Magret de Canard (Duck breast)=YUM!

magret de canard - trustinkim

The first time I tasted magret de canard was at Chez Janou in Paris. We had been invited to someone’s apartment one evening, and I thought we were there for dinner. Turns out it was just for drinks. By about ten pm it became clear that there would be no food served, so we headed over to Chez Janou where I ordered the magret de canard for the first time. It was served medium-rare with roasted potatoes, and a red wine pan sauce.

When I made it this time (I’ve made it several times before, but always forgot to take photos) I served it on greens, but what you don’t see in the photo is the  potatoes roasted in duck fat, nor the pan juice I poured over the duck after I took the photo. I also served it with a baguette, which was perfect for mopping up extra juices.

In my opinion the duck breast in the photo is cooked to perfection. You might be thinking to yourself – isn’t that a little too red for poultry? Duck is a red meat, and the breast must not be cooked to well done or it will be dry. I was served a well-done duck breast on a subsequent visit to Chez Janou (they must have thought North Americans liked it this way) and it tasted like liver (ick). Some sources say that rare duck meat is unsafe, but most say it’s fine, and restaurants typically serve it even rarer than the one I have show here.

Here is a quick guide to testing for doneness so you don’t have to poke into the meat with a thermometer, using the feel of the meat compared to the feel of different parts of your face as a guide. When you prod the top of the breast with your finger, you are checking for the following:

  • feels like when you prod your cheek = rare
  • feels like when you prod your chin=medium rare
  • feels like when you prod your forehead=well done

To make the pan sauce you will use the bits of meat that are stuck to the pan acter cooking the breast, along with some wine and a bit of butter. The stuff left in the bottom of the pan is called “fond,” (silent ‘d’) from the French word for bottom. It is concentrated flavour that you don’t want to waste, and makes a really easy and tasty sauce.

You don’t have to eat the skin (but it is crispy and delicious), but you need to cook the breast with the skin on or it will be very dry. And that would be such a shame.

What you need:

  • duck breast
  • salt
  • red or white wine for the pan sauce
  • butter

What you do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. Remove the duck breast from the fridge at least half an hour before you plan to cook it. Score the fat using a very sharp knife, making sure you don’t cut all the way down to the meat. Salt the fat side quite a bit, then salt the other side a bit.
  3. Heat an ovenproof pan (I used cast iron) to high, then lower the heat to medium high. Add the duck breast skin side down and cook for 5 minutes – it should sizzle quite a bit. Flip the duck breast.
  4. Put the breast, still in the pan, in the oven for 4-8 minutes. Cooking time will depend on the size of the breast and how well you like it done. When cooked to the desired doneness remove the breast from the oven and place it on a plate or cutting board to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
  5. While the breast is resting, put the pan on the stove again and add a little wine to loosen up the fond. Let the wine cook down a little, then add a pat of butter to make a glossy sauce.
  6. I like to slice the breast before serving, and for a small meal the one breast can be shared between two people. After slicing pour some of the pan juice over the top.
  7. Enjoy!

Mini Frittata

mini frittata - trustinkim.com

These mini frittata, baked in muffin tins, make the perfect quick breakfast. They can be made ahead and then heated up as needed. If you’ve got any picky eaters in your household they can add whatever they like to theirs, or keep it really plain.

I’ve made frittata before, like this yummy potato one. For this version I altered the cooking method and time, and changed the filling to bacon, roasted red pepper and Parmesan. As I mentioned, feel free to use any fillers you like, just making sure they are not too watery. Tomatoes should be deseeded and drained if you are using them.

For this batch I made a half dozen frittata because I was still experimenting. You can double the amount so you have lots in the freezer – basically one egg per muffin section. Just wait for them to cool completely before putting them in the freezer. I wrapped them in a bit of parchment paper before putting them into a zip-lock bag. If you’ve got a lot of people to feed you probably won’t need to freeze anything, just keep the leftovers in the fridge for up to a few days.

To reheat, just pop one in the microwave until it is heated through – all microwaves work differently, so I can’t specify a time. I like to use the defrost setting. Alternately, you could take it out of the freezer the night before you want to eat it and let it come to room temperature, then pop it into a frying pan for a few minutes. The texture of the reheated frittata is a little bit different than when it made fresh, but still really good. I think these also taste really good at room temperature.

