Duck Takes the Cake

Sunday, November 30, 2008

It's always been a fixture on our winter menu, but I did debate briefly whether duck might seem a little too extravagant for such lean times. It's no more expensive than anything else we serve, but these wild economic swings are putting me and everyone else in weird moods some days. Perhaps a simple gruel might be more in order. I was wrong. I believe that I have gotten more complements on duck this year than on cheese pork. So, onward through the storm!

All of our winter favorites are back. One of the practical aspects of seasonal cooking is a sort of automatic unfolding of favorite dishes year after year at their appropriate time. This year the aforementioned Cheese Pork is accompanied by its own tee shirt. This is not a joke. You can order one while they last from the Crook's website. I'm told that this is a limited edition.

As always we lead up to Christmas with half a duck sauced with cranberries simmered in a basic aigre-doux . The legs are confit; the breasts are quick seared. After our holiday break, we'll return with a variation. The main course will be only the seared duck breast. Citrus, sometimes grapefruit sometimes kumquats, replaces the cranberries which become hard to find. The cured legs move on to appear in soup and wilted salad. I'm not trying to detract from cheese pork of course. As I said, this year it gets its own tee shirt.
Thanksgiving week I had, what has now become a yearly visit from Elizabeth Karmel. Her mother lives in Greensboro, and has a dynamite recipe for fruit cake that bound with persimmon puree. Every year Elizabeth comes home and they make a holiday sized batch for gifts. I've been providing the persimmons and as my reward I get a cake. This year they brought me half of the last of last years cakes. It had been sitting in apricot brandy for almost a year. It was so good I almost swallowed it whole. I like fruit cakes, but for contrast I'll describe this year's Christmas card from Tiffany Vickers , my friend in the test kitchen of Cooking Light. It has an Edward Gorey illustration of Victorian clad conspirators dumping fruit cakes down a hole in the ice on a frozen lake.

posted by Bill Smith at 7:26 AM


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