Monday, November 29, 2010

Quick Duck Confit

3 hours - freezer to plate; I promise.

I love duck confit. And I usually only get it at Cafe Campagne once or twice a year. But last week I was at Bob's Quality Meats picking up the Thanksgiving turkey, and there was a package of 3 duck legs and thighs in the freezer case, and I had no other ideas for dinner, and it was cold and snowing and I was going home early. So. I bought the duck legs at 2:30. Home at 3:00. Duck legs in a bowl of warm water while I looked up a bunch of recipes on Mr. Google. Yes, I know you're not supposed to thaw poultry in warm water. Whatever. Turns out there are a few recipes that say you can make duck confit in 2 or 3 hours.
3:30 - mostly thawed duck legs in the cast iron skillet. Prior to the skillet, poke the skin with a knife to let the fat out, and salt a little, then put on the heat for 15-20 minutes skin side down. Then 10-15 minutes on the other side. Then in the oven to 350 - put the skillet in with skin side up for 30 min, (cover with foil) - turn over for another 30 min (still covered), then finish at 375 with skin side up (take the foil off) for the last 30 min.

I had my doubts, but this was really fabulous - the meat was tender and falling off the bone, the skin was crispy. . . . Bonus - while the duck is cooking, boil 5 small potatoes until tender. Drain and peel the skin off, then smash lightly, and fry until golden brown on both sides in some of the duck fat that you skimmed off during one of the times when you turned the legs over. Not health food - but kind of mental health food.

Serve with a champagne cocktail to celebrate your brilliance.

Monday, October 12, 2009


When I haven't posted in a while I get kind of shy and awkward - everything I write sounds contrived. So I will just say that I am looking for an excuse to post these pictures, which I love. Figs are so Fall. Sensuous, sweet, soft, seedy. Fig paste and fig jam, especially with cheese. Goat cheese and figs; brie and figs; manchego and figs. Figs, dried, are also an essential component of the esteemed fruitcake.

But I think the things I love the most about them are their color, and the fact that they are willing to grow on Mercer Island. There is one tree in the orchard, on a gentle west-facing slope, and most years we get some. This year was good – hot and dry in the summer leading to a harvest of over 50 – other years more like 5. When they’re young, they are tiny little lime green buds – until really late in the summer, it seems like there is no possible way they can get ripe. Even in September when they are the size of golf balls, hard and still lime green – no way will they get ripe before the first frost. Then all of a sudden they’re tinged purple part of the way up, then purple all the way. Still green inside, then all of a sudden pink. That’s the point where I grab them – maybe they’d get riper, but maybe the raccoon would get them, or the crows, and really they’re very very good right at this point. With this year’s 50, I started with eating some fresh, of course, but then went right to fig jam, to fill some turnovers. Cut 20 figs into eighths and put into a medium saucepan, add 6 T brown sugar, and the juice and rind of a small lemon. Cinnamon if you want, but I don’t. Cook over low to medium heat, stirring frequently, until much of the liquid is gone and the figs are reduced to a thick and jammy consistency. Take your favorite pastry – either a pie crust or a puff pastry, and fill with the jam, fold over and seal, sprinkle with sugar, and bake in accordance with whatever pastry you used. In this one I used puff pastry – they always bake better if you pop them in the freezer for 10 minutes before baking.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Chocolate Dipped Hazelnut Shortbread

This will be a shorter post than planned. Actually shorter than the one I just wrote and then lost into the void where all lost work goes when the internet and your computer conspire against you. ** Sigh ** We've all been there, and no amount of cussing and pouting helps. So, short version - not posting, not baking, not happy about it - especially the not baking part. So I baked these this weekend. Life is good again.

