I’ve cooked seared duck breast more often than I can count, but it’s never the same, even when the trimmings are, and it’s never a disappointment.
This wonderful local bird is available all year round, but I can’t quite get used to enjoying Brussels sprouts in the middle of the winter.
- one duck breast (.85 lbs) from Hudson River Duck Farm, the fatty side scored in tight cross hatching with a very sharp knife, the entire breast then sprinkled top and bottom with a mixture of sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and a little turbinado sugar, left standing for about 45 minutes before it was pan-fried inside a small oval enameled cast iron pan, dry, over medium heat for a total of about 10 minutes, the fatty side down first, then turned over halfway through, draining the oil from the pan part of the way through [to be strained and used in cooking later, if desired], the duck removed when done (cut into 2 portions to check that the center is of the right doneness, which means no more than medium rare), left to sit for several minutes before it was finished with a drizzle of juice from an organic lemon from Whole Foods Market, a bit of chopped rosemary from Stokes Farm and a drizzle of olive oil [NOTE: the tenderloin, to the right of the breast proper in the image above, had been removed before the duck was marinated, but seasoned like the rest of it, then fried very briefly near the end of the time the larger section was cooking]
- two ripe, halved, Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Whole Foods Market, dried with a paper towel, placed cut side down inside the pan as the breast was was finishing, turned once, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, arranged on the plates next to the duck and drizzled with a drop of olive oil
- micro red amaranth from Two Guys from Woodbridge, a garnish for the tomatoes
- small January Brussels sprouts from John D. Madura Farms, snapped directly off their 2-foot stalk, washed, trimmed, and dried, then tossed with olive oil, sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, roasted in a 400º oven on a large unglazed Pampered Chef oven pan until they were browned and crisp on the outside (they will taste surprisingly sweet and quite nutty), arranged on the plates and finished with a sprinkling of herbed fresh breadcrumbs (although become somewhat dry and crusty themselves after 10 days), left from a supply made for an earlier meal, that is, a mixture of crumbs from what was then a day-old polenta boule from She Wolf Bakery, finely-chopped fresh thyme and winter savory leaves from Stokes Farm, a little peppermint from Phillips Farm, parsley from S. & S.O. Produce, salt, and pepper
- the wine was a French (Cotes-du-Rhone) red, La Manarine, Cotes-du-Rhone, 2015, from Flatiron Wines & Spirits
- the music was Vivaldi’s ‘Dresden Sonatas’, performed by Europa Galante, Fabio Biondi, violin, Rinaldo Alessandrini, cembalo, and Maurizio Naddeo, cello
In spite of its somewhat grand appearance in the picture above, it’s one of the most perfect minimal meals I know, and it’s been very popular with Barry and me for years. This time it was even more spectacular, for a reason probably related to a decision to include some habanada pepper in the mix.
Monkfish is the ideal choice, but almost any firm white-fleshed fish would work.
Also, I don’t think I had ever before included the particular potato cultivar, Nicola, that went into dish last night, although we had already enjoyed it in other dishes several times before. I picked out medium sizes while at the Greenmarket stall yesterday. While researching it today and looking for a link to use, I learned this potato had its origins in the Lüneburger Heide [Eng. Luneberg Heath] in Lower Saxony.
The original recipe, from Mark Bittman, appeared in the New York Times almost 20 years ago.
These images show the dish as it looked just before it went into the oven with the fish, and as it looked coming out 10 or 12 minutes later:
- * four monkfish tails (a total of 20 ounces) from American Seafood Company, rinsed, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, roasted at 400º for 10 or 12 minutes with three fourths of a cup of black oil-cured olives from Buon Italia, pits removed, on top of a bed of a full pound of very thinly-sliced unpeeled Nicola potatoes from Hawthorne Valley Farm that had been scrubbed, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper and already roasted for about 40 minutes (reversing the direction of the pan once) in a very generous amount of olive oil (1/4 of a cup) with 13 dry Italian bay leaves, also from Buon Italia, and a pinch or so of a mix of both crushed dried orange/gold and crushed dark habanada pepper inside a large enameled cast iron pan, the potatoes having been removed when they had softened and their edges had begun to crisp, the contents of the pan, after the fish was cooked through, arranged on 2 plates and garnished with micro red amaranth from two Guys from Woodbridge, with a little undressed watercress from Eataly nestled on the side
- the wine was a California (Napa) white, Sterling Vintner’s Collection Pinot Grigio 2016, from Philippe Liquors
- the music was Mozart’s 1775 opera, ‘Il Re Pastore’, Ian Page conducting the Classical Opera, with soloists Sarah Fox, John Mark Ainsley, Ailish Tynan, and Benjamin Hulett
Last night, just after we had finished eating, and before writing this post, I followed up on a tweet and reply I had published earlier in the evening that had indicated, with no embellishments, what one of the major parts of this meal would be (I even included an image of the sauerkraut while it was cooking). That second tweet read,
not saying it just because there’s been a certain buildup to this meal, and some of us know not every meal coming out of this kitchen is even very good, but tonight’s (sauerkraut, smoked pork chops, Saltzkartoffeln with toasted rye bread crumbs, was sublime
The dinner really was very, very good, although I can’t explain why. In fact, just before I had begun to put it together I had thought about aborting it and coming back to it on another day: I had learned I didn’t have a couple of the ingredients for the particular sauerkraut I had hoped to serve with the Rauchbier I planned to serve with the meal. Instead I shifted gears and turned to another recipe, but keeping the Rauchbier.
