Sunday, January 2, 2011

Everything But the Quack????

Since the new semester begins tomorrow, I thought I'd post a New Year's weekend wrap-up before things get all crazy again.  I really need to win Power Ball so I don't have to worry about new semesters (except when HRH is old enough to go to school).  But for now, this is going to be a lengthy entry.  Don't worry - I have pictures!
In our house, New Year's means one thing: beans and greens.  Um, that would be two things.  Regardless, we make sure that our new year celebrations always includes this southern tradition.  Beans and greens are symbolic of money, so eating them on the first day of the new year is considered a lucky food to help one be successful.  
Our personal tradition has evolved into having lunch at Mrs. White's Golden Rule Cafe in downtown Phoenix, literally in the shadow of Chase Field (I still call it the B.O.B.).  Since we moved back from Michigan, this has been an annual pilgrimage, made with the same friends.
Mrs. White's is a Phoenix institution.  The restaurant, completely unremarkable on the outside, has walls covered with the autographs and well wishes of local and national celebrities.  And this is for good reason - it has been serving up soul food the way it should be for years.
Clearly, then, it's a day of indulgences.  While all of the veggies at Mrs. White's are cooked without meat, one will rarely find someone who opts for the vegetable plate over a smothered pork chop (my personal favorite), chicken fried steak, or the classic staple - fried chicken.  
This was the first year that the restaurant started accepting credit and debit - before this, only cash was accepted, and I have to say that I love how one pays - once finished (and able to roll out of one's seat), a guest simply goes up to the cash register, tells the cashier what he had, and he then pays for that.  From what I understand, that is the reason of the name of the restaurant - if they treat you well with great food, you will treat them well by being honest about what you ate.
Now, I must come clean - I wanted the macaroni and cheese (not on the regular menu, but it is available - like other well-known restaurants, there are items that you have to know to ask for), so I just stole the black-eyed peas off hubby's plate, but I did order (and inhale) the greens.  Even though they are vegetarian, they are NOT lacking in flavor; there is a great spice to them that you get at the end of each bite.  
However, I was a bit disappointed in the mac and cheese.  I like an al dente noodle, and the pasta was somewhat overdone.  Texture aside, the taste was great - perfectly cheesy.  
I washed everything down with way too much sweet tea.  Mrs. White's knows how to make some sweet tea, I'll tell you - I could go there and drink it by the gallon.
Another great thing about Mrs. White's is that it's between two Light Rail stops, so after lunching, we waddled back to the nearest stop and headed home, where both HRH and I took a nap.

Post-food coma, today I decided to do something with the duck leftovers from New Year's Eve dinner.  I had a goal to use as much of him as possible.  Zooey had already gotten the "stuff that was inside the cavity" for her New Year's Eve dinner, and while she turns up her hound dog nose at chicken gizzards, she inhaled the neck, heart, and gizzard.  I did hold the liver in reserve, as my PIC mentioned trying to make a paté with that and some of that wonderful fat that we saved.
But what better to go with homemade paté than homemade bread?  I found a pretty simple mini baguette recipe that seemed impossible to mess up - I mean, seriously - knead for 8 minutes?  This had to be fail proof.

Except that today seemed to be the day of baking fail.  First of all, I learned (the very, very) hard way that Pyrex® is NOT indestructible.  When I went to add the water to the dish that I placed (with water already in it) in the oven, CRASH!!!!!!  The dish (my favorite, since it's what I make my nanaimo bars in) shattered.
This is the second Pyrex® dish that I have lost, although the first time our dinner was already in it and nearly done when the explosion happened.
Secondly, I think that the delay in getting the mini loaves into the oven may have caused them to be a bit too hard.  While the insides were soft enough, the crust was really, really, really thick.  Perhaps I needed to check it before the 20-minute estimation, but considering that we had to turn off the oven, let it cool, clean out the glass, turn it back on, and let it preheat back up to 500°, there is plenty of room for  hypothesis here.

Oh, well.  They were still good, and butter always makes everything taste better, so I'm thinking that these babies might be perfect for BLTs.

Then I turned my attention to the carcass, which we threw into a bag to make stock.  I loosely followed about three recipes I found online.
Basically, here is what I did:
  • Take a roasted duck carcass and place in your largest stock pot.
  • Add cold, clean (filtered, if available) water to cover the duck by at least one inch.
  • Bring to boil over high heat.

Once the water is boiling, reduce heat to simmer and add:
  • one onion, chopped roughly
  • one shallot, chopped roughly
  • two or three carrots, chopped into large pieces
  • celery ribs, chopped into large pieces (I took the rest of the stalk that we had)
  • bunch of parsley
  • a few cloves of garlic
  • whatever fresh herbs you have on hand (we had thyme and sage)
  • salt to taste (I prefer kosher salt)
  • peppercorns
  • one bay leaf

Simmer for at least three hours, skimming fat or froth off as needed (if you were to use a recipe that starts with you roasting the duck for this purpose, you would need to do it a lot more than I did).
Strain hot liquid through a cheesecloth, pressing down on the vegetable remnants to get out all the liquid.  Cool to room temperature, skim off any remaining fat, and either use right away, store in the refrigerator for up to three days, or freeze for up to six months.

I made sure to pull out the remnants of the carcass to pull of any and all meat to use in my last major kitchen project of the day.  When all was said and done, I had a large bowl (at least 8 cups) of broth, and only a cereal bowl of duck bones.

The last project I mentioned - risotto.  I told myself last night, "We have enough food - no more until we eat what we have."  And then I decide to make risotto.  BUT... I used the duck in it three times:

  1. I used a bit more of the duck fat instead of just olive oil to sweat the onions and garlic.
  2. I used my freshly made duck broth instead of chicken broth.
  3. I shredded the rest of the duck that we had (saved from dinner the other night and what I took off the bones) and placed that on top of the finished risotto.

I put the bowl of the paté out, and we had duck with duck with a side of duck for dinner.
I also made a quick little salad (no duck here).

The risotto was good - rich, as risotto is wont to be, and I wasn't able to finish my portion (which, to be fair, was probably more than "one serving size" anyway).
The paté... eh.  Both of us decided that it needed salt and was a little gamey for our tastes.  Now, I love lamb, duck, venison, elk, etc., so you might expect me to really like it if it has the adjective gamey.  But when you are talking any internal organ, you up the gamey-ness factor at least tenfold, and it was just too much for me.  I did give the spread at least five different tries on my baguette toasts, but in the end, it isn't going to be a recipe that we repeat.

The risotto, though, most certainly has potential.

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