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pan-seared duck breasts with clementines {ffwd}

Clementines

Before I started cooking with French Fridays with Dorie, eating duck was reserved for restaurant dining. If duck was on the menu, it was often my first choice of what to order. Admittedly, it’s the sides that are usually served with duck that help suck me in: lentils, roasted root vegetables, pan-fried potatoes… One of my favorite takeaways from this cooking group is learning to sear duck breasts in my own kitchen. I have the added good fortune that the grocery store closest to my house usually has a few duck breasts and legs in the meat case, though I’ve taken to keeping a few duck breasts in the freezer for impulse cooking.

The third and final duck breast recipe in Around My French Table is Duck Breasts with Kumquats, which is a sort of deconstructed,simpler version of duck à l’orange. All of the recipes are based on the same technique of searing the duck breast and letting it finish cooking while it rests in a warm oven, each with a different sauce. The sauce this week was a citrusy red wine reduction sauce. From past experience, I knew that using a saucepan to reduce lots of liquid takes way too long, so I used a wide low sauté pan, which worked really well. In the end, the sauce was satisfactory, but not that memorable. Actually, I didn’t enjoy the sauce from any of these recipes (the others were honey glazed and with peaches). I think I prefer the duck plain, but bring on those sides! (I have lots of leftover sauce. Any ideas on how it might be used?)

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On the other hand, the garnish, candied citrus, was outstanding. It’s a little too early here for the called-for kumquats, but I found some tiny clementines to stand in. The sliced fruit simmer in a dilute simple syrup until they are tender, which happens in about 10 minutes. The house smelled great! And the candied slices tasted wonderful, even just tasting them on their own straight from the pot. I’m excited to add the syrup to a glass of seltzer for a refreshing beverage. Or even to spoon the fruit and syrup over vanilla ice cream.

Jar of Candied Clementines

I wasn’t organized enough for any restaurant-worthy sides, just some Israeli couscous, but it was still good. For anyone who wonders, Howard did eat it without the sliced fruit.

Duck with Israeli Couscous

This morning was our first snow! It was a light dusting of wet snow, and it melted by noontime. No big nuisance, just a little reminder of what’s coming soon.

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Today is also “Bella Day”, the 5th anniversary of our adoption of our furry monster. I still remember Howard and I walking her around the parking lot at the shelter in the pouring rain, a test drive of sorts. It was only six months after we’d lost our first dog Lily. When I asked whether he thought she was the one, he responded, “What would she have to do for us NOT to take her home?”. So we became family. She’s been a joy, full of personality, a mix of sweetness and stubbornness. From her chow heritage, she’s not especially cuddly, though she likes to hang out close by her people. We also count Bella Day as her birthday, so Happy 10th Birthday, Bella!

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A similar version of this recipe can be found here on Epicurious. It’s also in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table. To see how the Doristas quacked with their ducks, check their links here.

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garbure from the supermarket {ffwd}

A bowl of garbure

Winter continues… This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie was just perfect for a cold week! Garbure is a meaty vegetable soup that truly sticks to your ribs. In Southwest France, where this soup hails from, garbure typically includes duck confit. Here in the US, though the ingredient list is long, this version can made from ordinary supermarket ingredients.

This is the kind of soup that’s best prepared on a lazy afternoon. You start by soaking some little white (Navy) beans. Then, you brown a pork shoulder. That’s when I realized my large Dutch oven wasn’t going to be big enough for the batch of soup, so I switched over to the giant stock pot.

Alliums

A variety of alliums (onion, leek, shallots AND garlic) are sautéed before adding big chunks of carrots, turnips, potatoes, and celery, the browned pork shoulder, a duck leg, the beans and lots of liquid. I used just 1 quart of chicken broth diluted with water because I felt the ingredients would add enough flavor. Oh, and I can’t forget the cabbage, piles of shredded cabbage. This simmers for an hour before adding some sliced sausage.

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I’m never quite sure what type of sausage to use when a recipe calls for “garlic sausage”. Is it kielbasa, bratwurst, or something else entirely? Google didn’t help. I found a fresh garlic-herb sausage at Whole Foods, so I used that. Because it wasn’t precooked, I pan-fried it before slicing and adding to the pot. Then, we had to wait for another hour of simmering.

Finally, the pork and duck meat is shredded and added back to the pot. I’m not sure why my pork shoulder didn’t falling apart. Maybe it needed to cook longer? I had to chop the meat into thin strips rather than just shredding it with a fork.

I know that food safety-wise, it’s not a good idea to put a big pot of hot soup into the refrigerator, warming up the rest of the food in there. I followed Howard’s favorite advice for this time of year: “Use the winter!” That means putting the pot out on the porch for a few hours or in the trunk of the car overnight. I opted for the car, though I’ll admit it reeked of cabbage for a couple of days afterwards.

This recipe makes A LOT of soup. We enjoyed it for several satisfying lunches and dinners, and I froze 3 quart-sized containers for later.

I also like this soup’s connection to charcuterie, at least at our house. The pork shoulder was the leftover half from a recent adventure making pork rillettes. And, the optional duck leg called for in the soup was the catalyst for Howard to make another batch of duck confit (his favorite, or should I say my favorite, of his kitchen DIY projects). The duck confit wasn’t ready to use in this soup, but it will be delicious next week served over lentils, a favorite dinner around here.

Thumbs up from both of us. Every spoonful is full of flavor, lots of different flavors. I love ending the month on a winner!

If you want to try this delicious soup, you can find the recipe in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table. To see what the other Doristas thought, check out their links here.

beans in the pot