Braised Duck + The Series

October 25, 2016

Be like a duck. Calm on the surface, but always paddling like the dickens underneath.
~Michael Caine

The World Series begins tonight — with a connection to the past, the two teams with the longest title droughts in the same game (parenthetically or asterisk laden) the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians. The Cubs have gone over a century without a series win, and the Indians with many decades without winning in unfulfilled seasons. Times of anguish without a taste. One of the most touted series ever — history and the game is here, it waits for no one. By the way, it is the aces, Kluber (Indians) vs. Lester (Cubs) that will take the mound in Game One.

I must admit to adoring the Cubs, as my childhood was suffused with Chicago, and then watching those fans delirious with their team in the field and later in Wrigleyville, tears streaming and beers and shots in hand, after the NCLS game clincher. I was fortunate enough as a grasshopper to meet Billy Williams, now still barely holding on, as well as Ernie Banks (and his no. 14 in diamonds) and Ron Santo, now both gone. I have experienced ivied and bricked Wrigley Field with men fans donned in suits and fedoras and women adored in finery during daytime games as well as Jack Brickhouse who bellowed “Hey, Hey” to signal Cubs’ home runs. As Williams has been quoted, “they’re somewhere celebrating now,” and these legends should be proud given their regular season winning percentage of 103-58.

The Cubs have superb starting pitching, assume a keen approach at the plate, use the field well, value divine defense, and have a sublime bullpen to boot. Sound familiar? — yes, Virginia, I have seen us win. Then again, the Indians also have supreme starting pitching, run the bases well and have a glorious bullpen too.

Nothing against Cleveland, but despite the “old-school look” of upper socks, the Cubs have earned one. Then again, the Indians play at home.

BRAISED DUCK

1 whole duck (around 4 lbs — preferably Pekin), cut into 8 or so pieces, plus liver reserved & trimmings coarsely chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 t dried herbes de provence
1/2 t cloves
1/2 t allspice
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t ginger
1/2 t cayenne pepper

Refrigerate well dried, cut, seasoned pieces overnight in a ziploc bag. Turn a couple of times.

2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T unsalted butter
4 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

1 (28 oz) san marzano tomatoes, cut well
1 C dry red wine
4 C chicken broth
1 piece of cinnamon stick
3 pieces star anise
2 bay leaves, dried
4 thyme sprigs

2 lbs small plums, pits removed and halved
1 lb turnips, quartered or more
1 lb parsnips, sliced & halved
1 carrot, peeled and roughly sliced
1-2 T butter

1/2 C Italian parsley leaves, finely chopped
3 T chives, finely chopped
1/2 C walnuts, roughly chopped
1 t lemon zest, grated
1-2 t extra virgin olive oil

Place a heavy, wide skillet with extra virgin olive oil, butter and fresh garlic cloves over medium high heat. When the pan becomes shimmering and hot, add the duck so as not to crowd — likely in a couple of batches — 5 minutes per side. Set aside, tented in foil on a baking dish or platter.

Pour off all but 2 T of duck fat into a ramekin and cover (for a later day). Add tomatoes, stirring well, then add wine and broth and bring to a nice simmer. Add cinnamon stick, star anise, bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Transfer duck to a heavy, large Dutch oven and pour the broth mixture & herbs/spices over the duck.  Cover and simmer for about 40 or so minutes, until duck is quite tender.

Heat butter and duck fat in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add reserved plums skin side down as well as turnips and parsnips and sauté for a minute or so, until lightly browned, then turn and cook on skin side for a minute more.

Transfer duck to a warmed platter and spoon over the sauce. Garnish with sautéed plums, turnips and parsnips.  Mix together parsley, chives, walnuts, lemon zest and olive oil. Sprinkle this mixture over the top and serve.

The American poultry industry had made it possible to grow a fine-looking fryer in record time and sell it at a reasonable price, but no one mentioned that the result usually tasted like the stuffing inside of a teddy bear.
~Julia Child

Shall the talk be about food or something else? I am torn now.