I would say that nothing was really new in any of the 3 parts of the entrée, either the ingredients or the techniques used, except for caraway bread crumbs as the topping for the potatoes. I did accidentally reverse the order of the covered/uncovered sequence in the early cooking of the sauerkraut, but I had expected starting off uncovered would have had a negative effect on the texture, if not the flavor; it might actually have been a boon.
In any event, this meal made me very happy, also because I brought it in under our new mutually-agreed dinner deadline, making us both very happy.
- * one 16-ounce glass jar of sauerkraut (simply cabbage, water, sea salt) from Schaller & Weber [also here] drained and very well-rinsed in several changes of cold water, drained again and placed inside a large, heavy, high-sided tin-lined copper pot with 2 medium sweet yellow onions and one red onion (the red one to be a little perverse), both from Norwich Meadows Farm, one ‘Newtown Pippin’ apple from Samascott Orchards, 8 or 9 whole juniper berries and about the same number of Whole Foods Market proprietary brand peppercorns, a little sea salt, 1 large Sicilian bay leaf from Buon Italia, enough fresh water to almost cover the sauerkraut, with more added later on as needed, all brought to a boil then merely simmered (uncovered at first, this time) over a low flame, stirring occasionally, for less than half an hour, and then covered (again, this time) for 20 or 30 minutes more, after which two 9-ounce smoked pork chops (in Germany usually called Kassler) from Schaller & Weber, that had first been dried and briefly seared on both sides inside a dry cast iron pan, were buried in the sauerkraut and heated for about 15 or 20 minutes, the chops and sauerkraut arranged on 2 plates
- * somewhat over a pound (we could have survived with less, but they were absolutely delicious) of medium-size Nicola potatoes from Tamarack Hollow Farm, scrubbed, boiled whole and unpeeled in heavily-salted water until barely cooked through, drained, halved, dried in the still-warm vintage Corning Pyrex Flameware blue-glass pot in which they had cooked, a couple tablespoons of rich Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter [with 12 grams of fat per 14 grams, for each tablespoon of butter; American butter almost always has only 11 grams, which makes a surprising difference in both taste and texture], seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, after which the potatoes were arranged on the plates next to the chops and the sauerkraut and sprinkled with homemade breadcrumbs made from the heel of a loaf of Orwasher’s ‘Righteous Corn Rye’ which had first been browned in a little butter with a pinch of salt
- * we shared bottles of 2 different kinds of Bamberg Rauchbiere (more about both my own ancient and Barry’s more recent connection to that very special beer here, and here), Schlenkerla‘s ‘Fastenbier’ and ‘Urbock’, from Schaller & Weber
- * the music was Vicente Martin y Soler and Lorenzo da Ponte’s delightful 1786 opera, ‘Il Burbero Di Buon Cuore’, Christophe Rousset conducting the Madrid Teatro Real Orchestra
Last night’s dinner represented a return to Italy, or at least one interpretation of Italy. While there were no fish stalls in the Greenmarket on Monday, again because of the weekend’s bitter cold, but I did manage to put fish on the table.
Three years ago I wrote this about this terrific dish, and except for the fact that I actually haven’t served it since, for reasons I can’t explain even to myself, I stand by every word:
This simple meal became a standard in our kitchen from the day I first tried it. It follows a classic and delicious Mark Bittman recipe which can be put together entirely with ingredients normally always on hand, meaning it’s perfect for those times when the cook has not had a chance to get to a market of any kind. Bittman describes the parsley ‘garnish’ as optional, and so the dish maintains my boast, but I can’t imagine not including what is the most common herb in the kitchen, if at all possible.
