Monday, December 20, 2010

Confit of Duck

There may be a theme emerging. Fatty, unctuous meats cooked slowly and often more than once. This is no coincidence. Confit of duck is one of my favourite things in the world of food; the first thing I look for on a restaurant menu, and one of the reasons for which I love the south-west of France so much. (Even if it is a little distance from here...)

And yet, I've never cooked a confit of duck (nor any other meat for that matter), so I thought I'd better start somewhere, and christmas seemed a better place than most. This year, LW and I are going to spend christmas afternoon with our good friends with whom we share soup and sandwiches over the winter months. We're sharing the cooking, and then we shall, in traditional style, eat too much, and snooze...

So to the confit. 2 days ago, I butchered two ducks into portions: 4 legs, 8 pieces of breast and wing.

I then thoroughly seasoned the meat with a dry rub of salt (loads) pepper, thyme, bayleaf and garlic. The pieces were then packed into a baking dish and allowed to marinade for 48 hrs in the fridge.

Today, I batch fried the pieces in a little oil to brown the surfaces of the meat and skin.

Meanwhile, in a low oven (140 degC) I melted my entire collection of duck fat. This was about 1.5 litres of it, including the fat rendered from the pieces whilst I browned them.

Once the browning was done, I packed the pieces as tightly as I could into the baking dish full of melted duck fat (it nearly covered them)
and put the whole lot in said low oven for 2 hours, at which point the meat should be nearly falling off the bone (but not quite). Any portions that were not completely covered by fat need turning 2-3 times during the process.

This is as far as I have gone as I write.

The next stage will be to allow the whole lot to cool, and then pack it into sterile preserving jars until we get hungry. They'll keep like this for months if necessary, but it's unlikely that any will last as long as that due to the seductive power of the canard.

To cook, the meat simply needs cooking very hot in an oven for another 5 minutes until the skin is frispy. The fat can be recycled for another day. Needless to say, none of it goes to waste; it's the best thing in the known universe.

Photos will be posted. Duck will be eaten, and, in related news, we have several ducklings running around the garden, blissfully unaware of their rather tenuous future. Forage, my pretty ones, live lives of reckless joy...

French Onion Soup

Just what I'm doing making a rich, hearty soup on a day which, whilst pouring with rain, is also about 23degC and very humid, is anyone's guess. But the guess would have to include in it the notion that I'm making Confit of Duck for the 1st time, and I couldn't possibly let a litre of fragrant, sweet duck stock go to waste (or the freezer, which now resembles an old, forgotten mini black hole that someone made with the Large Hadron Collider and then quickly shoved into a cupboard to gather dust, and everything else within its event horizon, before anyone noticed.)

So soupe a l'oignon it is.

I'll admit, I made this up, it may be a mile or two from the authentic, but it tasted delicious, and there's none left. When the humidity reaches about 90%, my inclination to research tends towards zero.

I very gently sweated 3 medium sized onions for about 40 min, with a spoonful of soft brown sugar and some oil.
When they were very soft, I upped the heat, and deglazed the pan with some sherry, some brandy and some white wine. The smell was excellent! I also added some dark soy sauce for depth of colour and saltiness.

The stock was ready and heated, and when the alcohol was burnt off the onions, I added it, and seasoned to taste. Yum.

Meanwhile, I sliced a baguette, and drizzled some olive oil onto the slices which I then baked in a medium oven for 30 min to croutonize them. I made an aiolioilio (I'm sure that's how everyone in Italy, Spain, Portugal and southern France spells it) with wet garlic (just in season) salt (the seasoning, not the spy) and really good olive oil added slowly to form a thick emulsion.

I then slathered the croutons with the garlicky paste and covered them with grated gruyere.

The toasty things then went on top of the bowl of soup, and back under the grill for no more than 3 weeks.
oh joy. Even in midsummer.

Serve, remembering not to touch the bowls for fear of melty fingers.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Fat Pig Wine Festival

Yesterday was the 3rd "Fat Pig" wine festival, and they couldn't have chosen a better day for it. The fat Pig winery is a very small (2 acres) winery and hosts this event so that other small winemakers may showcase their product. There were 5 or 6 winemakers represented, 3 food stalls and a lot of people. For additional entertainment there was a really good band playing everyone's favourite cover versions of classic rock tunes. So. Wine, sunshine, good food, dancing, 500 drunk people. What could be finer?

The event started at 11.30 and ended, all too soon, at 5.30pm. And despite the intense heat, everyone looked like they were having a brilliant time.

We went with a 4 friends, one of whom has a big 6-seater truck, and LW, gracious, and teetotal, as ever, agreed to drive. We found a big table to sit around, and calculated that, by the time we really needed it we'd be in the shade of the avocado tree behind us. And so it was! The food went down well (Thai fishcakes, Chicken satay, a big cheeseboard and some couscous salad) and the drink even better; The wineries involved in the day were:

Fat Pig winery: they grow Shiraz and make a really good rose.
Marsden Estate: A bigger winery with some prize-winning lines. We especially liked the Pinot Gris.
Morepork Winery: Just across the road from the Fat Pig. Makes a pinot gris
Bent Duck: Makes a very passable chardonnay!
Chinook estate: Pinot gris (I didn't like this as much)
Ake Ake: Makes a range of wines, with a particularly good Chambourcin being my favourite!

We got home all (except for particularly LW) slightly the worse for wear, and then we...

Feasted! On very slow-cooked (7 hours or more at 100 degC!) pork belly and crushed new potatoes, tomato & feta salad and then Tiramisu! Oh, and a little more wine.

Roll on next year...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Noodles! (Wuhan hot-and-dry noodles, to be precise)

One of the many highlights of a trip to Auckland is the chance to visit a good, big Asian supermarket or 2. I love to find and experiment with ingredients, sauces and packets of things I don't recognise, and I love the almost infinite variety of packet noodle products.

Often, I'll basardise a recipe with additions of my own, but, in this case I'm following the instructions, detailed as they are, and seeing how it comes out. I have a second packet of the same noodles I can play with later if needed!

I like the detailed description of the product, and the packaging:

And the verdict?
surprisingly tasty: the packets are quite complex mixtures, the main ones being a sort of tahini-style spiced sesame paste, and a chilli paste with spices and oil. There's also a packet of light soy and one of pickled radish. I'd definitely have it again.