchini. If you want to fry the fritters in a skillet, heat some of the oil in a pan, then dip several spoonfuls of fritter batter into the pan. Don't crowd them while cooking them on each side until crisp.

If you want to bake the fritters, you will need less oil and you can cook them all at once. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and brush a baking sheet with oil. Spoon the batter onto the pan, then brush the tops of each fritter patty with oil. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the bottom side is browned and crispy, then flip over and brown the other side until done.

These are really tasty topped with a bit of sour cream, but just as good on their own.

Serves 4-6.

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Aunt Monica's Chicken Divan

>> Tuesday, June 23, 2015





My Aunt Monica is the first person I remember showing real joy when she was cooking. There are plenty of fine everyday cooks in my family, but my flamboyant Aunt Monica was the one humming while she cooked, and giggling and making us taste little pieces of everything before she put it into the recipe.

Chicken Divan is one of those quintessential 70s casseroles that might not be trendy right now but is still really awesome. It's forever tied to Aunt Monica in my mind because she used to make it in Grandma's kitchen if there was a crowd at the holidays.

My parents, the dog, and my sister would drive from the farm in Michigan to the big city of Waukegan in Illinois. When our station wagon ran up  I-94 highway past the big Magikist lips sign, we knew we were almost to Grandma's place.

old neon sign in Chicago, Magikist


Come to think of it, I have no idea what Magikist was trying to sell us when all the red lights flickered on.

It also just occurred to me that I can't imagine my grandma sharing her kitchen with anyone. Aunt Monica was a powerful force of nature, just like my grandma, and surely there were lightning strikes at some point.

Yet every holiday all the cousins would be shooed down to the rumpus room (yes, that's what it was, and I can describe the rumpus), and all the adults would settle in at the kitchen table with cigarettes and big 70s pipes and cocktails and catch up. Back then, my mom smoked only when she was around her mother, who made her nervous. It must have been a smoky kitchen!



Aunt Monica would announce when the casserole was ready and she would bring it out with a flourish and some sort of comment that has always made me imagine this was an exotic and fancy dish for special occasions. As it surely can be.

I'm pretty sure boneless skinless chicken breasts and cream of whatever soup were not in my Aunt's original recipe, but I've posted an easy version and a bit of an upscale version, depending on how you feel about cooking on a particular day.

I think it's also worth noting that this is one of a handful of recipes I've ever tried in which I actually don't mind broccoli, because I really don't like it.


Quick Chicken Divan

2 cups canned chicken, drained, or cubed chicken breast cooked until no longer pink
2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen broccoli florets 
1 can cream of chicken soup and 1/2 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups cooked rice (try Minute Rice if you're in a hurry)
1 tsp dry mustard
1 slice of bread

Instructions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9x12 casserole dish.  Stir together all ingredients except bread, and pour into the casserole dish. Chop the bread into fine crumbs and sprinkle on top, then spray the crumbs with oil. Bake for 20 minutes, or until cooked through and bubbly.

Serves 4.

Gourmet Chicken Divan

For the Sauce

3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup sherry
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp curry powder
Salt and pepper to taste

For the Casserole

4 chicken thighs, skin removed
2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen broccoli florets
1 cup cooked rice
1 cup shredded cheddar
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
2 tbsp butter

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x12 baking dish.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, then stir in the flour. Cook and stir until the flour is browned, then pour in the milk. Whisk the sauce until smooth, then bring to a simmer. Cook 10 minutes, or until the sauce is thickened. Stir in the sherry, nutmeg, mustard, curry, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer gently for 5 minutes longer. Set aside.

In a large frying pan, brown the chicken pieces on all sides. Stir together broccoli, rice, and cheese, then spread into the casserole dish. Arrange the chicken over the top. Pour the milk sauce over the chicken. 

Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the casserole. Drizzle with the melted butter, then pop in the oven. Cook 25 minutes, or the chicken juices run clear when you pierce the pieces with a fork. 

Serves 4-6.

Extra note: if you're only feeding a few people and nobody likes leftovers, split the casserole in two and freeze one half in a small baking pan for another dinner when you're too busy to cook.

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