Peut être, since my youngest son is now in France, it is time for me to talk about Julia. Each day I am graced with awakening early and each night bedding late to Mastering the Art of French Cooking, volumes I and II, and times in between with each one bearing the name on top of Julia Child. Each tome stares me in the face close to my laptop screen and always smilingly so — thank you, Anastasia. By her writings and intervening WGBH television appearances, the 6’2″ Julia Child, with her warbly tongue and sometimes maladroit gestures was ever tactful and frolicsome. Julia and her cohorts Louisette Bertholle, Simone Beck, Paul Child (whom Julia met at the OSS and married) and always had a couth palette (and Jacques Pépin) simply changed cooking in America. They forever altered my mother and others and somehow randomly permeated me.

Thank you to all and others.

MOROCCAN CHICKEN WINGS (AILES DE POULET MAROCAIN)

4 lbs chicken wings, wingettes and drumettes intact

1 T coriander seeds, slightly heated and ground
1 T mustard seeds,slightly heated and ground
1 T cardamom seeds, slightly heated and ground
1 T cumin seeds, slightly heated and ground

1 T sea salt, finely grated
1 T freshly ground black pepper
1 T turbinado or raw sugar
1 T light brown sugar
1 T pimenton
1 T turmeric
1 T cinnamon powder
A touch of vanilla extract
1/2 T cayenne
2 limes, juiced
4 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil

2 T apple cider vinegar
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 C fresh jalapeño, stemmed, seeded and minced
1/4 C honey
3 T unsalted butter, room temperature
Preserved lemons, at least 2 or 3, insides spooned out gutted), sliced

Heat the coriander, mustard, cardamom and cumin seeds in a dry medium heavy skillet over low medium heat, stirring or shaking the pan occasionally, until they become aromatic, about 2-3 minutes. Allow to cool, and then coarsely grind in a spice grinder devoted to the task. Transfer to a small glass bowl and set aside until cooled to room temperature.

Then, put those 4 (coriander through cumin seeds) and the following 12 ingredients (sea salt through extra virgin olive oil) on the wings in a large ziploc bag and refrigerate overnight, turning a few times.

Then, add the 6 next ingredients (apple cider vinegar through preserved lemons) to a heavy sauce pan and allow to very slowly work to a simmer reducing to 1/2 or so and, after cooling to room temperature, allow this to marinate with the wings for a couple of hours.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 F at the lower part of the oven and prepare a well foiled pan.

Pour off most of excess marinade. Cook the entirety — the chicken wings + marinades — turning a couple of times, with the exception of the yogurt sauce, scallions, jalapenos,and cilantro (see below), of course, for about 30-40 minutes or so, until nicely yet slightly browned.

Scallions, cleaned and chopped
Jalapeños, stemmed, seeded, membrane removed and thinly sliced
Cilantro leaves, stemmed and chopped

Sauce
1 1/2 C plain Greek yogurt
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 T fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 T fresh cilantro, chopped
1 1/2 T honey
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Then, top the wings with chopped scallions, jalapeños, stemmed, seeded, membrane removed and thinly sliced, and cilantro leaves, chopped.  Drizzle very lightly with, then dip in yogurt sauce.

Now feed (with toppings and yogurt sauce in a bowl) to les enfants and the elders — in the proper wing way, whatever that may be.

To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being.
~Mahatma Gandhi

Then, we kill the both of them, without much compunction. As many may already know, I respectfully disagree with M. Gandhi, who was assassinated by a person repeatedly in late January, 1948. To an omnivore, occasionally slaying lamb, pork, beef, poultry or fish (provided one butchers head to tail) seems almost natural, commonplace — foodstuff for hungry mouths. So, lambs are somewhat beloved. Humans however, despite recent and past stats, should prove off limits to early deaths with little regret.

For instance, the Srbosjek was the term for the cutthroat, originally agricultural knife made for wheat sheaf cutting, which was used to kill prisoners in Croatian concentration camps during WW II. It was likely adopted to execute millions by the Ustase (Insurgence) having the upper part made of leather, designed to be worn with the thumb going through the hole, so that only the blade protruded from the hand. It had a curved, long knife with a sharp edge on the concave side. (Think box cutter.) There were even evil competitions to see just how many Serbian, Jewish and Gypsy throats could be slit with a single knife in a night. Their whole bodies then lie lifeless in a nameless, unmarked, mass grave.

