duck breast; sautéed scapes, chilis; wilted red napa, fennel

I thought this was going to be almost a throwaway meal, one which would be quick, easy, and include ingredients I didn’t want to hang around the apartment while we were gone for 5 days. I didn’t even expect to post about it, since there was nothing original or totally new in any of its elements.

But it all turned out to be pretty awesome, so here’s the story.

The only thing that was really new was this Napa cabbage (sometimes called ‘Chinese cabbage’), meaning the fact that it was a red Napa cabbage, something I had not cooked before. I had however at least once before used the recipe that I worked with last night on a green cabbage.

It was the last red Napa cabbage on the farmer’s table; it was beautiful to me, and it looked a little lonely, so I swept it up and brought it home.

It had to be roughly chopped and washed (although it’s actually a pretty neat ‘green’), and then drained.

  • one 15-ounce duck breast from Hudson River Duck Farm, the fatty side scored in tight cross hatching with a very sharp knife, the entire breast rubbed, top and bottom, with a mixture of sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and a little turbinado sugar, then left standing, first inside the refrigerator and later on the counter, for about 45 minutes altogether, before being pan-fried, fatty side down first inside a small oval enameled cast iron pan over medium heat for a total of about 9 minutes, turning once, draining the oil after the first few minutes (the fat strained and used in cooking at another time, if desired), the breast removed when medium rare, cut crosswise into 2 portions and checked for the right doneness in the center, which means definitely no more than medium rare, and maybe even a bit less, left sitting for several minutes before it was finished with a drizzle of some juice of an organic lemon from Whole Foods Market, sprinkled with a bit of beautiful dark purplish (a phenomenon produced after the first light frost) summer savory from Quatron Farm and a little Portuguese house olive oil from Whole Foods Market
  • the thinly sliced white and lighter green parts of 3 thin scallions from Berried Treasures Farm, heated along with a tablespoon of fennel seed in one tablespoon of olive oil inside a small, heavy tin-lined copper pot until the scallion had softened and the fennel had become pungent, then set aside, while another tablespoon of oil, or a little more, was heated inside a much larger heavy tin-lined copper pot, and one roughly chopped 10-ounce Napa cabbage from Lucky Dog Organic Farm was gradually added and stirred until all of it was slightly wilted, then removed from the burner while the reserved scallion-fennel mixture, some sea salt, and a little freshly-ground black pepper were added, and the cabbage stirred some more, finished by tossing in some scissored garlic chives from from Echo Creek Farm in the 23rd St market and garnishing with more of them
  • a handful of garlic scapes from Berried Treasures Farm, trimmed, washed, drained, cut into one inch sections, and sautéed in a little olive oil inside a medium size antique heavy tin-lined copper pot until softened, a little bit of a mix of 3 kinds of finely chopped spicy/sweet seasoning peppers (red and green aji dulce and yellow Grenada, all from Eckerton Hill Farm) added near the end
  • the wine was a California (North Coast) red, Alex and Ryan Present: Rudy’s Petite Sirah 2016, from Naked Wines
  • the music was Mozart’s 1790 opera buffa, ‘Così fan tutte’, performed by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin


And when it was time to clean up, I saw that the pots, skillet, and spoons also looked darn pretty satisfied with themselves.