What you need:

  • 6 eggs, preferably free-range
  • 2 tablespoons diced onion
  • 2-3 slices bacon, cooked
  • 1/2 roasted red pepper
  • 2-4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • chopped herbs of your choice – I used basil and oregano
  • salt and pepper

What you do:

  1. Grease the muffin tins well.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350F/175C
  3. Fry the onion in a bit of olive oil or bacon fat until it is soft and just beginning to brown. Remove the onions from the heat.
  4. Pat the red pepper dry on a piece of paper towel, then chop it up.
  5. Crack the eggs into a large bowl and beat them with a fork.
  6. Add the onion, bacon, pepper, cheese, herbs, and some salt and pepper. Mix these ingredients in with the fork.
  7. Pour the egg mixture into the prepared muffin tins – I used a ladle for this.
  8. To be safe I put a baking tray underneath the muffin tin in case it spilled over; it did not. Place the muffin tin in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes. The eggs should not be runny on the top, so cook them for a few minutes longer if they are not done
  9. Cool for a few minutes before tipping them out of the muffin tin. They are delicious to eat right away!

Blackberry Liqueur

blackberry liqueur - trustinkim.com

Summer in a bottle! I picked a few tubs of blackberries down by the train tracks, and here’s what I made with them. This winter there will be blackberry cocktails and maybe some desserts featuring this gorgeous blackberry liqueur. We already had some drizzled on ice cream, and I plan to make a blackberry liqueur-champagne drink soon . . . 

This is really easy to make, but you need two days to complete the process. Most of the time is just letting the berries soak. And picking the berries – I have discovered that if you try to do this in a rush you get hurt. So many prickles! So I take my time, and it has been a someone meditative process. Being calm, picking only the berries that are ready to fall off the plant, the ripest and sweetest ones. 

The amounts used are based on the fact that I had 3 cups of blackberries. Adjust the amounts if you have more or less. It’s not an exact science. I looked at a lot of recipes to get ideas about what to do here, so this is a compilation of some of their ideas for amounts and processes. I added a few sage leaves, and I’m not sure yet if they are noticeable in the finished product, and are optional for this recipe.

The first batch turned out so well that I’ve just begun another one!

Simple syrup really is simple to make. Just add equal parts water and granulated sugar to a pot, let it heat until the sugar has dissolved, and let it cool. For this recipe I used 1/2 cup water to 1/2 cup sugar.

What you need:

  • 3 cups (750mL) fresh blackberries
  • 2 & 3/4 cups vodka (680mL) (I used Stolichnaya)
  • a few fresh sage leaves, optional
  • 1 & 1/2 cups (325mL) water
  • 3/4 to 1 cup simple syrup (180-250mL), to taste
  • cheesecloth for straining

What you do:

  1. Wash the berries and drain them. Place them in a large bowl or pot and mash them with a potato masher or the bottom of a bottle.
  2. Pour the vodka over the berries. They should be completely covered. Put a lid or plastic wrap over the container and let it sit in a cool place for about 24 hours. (It was really hot when I made mine, so there was no cool place to put it. I just moved on to the next step a bit earlier.)
  3. Strain the berries and vodka into another bowl, keeping the pulp. Cover the berry and vodka mixture.
  4. Place the pulp in another container and pour the water over it. Let this sit for 24 hours, then strain it, adding the juice to the vodka mixture.
  5. Use cheesecloth to strain the berries again, to get all the vodka and blackberry goodness out of them.
  6. Strain the vodka and berry mixture several more times through the cheesecloth until the liquid has no pulp in it. 
  7. Bottle the liqueur. It should keep for a long time in a cool cupboard, but I’m choosing to keep mine in the fridge since I have space.

 

Sea Asparagus

sea asparagus -trustinkim.com

I was fortunate to spend some time in Haida Gwaii recently, an archipelago off of B.C.’s coast. It is a gorgeous place, with lush forests and stunning coastlines. The Haida people have lived here since time immemorial and we experienced a thriving culture. We were able to see a lot of totem poles and other traditional art, and we experienced the sharing spirit of the place. 

While staying in Masset at the Copper Beech House we were honoured to be invited to a dinner where we had, among other things, this pan-fried sea asparagus. Of course I had to find out more about it, so Chelsea who runs the show at the Inn taught me what to do. She taught me where to harvest it, and how to soak it to get rid of a lot of the salt, and then how to cook it. (see below)

Sea asparagus makes a nice side vegetable dish, or in a small quantity it could be a lovely garnish for salmon. We had it with ling cod and spruce tip syrup, and some herbed baby potatoes.

Sea asparagus goes by many names: sea bean, samphire, glasswort, saltwort, and probably others. Here is a link to an article about sea asparagus if you’re interested in learning more about it. Also this one. will give you more information on where to harvest. You can buy it at some Farmer’s Markets, but you can forage it for free if you live in the right area!