A fascist Italian and Nazi German puppet government was installed under the guise of lawyer, Ante Pavelić, in around 1941.  Brutal genocide existed, what is often now called in a sanitized version, “ethnic cleansing, of Orthodox Serbian Christians for over a century…held most markedly under Nazi domination, anti-semitism, racism, and anti-catholicism. Terror reigned, and Pope Pius XII’s controversial response, despite the papacy’s detailed knowledge of the industrialized murders, was to turn a blind eye to these heinous crimes — certainly as it pertained to the victims. Neutrality, platitudes and often silence from the papacy met atrocities. The Pontiff could simply have done much more.

This post makes little mention of the vast number of Serbians that were forced to convert to Roman Catholicism during the war. Then, there were the barbarities of gas ovens and showers which perpetrated persecution via The Holocaust or Final Solution, and now American gun violence.

For shame, y’all.

LAMB SHOULDER

1 whole bone-in lamb shoulder, about 8-10 lbs

3 or so fresh plump garlic cloves, peeled & slightly smashed
3/4 C light brown sugar
1/2 C sea salt
1/2 C espresso beans, well ground
2 T black pepper, freshly ground
2 T oregano, ground in hand
1 bay leaf
1 T sage
2 T cumin seeds, roasted and well ground
1 T ground cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg, freshly grated
1 T cayenne pepper

Mantou (Chinese steamed buns), potato rolls, egg buns, even tortillas (warmed)

Place the lamb on a foil covered, rimmed sheet pan and set aside.

Rub the lamb with peeled garlic cloves.  Combine the brown sugar, sea salt, espresso beans, black pepper, oregano, bay leaf, sage, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cayenne in a glass mixing bowl and combine well. There should be about 2+ cups total.

Use the dry rub to coat all sides of the lamb, carefully massaging the mix into the meat’s cracks and crevices.

To set up a grill for smoking, leave half of the grill free of coals for wood chips.

Place the lamb onto a smoker or grill and cook, maintaining a temperature between 225-250 degrees F, replenishing wood chips as needed.

After about 4 hours, begin to check on the lamb every 20 minutes or so. You should be able to tear off a chunk of the meat readily.  The internal meat temperature, measured in a thick part not touching bone, will reach about 185-190 degrees F with the process taking up to 6 hours.

Remove the lamb to a clean rimmed sheet pan and set aside, covered, to rest. Then, using two forks or your clean fingers, pull apart the lamb shoulder into smaller pieces for sandwiches.

Garnishes
Lime wedges
Cornichons, sliced
Red onions, peeled and minced
Fresh cilantro or parsley leaves, roughly chopped
Radishes, thinly sliced
Avocados, peeled and sliced
Chipotle crema
Salsa fresca

A highbrow is the kind of person who looks at a sausage and thinks of Picasso.
~A.P. Herbert

Merguez, which has Bedouin and then Tunisian and Moroccan antecedents, has some assorted Arabic spellings:  (mirkas (ﻤﺮﻛﺲ), pl. marākis (ﻤﺮﺍﻛﺲ),mirkās (ﻤﺮﻛﺎﺱ), markas (ﻤﺭﻛﺲ) and mirqāz (ﻤﺮﻗﺲ).  After the French invasion, occupation and colonization of the Maghreb (“sunset” or “west”) which are the lands west of Egypt in coastal North Africa, the lamb/mutton or beef piquante sausage naturally spread to France and elsewhere.  The Maghreb was cordoned off from the rest of the continent by the immense Sahara Desert and peaks of the Atlas Mountains also their ports, often built by Phoenicians, look out on the shimmering Mediterranean Sea.  The area was conquered and settled by the Spanish, Italians, French, Arabs, Ottomans, Vandals, Carthaginians, Romans, Phoenicians, Berbers, Islamics, Turks, to name a few at differing times.  Sadly, there is nothing like conquest to make cuisine sublime.

Merquez is often served grilled, with tajines and stews, next to couscous or lentils, and in baguettes or buns with pommes frites — now, the latter is a scrumptious charcuterie and street food both.

Not that there exist constraints or restraints by any of these culinary means — with the exception of personal imagination.

A must.

