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Duck with Dried Sour Cherry and Balsamic Sauce

*Post by Angela.

There's something about duck + fruit sauces that I just don't seem to get. Mark and I both love the combination when we order it out. But my limited experiences making it at home have generally not gone very well. I was hoping to improve my average with this recipe from The New Irish Table, since the lamb turned out so well, but alas - it was a decent dish, but the sauce was not as flavorful and satisfying as I would have liked. I think I may just keep working on it - there's a show-stopping dish somewhere in here, and I just have to make the right tweaks to find it.



List of ingredients:
  • 4 large, skin-on boneless duck breasts (the original recipe calls for 6 breasts, 5-6 oz each)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 sage sprigs
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp dried sour/tart cherries (which I found in the bulk section of Whole Foods)
  • 1 green onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 8 oz baby spinach, rinsed but not dried
  • Dash of ground nutmeg

 First, I preheated the oven to 250 degrees, then scored and generously seasoned the duck breasts with salt and pepper.



In a small pot, I cooked the stock with the sage sprigs over medium heat until it had reduced down to about a cup (10-15 minutes).



While the stock was reducing, I heated the vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat and cooked the duck breasts, skin-side up for about 2 minutes, then flipped them over and cooked another 5 minutes. I flipped the duck over one more time and stuck the pan in oven for 20 minutes to cook through.



As I was waiting for the duck I finished off the sauce. I added the vinegar to the stock and cooked about a minute, then added the cherries and cooked an additional 5 minutes. I added the green onion, cooked just 30 seconds, and took the sauce off the heat to wait for the duck.



Finally, right before the duck was finished, I heated the olive oil in a pot over medium heat, added the shallot and cooked just a minute or two, then added the spinach and cooked until the greens were just wilted. I added just a touch of salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.



I took the duck out of the oven, removed it from the pan to the cutting board and let it rest about 5 minutes before slicing it on a bias. I served it atop a bed of the spinach, with the sauce spooned over the top (Mark contributed a side of couscous with chickpeas and the leftover cherries). The duck was cooked perfectly, and the spinach was fine, but the slightly mouth-puckering sauce didn't quite pull it together - I think I would have liked a thicker sauce, maybe more sweet and less tart. Still, it was nice enough, and like I said at the top, I think I can find a way to improve on the recipe. Sigh. And so, my quest for the perfect duck & fruit sauce recipe continues...





*Post by Angela.

Merriam-Webster defines the word pleasant as "having qualities that tend to give pleasure." Urban Dictionary defines the same term thusly: "a nice way of saying that something is fine provided the lack of options, but if the choice was given, it would not have been the top of the list." The intersection of these two definitions is where we find Terroni, a perfectly pleasant place to enjoy pretty good southern Italian food and a nice glass of wine. Terroni is situated just around the corner from us on Beverly and Curson.



This Canadian import pretty much nails the decor, creating a lovely neighborhood trattoria atmosphere. The cozy and casual interior makes Terroni an ideal spot to take a first date, or enjoy a laid-back dinner with friends.



We started off with the barbabietole, with arugula, beet, goat cheese, pistachios, balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil (below). The salad was competently executed and served its purpose - giving us a lighter dish in preparation for our heavier selections of pizza and pasta. We order beet & goat cheese salads all the time, and very rarely does one ever jump out as something special. Terroni's salad was no exception, although I did appreciate the addition of pistachios, which added a unique flavor profile.



Our otherwise decent meal took a turn for the divine with the arrival of the Prosciutto d’Anatra e Burrata, duck prosciutto, burrata, fresh spinach and extra-virgin olive oil (below). The combination of the rich, fatty, paper-thin slices of duck and the creamy burrata, especially when consumed atop the crunchy batons of hearty bread, made this one of our favorite appetizers in recent memory. 



We headed back from the sublime to the satisfactory with the Polentona pizza, topped with tomato, mozzarella, fontina, speck (smoked prosciutto), and pinenuts (below). The crust was a nice texture, thin and flaky, but lacked the char and the seasoning we'd expect from better pies. The ingredients were good quality, but nowhere near as exciting as the combination had appeared on paper.



Equally competent was the Reginette Gorgonzola e Salsiccia, homemade pasta with gorgonzola cheese, Italian sausage and radicchio (below). While neither of us really had any major complaints about this filling dish, the flavors were much more muted than I had expected, with the sausage riding roughshod over the gorgonzola and radicchio.



Rounding off all this was the frittelle di nutella con gelato. These carnival-style fritters were stuffed with oozing warm nutella and served alongside a thick fudge-like gelato. At first, the fritters were chewier than expected, but the rich, creamy interior made the chewing less of a chore. It wasn't long before the tasty, if a little rich, dessert won us over.



