Sunday, February 24, 2013

Expanding my repertoire

This month I tried lots of new recipes out and discovered some new dishes that were wonderfully tasty and easy to prepare.

This Warm New Potato and Smoked Mackerel Salad is very yummy. I think the aim with this dish is to nicely balance the five different tastes (sweet, salty, bitter, sour, umami) and then use the simple contrast of warm and cool to add extra dimension. It's very easy to prepare and made a nice first course but I can see this being a meal all by itself. I didn't have creme fraiche on hand for the creamy dressing, but Greek yoghurt substituted nicely. Also, no horseradish, so added a bit of aioli for a bit of tang.

Another easy meal: mussels. I've never made them at home before because I thought it required a special trip to a place like Diana's Seafood. But there they were, in the grocery store, right beside some salmon fillets. You Tube was a good source for recipes, and I found a great cooking demo that inspired me to steam them with leftover white wine, garlic and top with fresh tomato and Italian seasoning. Served with fresh baguette warmed in the oven. Delicious!

One thing that was reinforced in my culinary adventures this month was how important cuts of meat and poultry are to the success of the meal and the chosen method of preparation.

I had planned a pan-roasted chicken breast with sage-vermouth sauce. When I went to the grocery store, they didn't have chicken breast bone-in, skin on. I thought I could improvise with thin fillets. It was okay, but I think it would have produced far better results with the bone-in. Later in the week I used the pan-roasting technique with some drumsticks: browning first on the stove top and then finishing in the oven. Crispy skin and delicious meat!

I'm not quite sure what instigated my craving for roast duck, but my search yielded a recipe in Cook's Illustrated, The New Best Recipe that finished with a port wine glaze. Off to the St. Lawrence Market in search of fresh duck - and I lucked out in finding Muscovy. Usually the frozen kind is Pekin, which Cook's Illustrated warns is quite fatty. Since the Muscovy duck is much leaner, I ended up ditching the original recipe in favour of a whole duck slow roast.

The slow-roasted duck was absolutely beautiful when we took it out of the oven. A rich dark colour. The legs and thighs were moist but the breast itself was a tad overdone. An apple/pear chutney immediately helped address the problem. The next day, the duck was an absolutely delicious snack. 

In the New Best Recipe version, they call for cooking the different cuts for different lengths of time, which is a good solution.  Downside (or upside, depending on your point of view), is that you don't get to carve the bird at the table.

I saved a few ounces of the rendered duck fat for future use. According the the Hungry Mouse, it keeps for months in the fridge and comes in handy. I'll be sure to try some of these soon:
  • Duck fat is a glorious companion to potatoes. 
  • Add duck fat to mashed potatoes instead of butter.
  • Rub a whole chicken’s skin with it before roasting. It’ll add a good, deep flavor to your bird. (A chicken in duck’s clothing? I’ll take it!)
  • Slather it on root veggies and roast with garlic, salt, and pepper.

1 comment:

Annika said...

Funny... I've also been feeling rather inspired this month.. Made numerous new dishes, so now the family is excited to see What's for Dinner? Greek Yogurt is a good substitute for creme fraiche. I've cooked with it numberous times each week this month so I make my own.