MERGUEZ

1/4 C+ extra virgin olive oil
4 pounds spinach, stems removed, washed and dried well

2 medium onions peeled and cut into small cubes
6 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 T fresh mint leaves, chopped
2 T fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
2 T harissa
Freshly ground black pepper
2 t  quatre epices (recipe follows)

2 C water
2 C chicken stock
A splash of dry white wine
1/2 lb dried garbanzo or cannellini beans, drained

2 lbs fresh merguez sausage
1 T extra virgin olive oil

1/4 C lemon juice, freshly squeezed
Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 300 F

Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a heavy Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the spinach and cook, stirring throughout, until all the spinach has wilted and browned slightly and all the liquid has evaporated, about 20-30 minutes.

Add the onions, garlic, mint, cilantro, harissa, black pepper, and quatre epices and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.

Pour in 4 cups water and stock and a dollop of dry white wine to the mix above, then add the garbanzos or cannellini beans. Stir, bring to a quiet simmer, and cover. Braise gently in the oven for 2 hours, or until the beans are nearly tender.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 T extra virgin olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Sear the merguez on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel to drain well.

Stir the lemon juice into the beans and place the seared merguez on top. Cover and continue to braise until the beans are tender and the sausage is cooked through, about 30 minutes more. Season with salt to taste.

Quatre Epices
1 T allspice berries
1 T whole cloves
1 T nutmeg, freshly grated
1 T ground cinnamon

Grate the nutmeg. In a coffee mill or spice grinder, grind the allspice and cloves. Combine all of the spices in a bowl, stirring to mix. Use as needed, then store remainder in a tight, glass container in the cupboard.

Bon appetit!

The cruelest prison of all is the prison of the mind.
~Piri Thomas

Petit and piquant, piri piri (also known as bird’s eye or African red devil) is a cultivar of Capsicum frutescens, which is both a wild and domesticated chile pepper.

Piri piri rolls off the ever seductive Portuguese tongue which did not so gently settle into the lush, tropical lands of the República de Moçambique (Mozambique). Not unlike most European-African incursions, Portugal began to colonize these lands in the early 16th century. Mozambique’s natives and natural resources, particularly gold mines, sugar and copra plantations, endured serious exploitation. Indigenous peoples were subjected to harsh conditions, punitive laws, and restricted rights all the while “settlers” were lured to a land claimed to be flowing with milk and honey. Sadly, a familiar tune.

Independence from this colonial yoke was finally achieved in 1975, yet Mozambique was soon ravaged by civil war, economic woes and famine. Relative peace was reached, ending sixteen years of brutal strife and allowing the country to begin drifting toward some form of stability. Still, the civil war that devastated Mozambique’s economy and infrastructure left it one of the world’s poorest nations.

Ironically, Portugal’s PM, José Sócrates, has now requested a financial bailout for his own country, north and west of its former colony.

The country’s name was derived from Mossa Al Bique or Mussa Ben Mbiki who was a renowned, local Arab trader of yore. I must assume that had to be one in the same person.

Shrimp piri piri has been anointed as Mozambique’s “national dish.” But, what does that phrase connote in a world rife with regional and familial dishes, cross cultures, conquest, occupation and colonialism?

This piri piri swerves some from the basic, but is well worth the diversion.

SHRIMP PIRI PIRI

1/3 C extra virgin olive oil

1/2 t black mustard seeds
1/2 medium red onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
6-8 red bird’s eye chiles, seeds and ribs removed, chopped

1 t cumin seeds, roasted and ground
1/2 t ground turmeric
1 t garam masala
1/2 t ground clove
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 t freshly ground black pepper
1/2 t sea salt
Pinch of raw sugar
1/2 C apple cider vinegar

1 lb shrimp (16-20 count), peeled and deveined, tails intact

Fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
Lime quarters

In a large, heavy skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the mustard seeds and cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Add the onion, reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion has softened slightly, about 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and chiles and cook, stirring frequently, for about 2-4 minutes longer.

Add the cumin, turmeric, garam masala, clove, cinnamon, black pepper, salt, sugar, and vinegar. Reduce heat to medium low and cook, uncovered, for about 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and, when the mixture is cool enough, purée in a food processor or blender until smooth. If necessary, add more oil to achieve the desired consistency. Set aside and allow to cool. Then, pour over the shrimp and cover in the refrigerator for a few hours or even overnight.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat the remaining olive oil over medium high heat. Add the shrimp and sauté, stirring and shaking the pan, until the shrimp are done, about 2-4 minutes. Serve promptly with cilantro and limes.