Chocolate Dipped Hazelnut Shortbread

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 T vanilla
1/4 t. salt
2 cups flour
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts
12 oz. chocolate chips
3 T butter

Cream butter and sugar in stand mixer with paddle attachment. Add vanilla and salt, and stir in flour on low until incorporated. Add up to 1/4 cup more flour if the dough is really sticky. Form dough into a log, wrap in plastic wrap, chill one hour. Slice into discs, bake at 350 degrees F approximately 15-20 minutes until light brown. When cool, dip halfway into chocolate chips melted with butter. Place on clean parchment to cool, then put into muffin cups to store and serve. Better the next day.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Green Walnut Liqueur

Hey there - so this looked like fun. And since the squirrels get all the walnuts exactly 11 seconds after they're ready, I thought it was the only real way to get any of them at all - that is, pick them when they're nice and green and appear to be of no use at all.
This used a very expensive but ancient bottle of vodka - DL says use the cheap stuff, but it was sunday, liquor stores closed, and based on how long this bottle had been around it wasn't getting used any time soon. It is currently a wild shade of chartreuse. Supposedly drinkable when it turns a coffee brown, and supposedly perfect poured on vanilla ice cream. As with all good things, further research is clearly called for. Will report on the results in due course.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ravioli - the perfect food

Scout would have wanted me to not be sad, and to get into the kitchen again, where we both loved to hang out. He was particularly skilled at cleaning up the floor. The shortest measurable time period was from when the food hit the floor to when Scout leapt to his feet to scramble over and Hoover it up. Cheese was a special favorite. With that thought in mind, we made veal ravioli last weekend, and pizza the weekend before.

Having a 20-quart Hobart at the bakery for all the dough is a blessing and a curse - it makes the process so simple, but the capacity is so large that you have to make like a quintuple batch just to give the mixer something to work with. Which comes up to something like 10 eggs and 10 cups of flour for the pasta dough - yield is about 4-5 pounds of fresh dough. And pizza for a small army.
Both were yummy - the pasta dough needs to be thinner next time, though the thicker dough was easy to work with and prevented filling leakage. The pizza was nearly perfect - I have the dough and the toppings nailed, but continue my quest for the perfect sauce.

Fresh Pasta
2 cups flour
2 eggs
3-6 T water
Mix in a stand mixer until the dough pulls together and forms a ball - it should be firm and dry-ish, but not crumbly - too little water and it doesn't hold together, too much and you end up adding tons more flour when you roll it out. Let the pasta dough rest for 20 minutes, covered. Then divide into four pieces and process through a pasta machine (at home I use a small hand cranked Atlas) until desired thickness is reached.
Filling for ravioli
1 lb. ground veal
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stick, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1 lb ricotta
1/4 c parmesan
salt, pepper, fresh thyme - to taste
Sautee the diced veggies in olive oil - add the ground veal and cook until done. Cool. Put in food processer and pulse lightly to make fine crumbles. Put into a bowl and add the cheeses and seasonings. Use as a filling for ravioli, or manicotti, or stuffed shells.
Sauce at your discretion - chopped fresh tomatoes, butter and oil, etc.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Tribute to Scout 1996-2009

Scout - In 1996 he was 8 weeks old and 12 pounds. A wiggly little package who loved us completely from the first day. The bigger of the two chocolate boys in the litter. He lived for treats and pets and hugs. And treats. Smiled. Ran. Just hung out. Rolled on his back in the grass and popped up like he'd just discovered the best thing ever. Played in the water. Pretty much always wanted to go in the car. Laid in the driveway behind the wheels of the truck so we couldn't leave without him. Chewed up one shoe in his whole life. Still had his first squeaky toy ever - all he did was carry them around. Except of course for the stuffed kitten - that one got a little chew now and then. Fetched, but not obsessed with it. For 13 years we never had to clean anything off the kitchen floor. Loved chicken, fish, blueberries, cheese. Would eat a salad as long as it had dressing on it. He had three basic moods - happy, tired, and hungry. After a nap or a meal he just went right back to happy.
I never knew I could love him that much. Scout - I think of you every day and love you so much. You were the best and my heart is bigger for knowing you.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

March 2009 Daring Bakers! Lasagne

First, the legal notices: The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

There - that should keep the search-bots happy, and establish that I did the deed and posted! I have not been able to keep up with the daring and gorgeous bakers, missing a # of challenges, but I still want to play! So, here is the lovely green pasta. . . .