What you need:

  • sea asparagus
  • butter or olive oil

What you do:

  1. After harvesting the sea asparagus, clean it of any bits that don’t belong, brown parts especially.
  2. Rinse the sea asparagus, then soak it in fresh water for about an hour.
  3. Heat some butter or olive oil in a frying pan. Cook the sea asparagus briefly, tossing with tongs. It should still be bright green, so that it doesn’t become soggy. 
  4. Serve immediately.
View from Tow Hill - trustinkim.com
View from Tow Hill, Haida Gwaii

 

Old Massett Totem Pole - trustinkim.com
Totem Pole in Old Massett, Haida Gwaii
eagle close up - trustinkim.com
I was fortunate to have a visit from this eagle. He landed terrifyingly close to me, so I took a few steps back and snapped his pic.

 

No-Bake Nut Butter Cookies

no-bake nut butter cookies

A perfect treat when you don’t want to turn on your oven, these chocolate-coated nut butter cookies are simple and tasty. I needed something sweet to bring to a picnic, something that adults and kids would enjoy, and these were perfect. Plus I was happy to not heat my home up with the oven. And also perfect, because . . . well, peanut butter and chocolate are a match made in heaven!

The recipe calls for oat flour. I just whizzed some rolled oats in the food processor until they were finely ground.

This recipe makes about 3 dozen tiny cookies. They are quite rich, so I opted to make them really small rather than the two tablespoons that the original recipe calls for. I made my cookies with peanut butter, but you can use the nut butter of your choice.

If you omit the chocolate these would make a great power cookie for hiking or biking. Unless you’re hiking or biking in cool weather, when the chocolate wouldn’t melt.

You can store the cookies in the fridge for about 10 days.

What you need:

  • 3/4 cup (188 mL) nut butter
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) honey
  • 1 teaspoon (5mL) pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (750mL) oat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 cup (188mL) chocolate chips

What you do:

  1. Line a baking pan with parchment paper, or wax paper if that’s all you have.
  2. Heat the nut butter and honey in the microwave or in a pot on the stove. Whisk in the honey.
  3. Add the oat flour and salt, then mix until combined. 
  4. Scoop one tablespoonful of the mixture at a time and use your hands to form each into a ball. Flatten the cookie into a disk and place it on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Use a fork to make the crosshatch pattern typical of a peanut butter cookie.
  5. Refrigerate the cookies while you prepare the chocolate. I used a double boiler, but you can carefully melt it in the microwave if you prefer.
  6. Dip each cookie in chocolate, then place it on the parchment again. Let the cookies sit until the chocolate has set. I did this in the fridge because it was a hot day when I made them, and also I was running late for my picnic!
  7. Enjoy!
pb & chocolate match made in heaven - trustinkim.com
“Match Made in Heaven”

 

Confit de Canard

confit de canard - trustinkim

Duck confit is one of my favourite special dinners. Locally I am lucky enough to eat at Les Faux Bourgeois once in a while – so tempting since it is mere blocks from my home in Vancouver. When I’ve been to France I’ve brought home cans of confit de canard to enjoy with friends. When I was in the Périgord region of France a few years ago I bought some ready-made confit de canard and cooked it up in an outdoor kitchen ,  along with Potatoes Sarlardaise, and lovely fresh summer vegetables.

Confit de canard is a method of preserving duck in its own fat. After the curing process which makes the meat tender and flavourful, the duck is cooked so that the skin becomes crispy.

When I made this at home recently I prepared four duck legs, figuring that if I’m going to do this multi-step process I might as well make a larger batch. In retrospect I realize that I could have made even more, as they keep well in the freezer. I understand that the confit process and the storage in duck fat is a way of preserving the meat, but I prefer to use it within a week or freeze any legs that are not used in that timeframe, just to be on the safe side.

Now that I’ve made this recipe a number of times I’m not exactly sure what all of my sources were, so I can’t attribute this recipe to anyone in particular. Some recipes call for using thyme instead of bay leaves, which is also delicious. I draw the line at adding juniper berries, because I find the flavour to be unpleasant.

This is a somewhat decadent meal, and best served with a full-bodied red wine, potatoes, a lovely salad or side vegetable, and possibly even a baguette. In the photo it is served with roasted potatoes and a green salad dressed in a light vinaigrette with a little bit of goat cheese crumbled on top – heavenly!

