Wish Upon A Dish

August 20, 2014

Seared Duck Breasts in Blueberry-Cognac Sauce

Why is it that even after 30+ years of marriage, I am the last to know that The Nudge has a thing for duck?
On our last two cruises, he oohed and ahhed over the menu selection of Duck a L' Orange and the roasted duck with au jus. He never asks for duck when home and I would gladly prepare it for him.

I decided, since he had this obsession with duck lately, it was time to teach him to grill his own. You need to know something about The Nudge and how he approaches grilling. With a no sense of urgency bone in his body, he takes the approach that if I tell him four minutes per side that means he can close the lid, walk away and drink his wine. Maybe with a steak but he found out fast enough that duck breasts, fatty duck breasts to be exact, can not be left unattended for any amount of time when cooking directly over the pile of coals.

For a man who likes his food hot, he just doesn't understand that to do that requires timing and sometimes you find yourself doing three things at once. Needless to say, I don't think he will be anxious to grill another batch of duck breasts soon.

I have been emptying the freezer this last few weeks, getting ready to take advantage of the sales of braising and stewing meats to come. Last night we had a Moroccan Lasagna and tonight, roasted duck breasts in a blueberry-cognac sauce.

I couldn't pin-point an exact recipe for a blueberry-cognac sauce (I found blackberries, stone fruits and citrus) so I created my own. Why blueberries? I had 3 quart bags frozen. You could certainly use cherries.
If you don't have cognac you could buy an airline bottle of VSOP or you could use straight up brandy and if you did not have brandy, make something else.

I knew my breasts were large specimens so I planned on a duck & goat cheese salad for next week. Almost as good as a steak salad but you can put fruit in a duck salad and I have my eye on some mandarin oranges, yum.

PS: Save the rendered fat from the breasts to cook potatoes. OMG, the best, ev-ah!

Score the skins of the duck so it cooks evenly. I pour off the fat about 2-3 times. You want a light coating of fat to roast the breasts in the oven. Place the breasts skin side up and roast them in the oven until the temperature registers 150°. Carry-over heat will still keep it pink inside but not rare.

Roasted Duck with Blueberry-Cognac Sauce
makes enough sauce for 4 breasts

* 1 cup blueberries
* 1/4 cup water
* 1 teaspoon honey
* 1 small shallot, minced

* Salt & pepper
* 1/4 cup cognac
* 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

1. Place the blueberries, water, shallots and honey in a saucepan. Cover and simmer for 6 minutes. Remove a spoonful of whole berries and puree the rest of the mixture.
2. Add the cognac and simmer until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Taste for salt & pepper.
3. Right before serving, add the cold butter and swirl to combine.

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August 18, 2014

Oat Bread

I am typing this post on my new laptop. Finally going totally wireless. Still working out the setup and downloading all my toys but so far I can't wait to clear my desk.

I can not say I will miss any of the old hardware, but for almost 8 years, it did me well.
Soon I will be upstairs printing downstairs.

With all the extra space this set-up will create may actually be enough room for all my cookbooks, which at the present moment are all on the couch due to homework on my last recipe contest.

While I enjoy getting experience creating, testing and reworking recipes for these contests, it is always welcome when I post my last entry. While I can sometimes post up to four recipes, I often make 6-7 test runs. Sometimes I hit the mark immediately and other times, I find that it could take up to 4-5 tries before I am happy with the result.

The ones that are left on the cutting room floor often eventually find themselves posted here. Such was the case with this bread.

In this house, the loafs were deemed (in this order),
Great crust
Best French Toast ever
Rose like a balloon and in record time
Easy to make
Freezes like a dream
The healthiest bread that anyone could eat that was tender but firm and moist with tons of flavor.

The secret ingredient? whole grain oats. Yup. You could use Old Fashioned, Quick Cooking or Instant oats, as long as they are whole grain. For the first batch I used Old Fashioned and the second was Quick Cooking. I could tell no difference, so whatever you usually have in the house is fine.

One other thing I noticed. Now, it's the middle of the summer and we all know anything bread left out tends to mold faster than those that are placed in the fridge. I left the first one out all week and it never molded or dried out. Only wrapped in plastic with no towel at the bottom, I have to say the bread for the French Toast was moist instead of dry (like you would like for French Toast) but it soaked up the egg custard and the inside was souffle-like and the outside developed a great crust.

If you get the chance to make this bread, let me know what you think. The fact that it's loaded with fiber is a great way to start your day and the oats are oober healthy and a great grain for diabetics.
We all know that oats are great for lowering cholesterol and preventing heart disease. What's not to love?

