Sunday, December 25, 2011

Local Dinner With Christmas Duck

Our first Christmas in the new house. I wanted something memorable and still manageable --given the state of our not so, let's say, elegant kitchen. One quick trip to the weekly farmer's market brought home a treasure trove of ingredients: wild arugula, fingerling potatoes, baby turnips, cauliflower, pomegranates, shallots, and a fresh Muscovy duck. After pricking the skin all over with a fork I popped our duck in the oven, seasoned with salt and pepper; the cavity filled with shallots, garlic and thyme. He roasted for about 2 1/2 hours at 400º with me turning him breast side up or down every 45 minutes. I really wanted to cook the duck slowly -- more like 5 hours at 300º or 350º. With just one oven and a cake to bake I had to sacrifice a bit of the slow cooked taste for a nice early Christmas dinner. That's what I get for laying in bed watching Christmas movies instead of jumping up and baking. For the last hour of roasting I tossed the peeled turnips and halved fingerling potatoes in with the duck to roast in the rich fat. Just before the duck was cooked through I coated the skin with a delicate honey lemon glaze. I used that same glaze along with a dash of balsamic vinegar and, yes I admit it, a drizzle of duck fat instead of olive oil to dress the salad.
Along side the duck, offering a bit of creamy sauce to the dark meat, a cauliflower and endive gratin. The vegetables baed for more than an hour (I started them raw) in a cheesy mornay sauce brimming with nutty gruyere and fresh marjoram.
Though I am not really much for tradition, every year I make the same cake for Christmas. A gooey, spicy gingerbread from a recipe by Claudia Flemming, former pastry chef during Tom Coliccio's reign, of Gramercy Tavern. Flemming's recipes are simple, straight forward and brimming with flavor. Flavored with Guinness stout and molasses James is always happy to see this cake on the table. It's so easy and quick I am always happy to make it -- but I save it for once a year . . . most times.
Merry Christmas Honey.

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