- one medium roughly-chopped sweet yellow onion from Norwich Meadows Farm, stirred in a couple tablespoons of olive oil over a medium-high flame inside a large enameled cast iron pot until softened, followed there by a teaspoon of crushed dried Sicilian pepperoncino from Buon Italia, a generous amount of freshly-ground black pepper, 2 tablespoons of salted Sicilian capers, rinsed, and the contents of one 14-ounce can of Simpson Brands domestic (San Marzano-type) plum tomatoes, the tomatoes themselves first roughly chopped, the mixture cooked, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes began to break up, the heat then lowered and the pot kept on the flame for 5 or 10 minutes more, then just before the pasta itself (8 ounces of Setaro spaghetti from Buon Italia), boiled barely al dente was added, 6 ounces of Portuguese Ás do Mar belly meat tuna in olive oil, already slightly flaked, slid into the sauce and mixed in, some reserved pasta water added and stirred in to ensure the pasta was not really dry, arranged in 2 shallow bowls, garnished with chopped parsley from Westside Market
- the wine was an Italian (Calabria) red, Scala, Ciro Rosso Superiore, 2013, from Flatiron Wines
- the music was Mozart’s 1772 ‘one-act dramatic serenade’, ‘Il sogno di scipione’, Ian Page condicting with the Classical Opera Company
I had only cooked goat ribs once before. It was early August, and I wanted to avoid turning on the oven, so I managed to devise a scheme that would allow be to cook them on top of the stove. They were delicious, and it was a very simple process, so I repeated it last night.
The ribs looked great on the plate, the aroma was wonderful, and they were very tasty, but we were both disappointed that they were quite chewy (the meat definitely did not ‘fall off the bone’). I might have had more success had I kept them on the grill pan even longer than I did, but I don’t know for certain. Even allowing for the fact that goat is nowhere near as fatty as pork, or even veal or beef, I think I could do better next time if I approached the cooking differently.
- one side of goat/cabrito riblets from Tony of Consider Bardwell Farm in the Union Square Greenmarket, cut along the bone with a kitchen shears into 4 pieces, dried on paper towels and pan-grilled inside an enameled cast iron ribbed pan for a total of at least 20 minutes, basting all along with 2 long branches of rosemary, tied together and repeatedly dipped into a mixture of oil, red Rioja wine vinegar, crushed dried dark habanada pepper (from fresh ones purchased in the fall of 2016 from Norwich Meadows Farm), sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, replacing a very loose cover of tin foil between each sweep of the herb with its basting mixture, arranged on 2 plates, garnished with micro red amaranth from Two Guys from Woodbridge
- ten or 11 ounces of not-large white beets from Norwich Meadows Farm, trimmed, scrubbed, and cut into approximately 1-inch wedges, tossed in a bowl with 2 teaspoons of olive oil, more than 1 tablespoon of a mix of chopped herbs (fresh thyme and winter savory from Stokes Farm, sage from Keith’s Farm), more than half of a teaspoon of freshly-grated zest from a Whole Foods Market organic lemon, sea salt, and freshly-ground black pepper, arranged one flat side down on a cured unglazed medium Pampered Chef oven pan, placed in the lower third of an oven preheated to 450°F, roasted, turning once or twice, until tender and slightly browned, or 20 to 25 minutes, arranged on the plates and garnished with chopped lovage from Two Guys from Woodbridge
- the small amount of winter kale that remained from a large bunch from Hoeffner Farms we had enjoyed the night before, washed, drained, wilted inside a medium tin-lined antique copper pot in less than a tablespoon or so of olive oil in which 2 bruised and one halved clove of Rocambole garlic from Keith’s Farm had first been allowed to sweat and begin to color, the greens seasoned with sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and arranged on the plates, a little more olive oil drizzled on top
- the wine was a California (Lodi, I believe) red, F. Stephen Millier Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon California 2016, from Naked Wines
- the music was Wagner’s magnificent late (1887-1882) Bühnenweihfestspiel, ‘Parsifal’, a beautifully-engineered 1962 recording of a great performance, Hans Knappertsbusch conducting the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra and the Bayreuth Festival Chorus, with soloists Jess Thomas, Gustav Neidlinger, Niels Moller, Georg Paskuda, Gerhard Stolze, Dorothea Siebert, Irene Dalis, Martti Talvela, Gerd Nienstedt, Ursula Boese, Anja Silja, Gundula Janowitz, George London, Hans Hotter, and Sona Cervena