During the week I spread peanut butter on a slice with  dollop of no sugar added jam. I find that I am not so hungry when lunchtime rolls around.

I made this in my  Kitchen Aide using the dough hook, but a bread machine would also work. If you are lucky enough to own a large food processor, that would also work.
Recipe can be successfully halved to make one loaf, in which case a 5-6 cup processor would be fine.

Oat Bread
makes 2 full sized loaves

* 2 cups boiling water
* 2/3 cup instant non fat milk
* 1 tablespoon shortening
* 1 tablespoon butter
* 1 tablespoon salt
* 2 tablespoons sugar
* 2 envelopes yeast
* 1/2 cup tepid water
* 1 cup whole grain rolled oats
* 4 tablespoons molasses
* 4 tablespoons honey
* Flour (about 6 cups)

Preheat oven to 375°
1. Mix 2 cups boiled water, instant milk, shortening, butter, salt, sugar, molasses and honey in a bowl.
Let cool down. Dissolve yeast in tepid water - then add to warm water mixture. Add oats.
2. Start with about 1 cup moist mixture and add 1 cup flour. Repeat until all the mixture is tacky to the touch but pulls off cleanly.
3. Knead on medium speed for 10 minutes in a stand mixer and 3 minutes in a food processor. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to double (abut 2 hours). Punch the dough down but don't knead.
4. Cut dough in half and add one to each pan. Allow to rise.
5. Bake at 375° till golden brown (about 40 minutes).

Remove and cool. Can be wrapped and frozen for up to one month.

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August 16, 2014

Pan Roasted Tomato Salsa Penne

The first few times I watched Mexican Made Easy with Marcela Vallolid, I was not bowled over. Reminded me of every cookie cutter cooking show the Food Network was showcasing as their weekly daytime lineup.

Over time, I would watch Barefoot Contessa and then switch over to PBS, TNT and TBS. I missed the shows that taught you how to cook a cuisine, even The Nudge could chop an onion but he had no clue what to cook with them. I quickly became bored and put all the daytime cooking shows into one category....."useless".

As time dragged on and many shows came and went, I noticed a few chef's starting to rise above the ordinary, showing that they had substance. When The Nudge is impressed with a chef, I tend to take notice. Marcela totally impressed us both.

While her early days of Mexican Made Easy were uninspiring, as she gained popularity I noticed her format changed and she was getting creative with Mexican spins on America classics (like Lidia did in her Italy in America series). Go Marcela! The other day she was making a Mexican Meatloaf and it was the fresh roasted salsa topping that caught my eye. I could do that with Italian Sausage as a pasta dish. It was low fat (turkey sausage), high fiber (whole wheat pasta), diabetic friendly and so, soooo easy. Of course, you could omit the sausage and make it vegetarian.

Two whole tomatoes, half an onion, quartered with root end, three cloves of garlic, skins on, half a jalapeno, seeds removed and one ripe bell pepper.

I love the simplicity of this recipe. Two pots (one for the pasta, the other for the sauce), a processor, penne  pasta and sausages (optional). The deep flavor is obtained by dry roasting all the vegetables in a cast iron pan, then pureed and returned to simmer. It was then that I added the sliced sausage. A final toss with pasta and Parmesan and dinner is served.

Perfect for dining al fresco and just enough leftovers for lunch.
I think it's time for a little more Mexican research.

Pan Roasted Tomato Salsa
makes 2 heaping servings
* 2 medium whole tomatoes
* 3 cloves garlic, peels on
* 1 sweet onion, peeled and quartered with root end intact
* 1 sweet pepper, red, yellow or orange, quartered, seeded and ribbed
* 1 small whole jalapeno, stemmed
* 1/4 cup white wine

* 2 cups dried penne

In a dry heavy bottomed pan (cast iron or Dutch oven), place the tomatoes, garlic, onion quartered, jalapeno and quartered pepper flesh (skin side down) in one layer. Turn the pot on medium high and blister the vegetables until they start to get black all over. Remove the vegetables as they blacken, peel the garlic, cut off the onion root ends and top the jalapeno. Place everything into a blender or processor and puree to a thick salsa consistency (not a smooth sauce). Return the puree to the iron pan and simmer, adding the white wine and simmer, covered while the pasta cooks.

Drain the pasta, saving some of the water, and toss with the salsa. Add enough water to allow the pasta to flow. Shut off the heat, add the Parmesan and ladle into a large bowl.
Serve with additional cheese (optional).

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