History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.
~Mark Twain

These bosoms need little augmentation or enhancement — well, besides a few spices.

MAGRETS DE CANARD (DUCK BREASTS)

2 duck breasts, each about 1 lb, always equal
Salt and ground black pepper

1 1/2 T raw sugar, divided in half
1 C shallots, finely chopped

Zest and segments from 2 oranges or blood oranges
1 C dry red wine

1 T red miso

Heat oven to 200 F.

With a sharp knife, score the skin side of the duck breasts in a crisscross pattern but do not cut into the flesh. Season with salt and pepper. Heat an ovenproof heavy skillet to quite hot. Place duck breasts in pan, skin side down, and sear until browned, at most about 2 minutes. Remove and reserve 1 tablespoon of fat, discarding the rest. Return duck to pan, skin side up, and place in oven for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Place reserved duck fat in a heavy skillet on medium high.

Toward the end of roasting, sprinkle breasts with half the raw sugar and cook a couple of minutes, until the pieces start to brown but remain crisp, then remove to a platter or board.

In the meantime, reduce heat to medium low in a heavy pan or skillet, add the shallots and sauté slowly until very tender. Stir in both the orange zest and wine. Simmer gently until the wine is reduced by half. Stir in remaining raw sugar and the miso. Season with salt and pepper and then set aside.

When duck is finished, allow to rest, then slice the breasts on the bias and arrange on a platter. Briefly and barely the reheat wine sauce and fold in the orange segments. Assure that the salt and pepper is to your liking and spoon sauce over and/or under the duck breasts.

Life itself is the proper binge.
~Julia Child

So, the conservative (J)ustices who reverently, or perhaps irreverently, have hailed their Catholic heritage were conspicuously absent for Pope Francis — Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito — should be wearing their usual political cloaks of shame with heads bowed. Please do not tell anyone, dear (J)ustices, that you had other commitments, as you were wholly transparent “no shows” to make an intentional, childish statement.

Are you that politically pugnacious, gentlemen? Will you, as does the House, not branch compromise? Will you value theatrical protest over governance, even as the “judiciary branch?” Will you seriously take a pass on this opportunity to hear words from the leader of your church?

Apparently, this was a “let-them-eat cake obliviousness to the needs of others” moment to quote Justice Scalia. Whatever his old man palaver means.

Even as an agnostic or atheist, you should feel utterly disgraced.

A simple, yet resplendent, meal — thank goodness, we can gracefully slide home.

MISO CHICKEN (TORI MISOYAKI — 味噌チキン)

4 T unsalted butter (1/2 stick), softened to room temperature
1/2 C red or white miso
2 T local honey
1 T “plain” rice vinegar (hon mirin)
1 T sake
2 t sesame oil
2 t ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 t garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper

8 skin on, bone in chicken thighs

Peanuts or walnuts, chopped
Cilantro leaves

Bok Choy (optional?)

Preheat oven to 425 F

Combine butter, miso, honey, rice vinegar, sesame oil, ginger, garlic and black pepper in a large glass bowl and mix well.

Add bird to the bowl and carefully massage the miso, et al., blend into it. Marinate in a large ziploc bag for a couple of hours or overnight, turning occasionally.

Place the chicken in a single layer in a roasting pan and genteelly slip (skin side up) into the preheated oven. Roast for about 40 minutes or so, turning the chicken pieces over twice with tongs, until the skin is golden brown and crisp, and when pricked the juices run pale from the thighs. Serve over rice or rice noodles and top with chopped peanuts or walnuts and cilantro with baby bok choy as a side.

Magical Miso(s)…

March 15, 2012

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.
~Albert Einstein

Salty and complex, a revered Japanese staple — umami laden.

Miso (味噌) is a traditional, thick paste produced by fermenting rice and soybeans, with salt and the fungus kōjikin. White miso (shiromiso) which is preferred in the western Kansai region encompassing Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe is milder than the red version (akamiso) which finds favor in the eastern Kantō region that includes Tokyo. The lighter hue is often due to the inclusion of white rice during a notably shorter fermentation period. There is also yellow miso which is made from soybeans that have been fermented with barley and a smaller percentage of rice, and black which is crafted entirely from soybean.

Mysteries abound about miso’s Japanese origins. Some posit that miso developed from fermented foods found in China over two millennia ago which arrived on the Japanese shores along with Buddhism in the 6th century. Others trace the origins to the northeastern provinces of Japan where archeological digs suggest an early mastery of fermentation processes. According to Japanese mythology, miso was bestowed by the gods upon mortals to assure longevity and happiness.

Many find it tasking, even enigmatic, to classify the rich flavors of miso — definitely salty, a tad sweet, not quite bitter or sour, yet chocked with that fifth taste: subtle and exquisite umami. From a Nobu inspired cod forward, versatile but often underutilized miso runs the culinary gamut.

COD WITH MISO

1 1/2 lb. fresh black cod fillets

1/2 C sake
1/2 C hon mirin
1/2 C white miso
3 T raw sugar
3 T honey

Peanut oil

In a small saucepan, bring the sake and mirin to a gentle boil. Whisk in the miso until dissolved. Then, add the sugar and honey and cook over moderate heat, whisking, until fully dissolved. Transfer the marinade to a large bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. Reserve some of this marinade for plating.