You may notice that it is NOT in the shape of lasagne noodles, and you would be correct. Truth - this is ravioli from last fall. I have made this pasta a number of times before - I think my first spinach noodles were in the 90's, to be precise, and I LOVE them, but it was just not gonna happen this month. Instead, I used commercial no-boil sheet (Barilla = v. Italian), and made the Bechamel, which for me was the real challenge. I am usually willing to go with ricotta and mozzarella as a filling, but I love the Beschamel, and I am usually not patient enough to make it, thus the challenge. Oh, and not to nitpick or sound too cranky, but this whole exercise is not really baking - this is definitely a Daring Cooks challenge in my book. But whatever, it's delicious . . . .

So, here is the finished product - the Beschamel really adds a wonderful silky quality to the dish, and I love it - I used the recipe from the challenge, with the addition of about 8 oz. of Fontina cheese. And I made a tomato sauce with ground turkey, just because today is a Wednesday and there is no possible way to make the real ragu. So there. Still yum.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I'm ready for my close-up Mr. DeMille . . . . Hee!
This is quite the seductive cookie - sweet, but not too. A little delicate in texture, but packed with chocolate flavor, with pools of molten chocolate throughout. Simple - no eggs, so it's instantly vegan, if you care about that sort of thing. Oh wait - it's full of butter - nevermind then. . . .

You know those 2# bags of Guittard chocolate chunks you can get at Big John's? They are the perfect perfect chocolate "chip" for these cookies - cut them in half though otherwise they are too big. I tried a batch with toasted hazelnuts too - fantastic, though they are better the next day after the flavors marry a bit.

Divine with coffee - I had two for breakfast this morning! So, to those of you who think I eat cake for breakfast every morning, I don't -sometimes it's cookies! :)

Recipe from Orangette

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

¼ tsp. baking soda

1/8 tsp. salt

4 Tbsp. (½ stick) unsalted butter

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup light brown sugar

7 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

1/3 cup plain yogurt, preferably not low- or nonfat

1 tsp. vanilla extract

½ cup chocolate chips, preferably Ghirardelli brand, either semisweet or bittersweet

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.Place the butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl, and microwave briefly, until just melted. Add the sugars, and sift in the cocoa. (You can skip the sifting if you want, but my cocoa almost always has lumps, and I don’t like cocoa lumps in my cookies.) Stir to blend well. The mixture will be somewhat thick and pasty, like wet sand. Add the yogurt and vanilla and stir to mix thoroughly. Add the dry flour mixture, and stir to just combine. Add the chocolate chips and stir to incorporate.Drop the dough by generous tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheet. (I use my tablespoon-size measuring spoon to scoop and shape the dough into little domes. Rinsing the spoon regularly helps to keep the dough from sticking, and leaving the spoon slightly wet after each rinsing helps too.) You should be able to fit about 8 or 9 cookies, nicely spaced, on a standard sheet pan. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies have crackled slightly and look set. Transfer the sheet pan to a wire rack, and cool the cookies on the pan for 10 minutes. Transfer them to the rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Checking in

I lost my desire to post, to take pictures, and to futz around with new recipes - maybe the winter blahs? I am still baking, though to read this blog you wouldn't know it. A whole month of February goes by and no posts -- s'ok, February was not much to write home about, except maybe the sweet mini-vacation in Phoenix (36 hours of free time, one pedicure, one hike up Camelback, one lunch by the pool, one long walk, one glass of champagne, one bargain pair of running shoes at Big 5, one fig scone - kinda packed a lot in!)
Now I am actually feeling like I could start running again - I know! well, maybe anyway. In the meantime, and maybe directly related, I am making puff pastry in 7# batches on the sheeter! Forgot to take pics the last time I baked some but it came up perfectly - golden brown and even. Magical stuff.
Random notes - the flowers on this cake were just divine - ok , that's all for now!