The attitude of the waitstaff seemed to walk a fine line between being cold and just indifferent. Busboys seem comfortable skipping small formalities to ask bluntly, 'you done with that?' But our service never lagged and our food always came out right on time. While we were happy to eat things the way they came, Terroni is known for having a strict, if not stubborn, Gjelina-esque no substitution policy wherein when asking for a little balsamic vinegar for your bread or a side of parmesan cheese you may encounter a little resistance. Will we head back here? Sure, it's in the neighborhood. And while it's not spectacular, it is, as I said, very pleasant. Next time we may head straight for the bar for a few glasses of wine and another crack at the duck prosciutto and burrata dish.  

Terroni on Urbanspoon


Peking Duck and Broccolini With Chinese Five-Spice Sauce

*Post by Angela.

Happy March, everyone! I'm happy to be kicking the month off with a cooking post, since we've been a little dull in the kitchen lately. For our Oscars-Sunday dinner, I decided to make a Peking duck. I suppose I could try to give you some convoluted story of how I took inspiration from one of the Best Picture nominees (a riff on Black Swan? an homage to the ugly duck story of The King's Speech?), but honestly, it was just one of those random cravings.

The idea of making Peking duck is really intimidating, so I chose this recipe from Martha Liao (via Martha Stewart) mainly because it included a video. Turns out, while the process involves a lot of time, it's really not that difficult. And for the luscious results it yields, it's worth the wait. I paired the duck with an Asian-inspired side, this broccolini with Chinese Five-Spice sauce.



List of ingredients for the duck:
  • 1 4-5 lb duckling
  • 4-5 green onions, trimmed
  • 3 1/2-inch thick slices of fresh ginger root
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 5 tbsp dry sherry
  • 2 tbsp distilled white vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • Kitchen twine
  • 1 empty 24-oz can of beer, top cut off

First, on Saturday night, I rinsed the duck, removed the neck and bag of goodies from the cavity of the bird, and patted it dry. I trussed up Oscar (the duck) sort of like he was in harness, plucked the few remnants of feathers and such, and hung him off the knob of one of the kitchen cabinets, placing a bowl underneath him. I left the duck resting there overnight (about 9 hours).



The next morning, I checked on the duck - the skin was nice and dry, and had kind of pulled taut over the meat of the bird. If you're having issues getting the duck as dry as it should be, you can use a fan or put the duck in a closed room and turn on the air conditioner. Because Oscar was just about as dry as I wanted, I combined 4 cups of water with 2 green onions, 2 of the ginger slices, and the honey in a pot over medium high heat. As I brought the water to a boil, I made a slurry by whisking together 1 cup of cold water with the cornstarch in a small bowl. I added the slurry to the water and once the liquid had thickened up to the consistency of a light gravy, I added in 3 tbsp of the dry sherry and 1 tbsp of the vinegar and took it off the heat.



I took Oscar down from his peg (leaving the twine harness attached),  plopped him in the pot and began spooning the liquid all over, including into the cavity. I continued to do this for about 5 minutes, making sure the bird was thoroughly coated, then re-hung the duck over a bowl for another 4-5 hours.



Just before I took the duck down, I preheated the oven to about 300 degrees. I got out my Macgyvered vertical roaster a.k.a. an empty tall beer can, and filled it with about 1 1/2 cup of water, the remaining 2 green onions, the remaining ginger slice, 2 tbsp of dry sherry, 1 tbsp of vinegar, and the garlic. I placed the can in the middle of a roasting pan.



I removed the duck from its harness, placed it over the top of the can and shimmied it down so that the can solidly supported the weight of the bird. Then I placed it in the oven to roast for about 3 hours.



After about an hour, the room started smelling like absolute heaven, which made it really difficult to wait the remaining time. But wait we did. While we were waiting, I whipped up the broccolini.

List of ingredients for the broccolini:
  • 1 lb broccolini or Chinese broccoli
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1/3 cup crushed dry roasted peanuts

I stuck the broccolini in our steamer to cook for about 15 minutes, then combined the butter, soy sauce, and five-spice powder in a small pan over medium heat. Once the butter had melted, I whisked the sauce and cooked an additional minute or two, then took it off the heat. I tossed the broccolini in the sauce, topped it with the peanuts, and set it aside to wait for the duck.

