Thursday, December 25, 2008

Roast Duck for Christmas

Madame and I stayed with my sister, brother-in-law and nephews for Christmas this year. We decided to have duck as the main course meat and then the usual raft of roasted potatoes, roast parsnips, sugar snap peas, carrots and braised red cabbage to cut through the duck's richness.

During our visit to London earlier, we had bought a pair of ducks from the local butcher (Lidgate), so we were assured of some nice birds.

#1 nephew and I made brandy butter and a cranberry relish using bitter orange marmalade and Ribena (an English blackcurrant drink) the night before.

On THE DAY, there was quite a complicated timetable of vegetable and duck prep starting at 09:00 for a 1pm lunch. While others were at Church, I was busy preparing the ducks, peeling onions, potatoes, parsnips, carrots, apples and chopping cabbage, while making sure that the ovens came on at the right times, the Christmas Pudding was properly cooking, my dad was getting his coffee. Somewhere in all of this I had to shower as well.

Most of the dishes were commonplace, but the duck was a new experience for me. Ducks are very fatty and require a lot of cooking time.

Roast Duck
Ingredients (To serve 8)
2 Good sized fresh ducks (about 4 1/2 lbs each)
4 Cups boiling water
Salt/Pepper to taste

For 24 hours prior to cooking leave the ducks uncovered in the refrigerator. This helps the skin dry out and crisp up.

4 hours prior to serving remove the ducks from the refrigerator and allow them to come to room temperature.

Trim wing ends from the ducks. Prick the skin on the breast side of the ducks all over with a roasting fork. Just pierce the skin, do not go deeply into the flesh.

Remove the giblets and rinse the ducks thoroughly, inside and out.

Put ducks on a rack in a pan and pour the boiling water over the ducks allowing the water to collect in the bottom of the pan.

Dry the ducks thoroughly and cover the skin and inside the cavity liberally with salt and pepper. Put the ducks breast side up on the rack and roast in a preheated 425F (210C) oven for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, rotate the ducks so they are breast down and roast for a further 40 minutes. After the second 40 minutes rotate a second time so the breast is up again. Roast for another 40 minutes - or until the ducks are done. You can tell that they are done because the leg joint will loosen and any juices will run clear/yellow with no traces of blood.

Remove from the oven, allow to rest for at least 20 minutes, under a foil tent. When rested, quarter the ducks and serve on a bed of braised red cabbage, garnished with some rosemary stalks and thyme sprigs.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


This isn't a recipe posting just a paean in praise of a new (at least to me) way of making coffee.

I have long been a fan of the French Press as a way of making coffee, but don't like having to filter the grounds through my mustache (especially after shaving it off!) Also I was finding the coffee to be bitter and not really enjoyable any more. Same roast, same grind, but my taster was clearly not working right.

On a plane trip recently, I saw this

Well, I thought $30 how good/bad can it be? I found out after buying one – it is exceptional. All the benefits of the French Press + easier clean up + tastier/less bitter coffee. Downside is that you do use more coffee (just like in the Starbucks Clover), but the rewards are well worth it. Hurry to your nearest Sur la Table and grab one!

Madame also pronounces it delicious – although the strength needs adjusting. It brews up very strong coffee which you ten need to dilute to make an Americano or Latte. It's got me convinced to drink coffee again.

We roast our own coffee (aged Sumatran from to 2nd crack (well a little beyond). I am hoping to roast the coffee a little less to get some of the more subtle flavors out, but without the accompanying acidity.

The Faculty Holiday Party Potluck

Apart from seeing how many nouns in a row I could use adjectively, this post is about the holiday party yesterday.

Madame's department chair is vegetarian, so whenever we go to a party where she will be, we like to take something vegetarian – because for vegetarians these events can be tricky indeed. Last weekend we had been hiking up in the Palomar Mountain State Park and had a pretty good vegetarian chili for lunch, so thought it a good idea to make one for the party. No it was nothing like the one up at Palomar Mountain, but it turned out well and it was all eaten up, so we did something right.



1T + 1t vegetable oil

2 Medium onions (Not sweet, use yellow or white), diced

6 cloves garlic, diced – not pureed

4 t Paprika

2 T cumin - ground finely

1 t dried oregano

2 t finely ground black pepper

1 t salt

2 Jalapenos or other moderately hot peppers - chopped finely

1 Chipotle – whole

3T Chopped parsley

1 Bay leaf

2 Medium carrots - rough chopped medium

1 Large green pepper – rough chopped medium

2 large (28 oz) cans plum tomatoes

2 15 oz cans red kidney beans – drained and rinsed. (Divided use)

1 15 oz can black beans – drained and rinsed

2 large packets frozen corn (not sure of the size, but about 2lbs in total)


In a sauté pan, heat the 1T oil until shimmering and sweat the onions. After 3 or 4 minutes add the garlic and continue to sweat. The onions should not take on any color. In another (non stick) skillet heat the 1t oil and add the cumin, pepper, paprika and fry gently. When they begin to be aromatic, dump them into the onion/garlic pan and combine well. Toss in the carrots, green pepper, jalapenos and allow to warm through for a few minutes.


Place the onion mixture into the bottom of a "crock pot" or other slow cooker. Add the bay leaf, salt, chipotle, oregano, tomatoes (including their liquid) to the mixture and mix well. Puree 1 can of the red beans (I did it on the chopping board with the knife to save dirtying the food processor). Add the pureed beans and the remainder of the kidney beans + the back beans and mix. Add the frozen corn and mix again.

Set the slow cooker for at least 10 hours on low or 6 hours on high, cover and ignore the dish.


Remove the chipotle and the bay leaf and then serve piping hot with the traditional chili accompaniments of sour cream, raw onion and grated cheese.