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Posts Tagged ‘Poultry’

Valentine’s Day, Victory Day

I had to laugh the entire night this past Monday.  Nothing went according to plan (I couldn’t exaggerate this if I tried), but it didn’t matter in the slightest.  Had this happened a year ago, I think I would have collapsed on the floor crying (fun fact: that’s what happened the first time I made duck for Joann), but not this year.  In fact, I think Joann had one of the best times of her life–which is probably why I did, too.  I’m going to credit it all to the institution of marriage.

We made duck for Valentine’s day.  Yes, duck.  Oh, very fancy you are thinking.  Well…I’ll let you think that.  Duck breasts are actually particularly hard to screw up, and I don’t think a roast duck is much different.  Duck is just really good.  Don’t overcook it, and….that’s about it.  Duck take 1 (2009): seared breast with a cherry-rhubarb sauce.  Duck take 2 (2010): roast duck cooked three-ways with a port reduction.  Duck take 3 (2011): no plan actually.

This is where the problem starts.  Not to wax nostalgic, but at Fairway one can buy fresh duck–whole or breasts–no problem.  Certainly, I thought, Ferraros would have the same.  Nope, just a big vacuum-sealed frozen duck with a bit of plumage to pluck out.  Okay, so we should have planned ahead–do we just go with lamb?  Yummy  lamb leg, cooks in an hour, rich, great with wine–nah, let’s take the challenge.  We’ll have a late dinner, but we should be able to get it defrosted without too much effort.

An hour goes by (sitting in warm water) and it’s still pretty frozen.  But it’s 7, so we decide to just go for it.  This is where I normally would have despaired: Valentine’s day dinner, want it to be nice (forget perfect) and it’s hours from being done.  Thankfully, though, in researching the best way to prepare a whole duck (keep in mind, though, that there is no bad way to do duck) we learned that “the best way” to cook duck is to steam it first.  This penetrates the meat with moist heat and renders the fat so that when you do put it in the oven it crisps up nicely while staying moist.  And this is especially convenient because I’m not afraid of steaming a frozen bird–it’s not going to over cook or dry out.

Forty-five minutes later I’m ready chop up the bird and throw it in the oven.  Except that the center is still frozen solid.  Cue sad face, but also cue Joann enthusiastically assuring me that everything is going to be fine and that she’s having a great time.  So, in my dress shirt and slacks, I throw on my apron (“Not only handsome, but can cook, too”–although with a crease in the right place it also reads: “not handsome, but can cook”) and wield the largest kitchen knife we’ve got.  Duck juices and parts are flying everywhere.  Also, I’m pretty sure that using a large knife on a frozen bird while your hands are dripping in fat and juices is not the safest way to spend an evening.

So at…I have no idea what time it was at this point…but when the duck looked ready enough–it was ready.  I think it was 9pm, and I had no expectation for how it would be.  But, remember how I said it’s hard to ruin duck?  I did my best to test that theory. We drizzled a bit of pomegranate molasses on each piece, served alongside some roasted beets, and called it a day.

It was truly remarkable what a good time Joann had.  But wasn’t I responsible for dinner, and didn’t I blow it?  Wasn’t there a chance we wouldn’t have ANYTHING to eat? Didn’t we want to spend our time together, um, doing something besides tossing around frozen duck pieces?  Apparently not.  A joint adventure in the impossible was much better.  I, too, prefer this version of romance.  And, by the way, those heart-shaped guys are roasted beets.

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Worth knowing: “rendang” means cooked in coconut milk.  Or something like that.  So why would somebody call something coconut blah blah rendang?  I don’t know either.  This is a really flavorful, spicy, creamy, and easy dish.  Chicken thighs cooked in a chili paste with garlic and ginger and simmered in coconut milk with lemongrass and madras curry.  And it’s really good for you, too!  Well, that part is not true (coconut milk; yum), but it’s not terrible.  I don’t think.

Begin by mixing up the chili paste, which we did in a food processor but could as easily be made by chopping finely.  Onion (or shallots if you prefer), garlic, ginger, chiles (or flakes), nuts (we used cashews because we didn’t have macadamia–honestly, I’m not sure what difference nuts make here).  The recipe called for first frying this in some oil before adding the chicken, but I would have done it the other way around.  Doing it their way kept the chicken from browning because there was so much liquid from the onions.  I would brown the thighs, remove, fry the paste, and add back the chicken.

Then add the coconut milk, curry powder, lemongrass, lime, and some sugar.  Bruise the lemongrass to release the oils and then cut into pieces; you’ll remove the lemongrass at the end (feel free to bruise however you want, as I’m not convinced that my method with the knife is the “established” method).  I’m also thinking of next time throwing the lemongrass into the food processor to really break it down and make it edible.  Simmer uncovered (to thicken) until the chicken is tender and the sauce is velvety and full.  Serve over rice, and why not add a vegetable like green beans, too?

And one more thing: I can’t let a sleeping dog lie.  Or is it, don’t kick a dead horse?  Either way: my dad cooked the pork shoulder the other day.  Two shoulders totaling 18 pounds.  And he cooked them for 50 people.  And for 20 hours.  And he hasn’t stopped talking about how good it was.  In fairness (to me) he cooked them on the barbecue (check out the Bubba Keg; we got it on super-sale, of course).  So maybe the smoke’s the difference.  Anyway, I’m glad it came out for him, and I’m pretty sure we’ll be eating it next time I visit, too.

Curried-Coconut Chicken Rendang

1-2 Tablespoons Madras curry powder
ground pepper
1 lemongrass stalk
canola oil
salt
1 pound chicken thighs (Costco sells boneless-skinless)
1/2 large onion
4-5 garlic cloves
1 inch ginger
5 cashews (or 3 macadamia nuts)
2 teaspoon red chile flakes and 1 dried guajillo (it’s what we had; Asian chiles obviously preferred)
1 can unsweetened coconut milk
1 Tablespoon light brown sugar
(optional: shredded coconut)

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