Gently but thoroughly pat the fillets dry with paper towels, place them into a glass baking dish with a fitted top or a ziploc bag and pour in the marinade. Seal tightly and allow to bathe in the refrigerator overnight or preferably for 2-3 nights. Turn them occasionally to encourage an even coating.

Preheat oven to 400 F

Carefully wipe off any excess marinade clinging to the fillets but do not rinse under water. Place the fish in a lightly oiled heavy skillet over medium high heat and sauté on both sides until just lightly browned, about 2 minutes.

Transfer the fish to the oven on a large, rimmed baking sheet and bake until flaky, about 7-10 minutes.

Arrange over greens of choice on serving plates. Dabble some drops of marinade on the fish and plate, then serve.

Pourboire: black cod is also known as sable fish and has large pin bones, which are curved little bones that run along the fish’s centerline which need be removed with needle nose pliers.

MISO & SESAME VINAIGRETTE

1/2 C white miso
2 T fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 plump, fresh garlic clove, peeled and finely minced
2 T unseasoned rice vinegar
4 t white sesame seeds, toasted
2 t sesame oil
2 t honey

6 T grapeseed or canola oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Whisk together miso, ginger, garlic, rice vinegar, sesame seeds, sesame oil and honey in a medium glass bowl. Slowly whisk in grapeseed oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

MISO COMPOUND BUTTER

8 (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
4 T white or red miso
Freshly ground white pepper

Cream the butter and miso together with a fork, while adding white pepper.

Use immediately, or roll into a log in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze for cutting into slices later.

Pourboire: Potential additions to the compound butter could include chopped scallions or chives, minced garlic, ginger or chiles, or citrus zest. Gently melt over freshly grilled or roasted meats, sautéed vegetables, etc. For red meats, choose a red miso which is much more rich and savory.

Salmon on Cedar

February 13, 2010

I’ll love you dear, I’ll love you till China and Africa meet and the river jumps over the mountain and the salmon sing in the street.
~W.H. Auden, As I Walked Out One Evening

The Vancouver Winter Olympics have been unleashed, albeit with a tragic opening on the luge course. Young slider, Nodar Kumaritashvili of the Republic of Georgia, suffered a fatal crash on a training run on day one. A sad, somber start to these games which are so brimming with hope and passion.

First Nations refers to the indigenous peoples of what is now Canada, with the exception of the arctic Inuit and peoples of mixed ancestry called Métis. The Pacific Coast First Nations refer to those those that trace their ancestry to the aboriginal people that inhabited the land that is now British Columbia prior to the European invasion and brutal colonization of the Americas. Centuries of scorched earth policies and ethnic cleansing followed. Indigenous civilizations under European occupation were severely dismantled, many eliminated, and vast numbers of the people exterminated.

A sumptuous pairing of earth and ocean, cedar plank grilled salmon likely originated with natives in the Pacific Northwest, including those who inhabited Vancouver Island. The name sockeye is actually believed to be derived from the Coast Salish name “sukkai,” translated as “fish.”

Typically, salmon are anadromous: they are born in fresh water, migrate to the ocean, then return to fresh water to reproduce. So, natives would spear or club the then plentiful salmon from the shores of inland streams during the annual spawning runs in the late summer or early fall. The fish were brought back home for cleaning and smoking, then stored for the hard winter months ahead. The catch was hung over open fires or tacked to native cedar slabs and then slowly cooked, absorbing the natural flavors from the smoke, fire and wood. Later, huts were built to collect and further intensify the flavors and aromas.

The earliest written recipe for plank cooking appeared in the Boston Cooking School Cookbook in 1911, authored by the venerable Fannie Farmer.

MISO GLAZED GRILLED SALMON ON CEDAR

1/2 C red miso
1/2 C mirin
3 T unseasoned rice vinegar
1 T honey
3 T soy sauce
1/4 C green onions, minced
2 T fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
3 T sesame oil
1 T wasabi powder
Pinch of cayenne pepper

4 salmon fillets, 8 oz each
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Whisk together the miso, mirin, rice vinegar, honey, soy sauce, green onions, ginger, sesame oil, wasabi powder and cayenne in a medium bowl. Reserve enough of this miso glaze in another bowl to brush on salmon while grilling.

Remove any remaining bones from salmon fillet. Rinse the salmon under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Generously season the salmon with salt and pepper on both sides. Place the salmon in a baking dish, pour the miso marinade over, and turn to coat well. (You may prefer to use a heavy, zippered plastic bag.) Cover and marinate for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator, turning a few times.

Meahwhile, soak cedar plank in salted cold water for no less than 2 hours, totally immersed, then drain.

Prepare grill for indirect grilling and heat to medium high. Arrange salmon, skin side down, on the cedar plank and then place in the center of the hot grate, away from the heat. Cover the grill and cook until cooked through, around 20 to 30 minutes. Brush with miso glaze once or twice during the grilling process.