This is an impressive crowd: the Have’s and Have-More’s. Some people call you the elites. I call you my base.
~George W. Bush

With all the recent sharp banter about Wall Street moguls, their dizzying business failures, shameless sybaritic bonuses, and recent unfettered use of TARP funds, it seemed only appropriate to suggest a recipe which has origins in the Mughal Empire. After all, mogul—jargon for a successful business magnate who has built a vast economic empire—derives from the word “Mughal.”

The rulers of the Mughal Empire were the masters of the Indian subcontinental universe from the mid 16th century to the mid 18th century. Major Mughal contributions included majestic architecture, development of the Urdu language, and a refined, imperial cuisine influenced by Persian culture.

Find a reliable local spice merchant for all of your culinary journeys.

CHICKEN MUGHLAI

The Paste
2 T cumin seeds
2 T coriander seeds
2 t mustard seeds
1 T dried chili flakes
1 (1 “) piece ginger, peeled
4 fresh, plump garlic cloves, peeled & roughly chopped
4 T whole almonds, roughly chopped
1/4 to 1/2 C water

The Brown
2 T ground cumin
2 T ground cardamom
1 T ground cinnamon
2 T turmeric
Sea salt

2 T grapeseed or canola oil
3 T unsalted butter
3 to 3 1/2 lb. free range, organic chicken, cut into 8 pieces, room temperature

The Braise
5 cardamom pods, bruised
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
1 T turmeric
1 t dried fenugreek leaves, crushed
4 cloves
2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
4 fresh, plump garlic cloves, peeled & smashed
1 C plain yogurt
1 C chicken stock
1 C heavy cream
3/4 C golden raisins (sultanas)
2 T garam masala
2 T honey
1 t salt

3/4 C flaked almonds, toasted

In a dry heavy bottomed skillet, roast the cumin, coriander and mustard seeds over medium heat for a couple of minutes. Grind the seeds and red pepper flakes in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Place the ground cumin, coriander, mustard and red pepper along with ginger, garlic, almonds into a food processor; blend while adding just enough water to develop a paste. Place in a bowl and set aside.

Mix ground cumin, cardamom, cinnamon and turmeric together in a bowl. Salt the chicken pieces first then coat with the spice mix. Heat oil and butter in a large, heavy bottomed deep skillet or dutch oven over medium heat until hot and shimmering. The chicken should sizzle when it touches the surface. Add the chicken pieces and sauté until browned, about 5 minutes per side. Place in a dish, loosely tent and set aside.

Pour off just enough of the liquid in the pan so there is still a liberal coating on the bottom. Add the cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, turmeric, fenugreek, and cloves into the pan and stir some. Add the onions and garlic, cook until softened and translucent, keeping the heat at medium, and stirring frequently, to avoid sticking. Pour in the blended paste, and cook until the color intensifies some.

Add the yogurt, and then stir in the stock, cream, garam masala, honey and raisins. Put the browned chicken back into the pan, along with any collected juices from the resting chicken. The chicken should be covered in the braising liquid.

Cover and cook at a simmer for 20 minutes, testing to make sure the meat is cooked through by piercing the flesh with a fork to see if juices run clear, yellow.

Serve with the toasted, flaked almonds.

RICE PILAF FOR CURRY

2 T grapeseed or canola oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves
3 cardamom pods, bruised
1 cinnamon stick, broken into 3
1/2 t cumin seeds
2 C basmati rice
4 C chicken stock

1/2 C sliced almonds, toasted, for garnish
2 to 3 T chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

In a deep heavy saucepan, cook the onion in the oil, adding the cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, and cumin seeds until the onion is slightly browned and soft. Keep the heat medium to low and stir frequently, about 10 minutes.

Add the rice and gently stir until glossy and somewhat translucent; pour in the stock and bring the pan to a gentle boil. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to low, cooking for 20 minutes.

To serve, fluff the rice with a fork, topping with the toasted sliced almonds and cilantro.