Category Archives: Boston
Duck confit is a favorite in our house. It’s usually Howard’s job to make it. Duck confit is one of the first of his sous-vide projects that he perfected. As ridiculous as it sounds, homemade duck confit, stashed in the freezer, is often “emergency food” (i.e. what’s for dinner when you don’t think there’s any food). Just thaw a pair of legs, whip up a pot of lentils plus a green vegetable or a salad, and a spectacular dinner is on the table in no time.
This recipe couldn’t have been simpler. First, you use a needle to prick through the fat of the duck legs. Then rub the duck legs with an aromatic mixture of gin, allspice, nutmeg, and salt and allowed to sit overnight on top of a couple of bay leaves and halved garlic cloves. The next day, wipe down the duck legs and then slow roast them in a low oven, no added fat. As the duck cooks, the fat starts to fill the baking dish, submerging the legs. Finally, the duck legs crisp up when the oven temperature is raised for the last bit of cooking.
I didn’t pick the right baking dish. David wants the legs to be snug. I had one pan where the legs fit snugly, but not really in one layer. In the next bigger pan, the legs had more room, not what I’d call snug. I opted for the smaller dish, but I think that was a mistake. The parts of the legs that were immersed in the fat melted off the bone. The other parts were tasty, but just not as tender. I think the trick is for all the legs to lie flat so they all can bathe in the duck fat, but with minimal extra room so that fat is as deep as possible.
The duck was also a little salty. I wiped the rub off before cooking. Howard thinks I should have rinse the legs as he does.
Despite being a little salty, the “fake” duck legs were delicious. In a throw down, I suspect Howard’s version would win. However, I like knowing I can make an excellent low-tech rendition on my own without investing in gobs of the requisite duck fat.
Speaking of duck fat, the rendered fat was the most beautiful golden color and perfectly clear. I’ve saved it for pan-frying or roasting potatoes.
Coincidentally, I went to a book signing for David Lebovitz’s new book L’Appart. It was held at a location of Flour, one of my favorite local bakeries for sweets. The line was long, but there were snacks – delicious Flour pastries. There was a crowd, so I only spent a minute or so with David. He signed his new book for me as well as my copy of My Paris Kitchen. He was very charming and down to earth. When I told him that I was cooking through My Paris Kitchen with a group of friends, he smiled and said, “I did that too”. Of course, I forgot to ask someone to take a picture…
I also met Joanne Chang, owner of Flour. Her newest cookbook is savory not sweet, recipes from Myers+Chang, the Boston restaurant she owns with her husband. Being more of a cook than a baker, I added this book to my collection and was able to have her sign my book. Again, no picture.
This has been one of the snowiest winters in my recent memory. Not only does it feel like it’s snowing endlessly, every snowstorm seems to dump another foot of snow on us. The banks on either side of our driveway and our front yard are four to six feet high. There’s really nowhere left for more snow.
During last weekend’s snow storm, I made this week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie: Chicken Couscous. This warm and hearty stew was the perfect fare for a snowy blowy day. First, chicken thighs are sautéed with a fragrant spice mix made from turmeric, saffron, cinnamon, ginger, and cumin. The turmeric and saffron turns everything a lovely yellow hue. Then a slew of vegetables and broth are added to the pot to simmer until everything is tender. Chick peas are the finishing touch. The stew is served over couscous, which is cooked in the lovely-colored broth from the chicken pot.
The recipe is meant to serve four, but we typically eat small portions of meat. That means eight pieces of chicken translate to eight servings at my house. To ensure that every bowl made a meal, I doubled the vegetables and the chick peas. The balance was perfect for us. Also, I omitted the zucchini because someone doesn’t like that particular vegetable. I had the best intentions of making some quick harissa and adding some raisins to my bowl, but we enjoyed the chicken, veggies, and broth ladled over couscous with no further adornments.
Next time I make this, I will skin, bone, and chop the chicken into chunks. Because the chicken was braised, the skin was not crispy and so wouldn’t be missed in my book. Also, I really disliked having to cut the chicken off the bone as I ate. It would have been more appealing be able to eat this with just a fork (or a spoon) and not have to deal with the knife. Maybe that’s because I served the chicken couscous in wide shallow bowls, and I feel like knifes and bowls aren’t naturally compatible.
Last weekend, before the snowstorm, we saw The Second Girl at the Huntington Theatre and finally checked out Bar Boulud, which opened at the Mandarin Oriental hotel here in Boston last fall. This was our third attempt to go. We had to cancel our reservations the last two times we planned to go. Third time’s the charm, and it was well worth the wait. I adore bistro food. We started with a charcuterie platter with the chef’s choice of pâtés, sliced meats, and pickles. I think I’m glad I didn’t know exactly what was on it, because I tasted head cheese for the first time. It was delicious, though I doubt I would have willingly tried it if it had been clearly identified. It was our favorite item on the platter, so we asked what it was when we finished it off. Then we shared a salade Lyonnaise with sautéed chicken livers along with the traditional lardons and egg on top. We finished with cassoulet. Oh, and dessert. Howard had chocolate ice cream, of course, and I had a tarte Basque, garnished with brandied cherries. Oh la la!
As I write this, we’re waiting for yet another storm tomorrow. We were supposed to go to Maine, but now I’m looking forward to a weekend homebound with my sweetheart. I’ve laid in supplies for cooking a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner followed by other hearty fare for the rest of the weekend.
Wishing you a Happy Valentine’s Day!