Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Duck Salad

Madame and I were too lazy to go to the store - or even anywhere last Sunday. So fridge and freezer diving we went. What did we find?

Some left over frozen (raw) duck breasts, mushrooms, scallions, lettuce, avocados and oranges. Easy - let's make some pan fried duck with an orange/mushroom sauce that will serve as a dressing over the lettuce leaves. Served with a ZD 2001 merlot and we were in heaven. Sadly the 2001 ZD merlot is not easily available. They only made 1470 cases of it. We were lucky to find a bottle or too.

I would have preferred it if the duck breasts had had some fat on them, but beggars cannot be choosers. We made do!


3 T vegetable oil (divided use)
2 duck breasts - skin and fat removed, lightly seasoned with salt on both sides
Segments of 2 oranges
5 scallions, white and green parts only, sliced into 1/4" pieces
4 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced - about 6 slices per mushroom
1 avocado, diced 
a handful of lettuce leaves, torn
salt and pepper to taste


Heat 1 T of oil in a large skillet until very hot. Add the duck breasts and leave undisturbed for about a minute and a half - essentially until they release from the pan. Turn them over and repeat. Set the duck breasts aside.
Add the remaining oil to the hot pan, followed by the scallions and mushrooms. Turn the heat down to medium low and cook for a few minutes - until the mushrooms have wilted. Add the orange segments and any juice, return the duck breasts to warm up.
To serve, make a pile of lettuce n the plate. Pour over the pan juices. Slice the duck breasts thinly, mound on the lettuce and add the mushroom/scallion/orange pieces. Decorate with diced avocado. Grind a little black pepper over the dish.

Voila - about 25 minutes start to finish. It got the "We can serve this to people" accolade. Amazing what can be done with weird looking stuff in fridge and freezer. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Cooking with Kenji

Serious Eats/The Food Lab is one of my favorite sites to visit. Kenji applies scientific principles to experimentation with food. He went to MIT, so not surprising that he has a scientific bent.

There of us (all Chris's) went to a cooking demo/book signing at a local Central Market a couple of weeks back. It was all about breakfast. Some amazing hints, an entertaining lecture and delicious food. Too much to get into in detail (hint, buy the book), but now having seen his personality and approach I find the book even easier to comprehend.

The one thing I will mention is the mayonnaise. None of the drizzle slowly while whisking stuff. No use the stick blender and a tall container. Eggs/water/acid in the bottom, oil on top. Put in the stick, blend for about 20 seconds. Voila mayonnaise. One piece of great advice about the oil. Use a relatively neutral oil at the beginning. If you plan to add a fruity olive oil, then add it at the end and whisk it in by hand.

One of the Chris's had brought back some oil from Nice after a business trip. So of course we had to add that into the mayonnaise. Oh my.

We made some of the mayonnaise with a finely chopped garlic clove blended in. Served as a dip with some naan split open, drizzled with oil, sumac, and salt, toasted for 10 minutes in a 350 oven.

We also used the same garlic mayonnaise as a base for poached eggs on toast. Kenji also taught us an outstanding way to poach eggs. So, home made bread, garlic mayonnaise with poached eggs for supper on a Sunday. It doesn't get a lot better than that.

OTBN 2016

I have posted about Open That Bottle Night before. It was an idea started at the Wall Street Journal several years ago. The idea being that yu share special bottles of wine with friends, tell stories, eat and drink too much (sometimes) and generally have a fun time.
This year we had 11 people - including a special guest, Heather, who had been interning and taking classes in Europe last year. Having her tell us about her experiences working in all aspects of the trade in Burgundy was a real treat.
As usual, the wines were varied. The foods were delicious. The pairings very good and the stories even better. Of course there was drama too. Heather had a difficult afternoon, Cathy had had food poisoning earlier in the week, Chris F had been delayed with his mother in law. All in al it was amazing it all came together.
I had taken a class earlier in the week with Kenji from The Food Lab. He had demonstrated making mayonnaise using the stick blender. So of course I had to try it. Garlic mayonnaise on naan chips served with (of all things!) Cupcake prosecco and a  Cremant de Bourgogne. Heather had brought some creme de cassis from Dijon, so some had kir royales...But I digress.
OTBN 2016 wines

First Course

Chuck and Jeanine are from Louisiana and made an oyster stew/soup (still not sure what to call it - except fantastic). Oysters, artichokes in a creamy broth. And with it, something unusual. A white Chateau Neuf du Pape - Chateau La Nerthe. Mostly Roussane it had a wonderful crispness that cut through the richness of the soup. A terrific way to start the evening. Chuck and Jeanine had spent time in Chateau Neus du Pape and the neighboring town of Orange -where there is an outstanding Roman Theater.

Second Course

Scott and April brought their favorite Sushi - from Gui in Dallas. It is a special tuna roll that the owner makes up for them specially. We complemented it with the Chateau La Nerthe from the previous course - saving their wine for a later time. 

Third Course

Heather made a traditional Burgundian duck confit, served with a cassis sauce and duck fat roasted potatoes. While living in Beaune she befriended a local wine store and brought back some of the Morey-Saint-Denis for us all to try. An oysyanding pairing and some lovely stories from Heather about her time in Beaune.

Fourth Course

Chris and Erin made a Boeuf a la Bourgignon that was another hit. We ate well this evening. It had a lovely silkiness to it - lots of rich stock and a bottle of the Chateau de Beucastel in the dish, and another to taste with it. Another wonderful pairing. The wine had just enough tannin to cut into the richness and meatiness of the dish. Perfect balance. 

Fifth Course

We had decided on a cheese course. At Christmas last year two French colleagues (France and Benoit from the Franche-Comte region of France) had introduced us to Macvin du Jura as a pairing with Vacherin Mont d'Or. Macvin is a "vin de liqueur" - a drink made by adding a pomace brandy (or marc) to unfermented grape juice. It is quite oxidized and earthy. So pairing with the rich cheese was outstanding. We couldn't find another Vacherin, but we were able to find a Jasper Hill Farms Winnimere cheese instead. We pusched thinly sliced garlic into it, poured some of the Chareau d'Arlay macvin into it and baked it. Served with baguettes.


Scott and April brought a delicious Del Dotto Cabernet Sauvignon for us just to roll around in our mouths. Oh my what a delicious, big, rich cab with amazing fruit and structure. We sipped that while letting everything else settle prior to dessert


Cathy and Nacy brought some delicious chocolate mousse cakes and something new to me. The Belle Glos Dairyman Pinot Noir from  the Russian River Valley. For me it was fascinating to have had the very traditional Morey-Saint-Denis from Burgundy and the very much more fruit forward, powerful Belle Glos. Entirely different expressions of the grape, but both absolutely delicious in their own way.


This is probably the first time that Cupcake has ever been served in such exalted company. It was a fun evening with everyone telling their stories, laughing and generally letting their hair down. Each year we do one of these - with different people we are reminded what a great time can be had with everyone telling stories, bringing interesting wines and lovely food. Thanks to all who came.