What you need:

  • duck legs
  • plenty of salt (I used Maldon)
  • whole peppercorns
  • bay leaves, fresh or dried, enough to have 2-4 per leg
  • garlic cloves, sliced thinly, enough for half a clove per leg
  • duck fat, enough to cover the legs (olive oil is a substitute if you absolutely can’t get the duck fat)

What you do:

  1. Remove the duck legs from their packaging and lay them on paper towels. Blot the legs dry.
  2. Cut excess skin and fat off the bottom of the legs; reserve it to render the fat. Keep the skin on the top of the leg – when you cook them later the skin will become deliciously crispy.
  3. Sprinkle salt in the bottom of a flat dish, then toss in a few peppercorns and bay leaves. Place the legs, skin side up, on top of the salt. Sprinkle more salt over the legs, then place bay leaves, sliced garlic and peppercorns on top of the legs. Cover and refrigerate for 24-48 hours.
  4. Preheat the oven to 110°C (225°F).
  5. Remove the garlic, pepper corns and bay leaves from the duck legs and brush off as much salt as you can.
  6. Place the legs in a single layer in a high-sided oven-proof dish.
  7. On low heat melt the duck fat. Pour the fat over the duck legs. If they are not quite submerged in fat, add some olive oil to top them up. Cover with foil and place in the oven. Cook for three hours, until the meat is almost falling off the bone.
  8. Allow the legs and fat to come to room temperature to refrigerate until used. The legs can be refrigerated in the fat until they are to be used.
  9. To prepare the legs for your astonishingly awesome dinner, remove the legs from the fridge and allow them to come to room temperature so that the fat softens.
  10. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Remove the legs from the fat, scraping off excess fat and saving it for later use (such as roasting potatoes or making another batch of confit de canard).
  11. Heat a cast-iron or other oven-proof frying pan on high heat, adding some of the duck fat. Place the legs skin side down in the pan, then place them in the oven for about 15 minutes. By this time they should be easy to turn over, and you can put them back in the oven for about three more minutes.
  12. Bon appetit!
salting confit de canard - trustinkim
salted duck legs with herbs, 24-48 hours
duck legs submerged in duck fat - trustinkim
duck legs submerged in duck fat, waiting to be slow-cooked

Italian Potato Frittata

Italian potato frittata - trustinkim.com

This frittata makes a nice breakfast, lunch or dinner with a salad, and it is also extremely delicious served cold the next day.  I’ve made frittata in the past, but I’m finally happy with how this one turned out – practice makes perfect! It’s quite simple to make, and you can cook it in a frying pan on the stove-top, or you can finish it in the oven.

I used a cast-iron frying pan, but you can use whatever kind of frying pan you have. If you’re going to put it in the oven, make sure it doesn’t have a plastic handle. I have read that you can cover a plastic handle with aluminum foil to protect it, but I haven’t tried it myself.

You can put whatever kind of herbs you like in your frittata; I used fresh parsley, tarragon and oregano.

What you need:

  • 500 grams potatoes, sliced or cubed (slice smaller potatoes, cube larger ones)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 6-8 eggs
  • fresh herbs of your choice, finely chopped
  • Parmesan cheese, grated
  • salt and freshly cracked pepper

What you do:

  1. Boil a pot of salted water for the potatoes.
  2. To prepare the potatoes: If you are using smaller potatoes, slice them about 1 cm thick. For larger potatoes, peel and cube them, about 2cm cubes. Boil the potatoes for about 5 minutes, until they are tender.
  3. In the frying pan heat half of the olive oil on medium heat, then fry the onions and garlic until the onions are translucent.
  4. Crack the eggs into a bowl and beat them with a fork or a whisk. Add the herbs, some grated Parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste, then beat them in. 
  5. You may want to add a bit more olive oil to the frying pan, especially up the sides, so the frittata won’t stick.
  6. When the potatoes are cooked, drain them and add them to the frying pan along with the onions and garlic. Pour the eggs over top, then distribute the potatoes evenly throughout the pan. With the heat on medium-low, place a lid on the frying pan and let the frittata cook for 6-8 minutes.
  7. At this point, if the frittata is not too liquidy, you can flip it. To do this, loosen the edges with a knife, then place a plate on top of the pan and flip the frittata onto plate. Slip the frittata back into the frying pan and cook without a lid for about 5 minutes. Now… if you don’t want to do this flipping thing, you can simply put it under the broiler for a few minutes – Watch It Carefully! You don’t want it to burn, you just want to firm up the egg until it has just set. No browning necessary; we want the egg to remain tender.
  8. Enjoy it while it’s hot, or allow the frittata to cool, then refrigerate and eat it within a few days.