Duck, two ways: Up until Christmas Day 2011, I had only cooked duck once in my life, with moderate success. Looking back, I can't recall the recipe I used, only that I overcooked it. Overcooking duck a little bit is not the worst thing, as it's still edible. But it's disappointing, because duck isn't cheap.
I decided to give it another go this holiday season, combining two recipes for Christmas dinner. I used the heavenly marinade and cooking method described here but made the fig and port sauce described here which happens to be one I've made a few times to go alongside roasted pork. Well, let me tell you. This duck turned out exactly as I had hoped, medium-rare with a crispy skin, and served with a wild mushroom risotto, it was perfection.
Flying high (get it?) on my Christmas duck success, I opted to try it again for New Year's Eve. In case you hadn't noticed, when I get into something, I get into it. But I wanted to try a different recipe and method. Whereas the first recipe called for slowly rendering the fat, then crisping the duck, the second threw caution to the wind and just went straight for the crisping.
This recipe was courtesy of Ms. Greenspan, another hit from her seemingly endless supply. I found it in her cookbook, Around My French Table, which you know I adore, but I also found it here for you, in slightly increased proportions. When I don't have to type out a recipe I'm a happy girl.
Dorie's duck recipe rivaled the first, no question. It would have been hard to beat the flavor from the first marinade, but this recipe was so elegant with the wine sauce and the whimsical kumquats, I had to claim the competition a draw. It would have been excellent with polenta but as I was running late and we were both a little full from an enthusiastic snacking session, we opted just for sauteed chard. And you know, it was enough.
One thing: I took these pictures and then realized I had forgotten to drizzle the sauce over, which looked rosy and gorgeous. But once I remedied this, I wanted to eat. Photographing food will never supersede eating food in my book. So, you'll have to use your imagination on this one.
And now I'm a movie critic too: We've been watching a lot of movies recently, and I thought I'd share with you three recommendations: one old, one newish, and one still in the theaters.
Klute (1971): Klute has three major things going for it: 1) Donald Sutherland (I'll watch DS at any age but it's fun to see him with a shock of dark hair) 2) Jane Fonda, in a performance that earned her an Oscar and 3) New York City in the 1970's, a setting so iconic it deserves its own screen credit. The plot is this: a man disappears, and, when the police fail to find him, his friend, played by Donald Sutherland, takes matters into his own hands. His search for his friend leads him to a prostitute in New York City (Jane Fonda), who claims not to know the missing man but clearly has some connection to him. I happen to find movies of this period interesting: gritty films emerging on the heels of a more innocent time. I think you'll find it worth watching; whether or not you enjoy it maybe another issue. Death, prostitution, and junkies rarely make for a bundle of laughs.
Super 8 (2011): Even if this didn't have Kyle Chandler in it (you know I love me some Coach Taylor), I'd still recommend it. Set in a small town, Super 8 is reminiscent of both E.T. and Stand by Me: a group of young boys shooting a horror movie on their, yes, Super 8 camera, witness a bizarre train accident in the middle of the night, which is only the beginning of a series of strange events. Chandler plays the Deputy Sheriff and father of one of the boys.
The movie is set in 1979 and anyone who was alive in that year will appreciate the careful attention to period details: the appearance of the first Walkman, "My Sharona" blaring in the background. We really enjoyed this movie: it was exciting, well-acted and written, and satisfying. Plus Elle Fanning is in it and I think she's great--she was also in Somewhere, another solid film, but not the subject of this review.
The Descendants (2011): I loved this and not only because it's set in Hawaii and stars a weathered but foxy-as-ever George Clooney. I found it smart, funny, and touching (no surprise as the director, Alexander Payne, also made Election and Sideways.) While the events of the movie are small (an accident, infidelity, father-daughter strife), their impact is large, something which is often true in real life. Few of us have truly unique experiences: love and loss are universal, yet they are, to the individual, monumental. And yet, even in moments of great joy or sorrow, one's tiny life is always set against the backdrop of something infinitely larger. In the case of Clooney's Matt King, the background is slightly more specific: the acres of pristine property his ancestors have owned on Kauai for decades, which are now to be sold to the highest bidder, at least if his cousins have their way. While muddled in the details of his failed marriage and his weaknesses as a parent, Matt also holds the power to preserve something that will outlast them all.
I thought the movie was fantastic and look forward to rewatching it at some point. I'm giving it an A, no reservations. A friend of mine ranked it a B+; I can't imagine what she found lacking. (Note to self: grill LD about her stingy movie rating system).
I hope you check out some of these films. I think you might enjoy them.