And after three hours, we removed the duck from the oven and let it rest about 10 minutes and then sliced into it. Gloriously crispy and slightly sweet skin, with surprisingly succulent meat for a bird that had spent 14 hours drying out and 3 hours roasting. And the sauce on the broccolini was incredible - the very definition of umami. We served the duck and broccolini up with some rice and settled in to watch the awards ceremony. I'm not exaggerating when I say the meal was the most exciting thing of the evening...



Duck with Orange Sauce

*Post by Angela.
Have you ever come across a recipe you think is a sure win, only to have it go inexplicably hinky? Well, fine, Mr./Ms. Top Chef, maybe that only happens to me. I love duck. Mark loves orange sauce. I thought there was no way this duck in orange sauce recipe could miss. I was wrong. The duck turned out fine. Great, even. But it's pretty difficult to screw up duck, given its richness and high fat content. The sauce was another matter. For some reason, it turned out more bitter/sour than sweet, which I suspect was due to the rind in the marmalade I used. Whatever the reason, it just didn't taste like it should have. Mark really didn't like it. I didn't mind it so much, but I agreed that it didn't compare to restaurant-style orange sauce. Oh, well. I decided to write it up anyway, and maybe someone can spot what I did wrong.



List of ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp orange juice
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup orange marmalade
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 4 duck breasts
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
First, in a small bowl, I combined the cornstarch and 2 tbsp of the orange juice and made a slurry.



I combined the remaining 3/4 cup orange juice, the chicken broth, and the marmalade in a pan, and brought it to a boil over medium high heat. Then I lowered the heat, added the cornstarch slurry, and simmered it for 15 minutes. I took the sauce off the heat and covered it, keeping it warm.



In the meanwhile, I scored the duck breasts (cut through the skin and fat just to the duck meat) and seasoned it with the paprika, salt and pepper, then preheated the oven to 350 degrees.



After about 10 minutes, I seared the duck breasts in my grill pan, skin-side down, until the fat had rendered, about 3-4 minutes. I turned the breasts over and stuck the pan in the oven for about 15 minutes. I removed the meat from the pan to let it rest for about 10 more minutes before slicing.



I served the duck with some rice and spooned the sauce over the top. In actuality, the sauce wasn't really all that bad. It was just not at all what I was looking for. I suppose it was too much to hope for that something so simple could replicate the richer and more complex orange sauces I've had out. Next time, I'll put spend a little extra effort to see if I can come up with a crave-worthy orange sauce. Also, if anyone has a tried and true recipe for orange sauce, please let me know. Mark will thank you for it!



Duck Tacos

 *Post by Angela.
I love the process of cooking.  I love slow-cooked or roasted dinners, complicated dishes, meals that require overnight brining or marinating...most times, I feel like the longer a meal takes, the better it tastes; the more work a dish requires, the more love I put into it.  Unfortunately, like most working adults, my schedule doesn't really allow me to make time- and work-intensive meals, other than on the weekends or holidays (or snow days!!).  So, throughout my very short cooking career, I've tried to build a repertoire of simple and quick meals that are delicious and filling.  I've just added another one to the list: duck tacos from fellow DC food blogger, My Husband Cooks.  I decided not to make the accompanying corn salsa (although it looks delicious) because it would have required another trip to the store - I already had flour tortillas, shredded Mexican cheese, guacamole and a tomato.  The result was a go-to dinner that I will be dreaming about all week.



List of ingredients:

  • 1 duck breast
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. chipotle powder
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  •  Flour tortillas
  • Whatever toppings you like

 First, I scored the fat on the duck breast, meaning I cut a few slits in the skin, all the way to the meat (but not into it). 


I then mixed together all the rub ingredients, then patted the mixture onto the duck, making sure to get spices in the slits I just made.  I covered the breast and let it sit about 20 minutes.





Next, I preheated the oven to about 350 degrees.  I heated a pan over medium heat for about 2-3 minutes, then placed the breast skin-side down in the pan, letting it cook until the fat was rendered down, about 4 minutes. I flipped the breast over and threw the whole pan in the oven.  At this point in the cooking process, my tiny kitchen smelled like heaven - if heaven involved the aroma of cumin and chipotle peppers.



After about 15 minutes, I removed the breast from the pan onto my cutting board, covered it, and let it rest an additional 5 minutes - this is the hardest part of the recipe, honestly.  Then I cut the breast into strips.



I warmed a tortilla in a pan over medium heat, just about a minute a side, then loaded the tortilla up with the fragrant, juicy duck and topped it with guacamole (store-bought, for shame!), cheese and chopped tomato.



Yum.  LOVED this recipe.  I don't usually cook duck at home, but this flavor-packed, no-sweat recipe will have me coming back for more.