Monday, September 28, 2009

Duck, Duck, Nom

I love cooking game meats. I grew up in a hunting family where what we brought in was a significant portion of the meat we ate: venison, goose, squirrel, rabbit, grouse, and duck. Now that I no longer live with my parents and no longer hunt (due to living in a city and not tolerating cold at all), I don't get game nearly as often. But, if I'm willing to pay a bit of cash, I can often get farm-raised game in a local grocery.

This week, I had offered to provide a meat entreé for a dinner party hosted by a friend. I wanted to make a special dish that people would remember and that they couldn't get very often, so I chose to roast a duck with rosemary and nectarines.

Duck with Rosemary and Nectarine
1 2-3 pound ducking, skin on (if the duck comes skinless, lay strips of bacon along the breast to keep it from drying out)
1 nectarine
2-3 stalks rosemary
1/2 - 1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).

Chop the rosemary finely.
WARNING: Do not chop fingers while chopping rosemary. If finger is chopped while chopping rosemary, seek medical attention if necessary. Once finger is appropriately treated and bandaged, discard rosemary and start with fresh rosemary, knife, and cutting board. Or avoid potential of above by using food processor ;)

Peel nectarine and remove pit. Slice or chop nectarine into large pieces.

Unwrap duck and remove any giblets, neck, or other material remaining in body cavity. Rinse out with cold water and drain briefly.

Spread salt throughout the cavity of the duck and rub gently. Insert rosemary and nectarine into cavity.

Spread a little of the butter in a roasting dish and place bird in dish. Rub remaining butter on the skin of the bird (if bird is skinless, skip this and lay bacon on bird instead).

Place duck in oven and cook until internal temperature has reached 170°F (77°C). Remove duck (remove bacon now) and let rest.

The duck can be served hot or cold.

I served the duck cold as I made it the day before the party. The duck remained moist and flavorful, perfumed with the rosemary. The gaminess of the duck was offset by the nectarine, though apricots, apples, or peaches will work as well.

The duck meat was very, very moist and tender. In fact, the carving the duck was an adventure as it wanted to fall away from the bone.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Roast Beef in a Garlic Smear

I love to roast meats and veggies, especially as the weather grows cooler. Not that the weather is actually cool yet, but the temperatures have gone down enough from summer that I feel like I can turn the oven on again.

The local grocery chain had eye of round roasts on sale. The interior doesn't have a lot of fat, so the trick is to keep the roast from drying out. I opted for a relatively quick cooking time and a coated exterior to keep the juices in.

The coating didn't really form a crust and it wasn't a glaze, so I wasn't sure what to call it. I decided to settle on a smear.

Roast Beef in a Garlic Smear
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 - 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 - 2-1/2 lb beef roast

Puree the olive oil, garlic, vinegar, and salt together.

Trim any excess fat from the outer layer of the meat.

Spread a couple of teaspoons of olive oil on the bottom of the roasting pan. This will keep the roast and smear from sticking to the pan.

Coat the roast with the puree and place in roasting pan. Roast at 450°F (232°C) until the internal temperature reaches the desired level of doneness. I cooked mine until 140°F (60°C), which took about two hours or so.

As garlic is roasted, it loses a lot of its pungency and increases its umami and sweet tones. The oil kept the smear from getting crusty, but also helped hold in the juiciness of the meat. My favorite part of the roast was the edges next to the carmelized crust. This would be a surprise to anyone who knows me because I tend to prefer my beef on the blue end of rare -- which was not how this edges of this roast were. But the meat was so sweet and succulent that I almost couldn't get enough of it.

I served the roast with baked mashed potatoes with horseradish and steamed broccoli.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Citrus Balsamic Vinaigrette

Last week, I made an interesting sauce for over steamed broccoli and carrots. The sauce was simple: balsamic vinegar and orange zest. All weekend long, all I could think of was how good that sauce was and how awesome it would be over fresh greens and some fruit. So that's what I did!

I will warn you now that this dressing isn't for everyone. My partner isn't too fond of it; she finds balsamic vinegar too strongly flavored.

Citrus Balsamic Vinaigrette
1 cup dark balsamic vinegar
zest of 2 oranges
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Soak zest in vinegar for about an hour. Strain.

Whisk in oil slowly until blended.

I served it over fresh greens with pieces of apples, oranges, pears, and nectarines and several blueberries and raspberries. The dressing was wonderfully bright and tangy and set off the sweetness of the fruit nicely while providing a nice little savory tone to the salad.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Beef and Barley Pot Roast

I just got back from a wonderful weekend trip, only to find that the weather has gotten much cooler at home. I don't want to turn on the heat this early in the year, but I do want to warm it up and drive off the chill. Plus, I'm still wiped from the travelling so I don't want to do a lot of work.

I grabbed some beef out of the freezer. Normally, I use fresh veggies in all my cooking, but to save time and energy (mine) I decided to go with a frozen stew mix and add a little celery and mushrooms. To that, I added barley and spices and tossed the whole thing in the oven.

Beef and Barley Pot Roast
2 lbs. beef
1/2 lb carrots
1/4 lb celery (several stalks)
8 oz mushrooms
1/2 large onion or 8-10 pearl onions
1 cup barley (use more for a less soupy stew)
1 tablespoon beef base
1 tablespoon mushroom base
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp rosemary
1/4 tsp savory
3-4 bay leaves

Dissolve the beef and mushroom bases in a cup or so of water. Add it and all ingredients to 5 quart oven safe pan. Add water to cover. Cook at 270 for several hours, until done. Serve.

Total prep time is less than half an hour, even using all fresh vegetables. You only need to check on it every once in a while to make sure there is enough fluid to cover the food. Putting it in the oven (or in a crockpot) meant I didn't have to worry about it scorching.

I added more barley one and half hours into the cooking as it didn't seem to have enough. This was both good and bad. There wasn't as much sauce as I was hoping for, but the mucilaginous quality of the barley was heightened.

As a result, the barley imparted a nice unctuousness to the dish while absorbing the saltiness of the beef and mushroom base. When I make this again, I plan to make my own broth to start with; this won't be an issue and I'll need to add salt.

All and all, a good meal for a damp, chilly day (yes, we do occasionally get them in the Inland Northwest).