Pan Seared Duck Breast with Cherry Port Sauce

Hey Y’all. Long time no see, huh. I bet you thought I forgot about ya. Nah, you know I would never do that. I’ve been in a bit of a rut, and didn’t know what to write about. Usually I talk about mama, or my Aunt Willie’s house, or my partner. I guess I’ve ran out of memories and stories to tell….at least the ones I want to share. Hey, I have to keep something for myself.

So, I will leave you with this little gem of a recipe. It could easily be on your table for Christmas entertaining. Classy enough for a formal dinner, and casual enough for dinner in your favorite pajamas.

In the picture, I have it paired with cherry wild rice and fresh green beans sauteed in butter. The sides are easy enough, so I didn’t include the recipes. The rice was made by the package directions with chopped dried cherries added to the mix. The green beans were blanched in salted water, shocked in cold water, then sauteed in a few table spoons of real butter. Julia Child eat your heart out.

Pan Seared Duck Breast with Cherry Port Sauce

4 (6 to 8 oz.) fresh duck breasts

1 (15 oz.) can dark sweet cherries in heavy syrup

1 c. Port wine

1/4 c. duck stock (chicken or vegetable can be used if duck stock isn’t available)

1 Tsp. cold butter

Salt and white pepper to taste

For the Duck Breasts:

Carefully score the skin side of the duck breasts. These cuts should not cut into the meat of the breast, just through the skin. Season the breasts with salt and white pepper. Place the breasts skin side down in a large saute pan. Don’t crowd the pan. If all four breast won’t fit in your pan use a second one. Turn the heat on medium. The cook time will vary depending on the thickness of the breast and the skin. You want to render as much of the fat as you can from the skin. If they begin to brown too fast, remove the pan from the heat, lower the temperature to medium low, and continue until all the fat is no longer white. For the breast I used it was about 10-15 minutes. Once the fat has render and no longer white and the breasts are golden brown, turn them over and continue to cook until medium rare to medium. ( I would suggest med-rare.) This step should take about 3 to 5 minutes depending on how done you want it. Remove the breasts from the pan and allow to rest five minutes. To server slice the breasts on a bias, and place on top of sauce.

For the Sauce:

Combine the cherries with the liquid, stock, and port wine in a medium sized sauce pan. Bring the mixture to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Reduce the sauce by three quarters. If you want you can strain the sauce at this point. Stir in the cold butter. Taste and season with salt and white pepper, if desired. Serve immediately.

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Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb

It’s my favorite time of the year! No, no, it’s not summer time. Now, y’all know my favorite season is Fall. It’s vacation time! Since Sheridan and I aren’t jet-setters, I will be spending the time off at home. There’s several projects that I need to get done around the house. One of them is cleaning out my deep freezer. I bet Jimmy Hoffa is in there. Tucked away between the egg roll wrappers and french fries. I’ll be finding out soon enough.

One of my awesome friends took me to the farmers market at the start of the week. I’ve been planning the meals I wanted to make for a few weeks, and I wanted to make things we normally don’t have. I have three grocery stores I go to when shopping, and all three pretty much carry the same cuts of meat. Things such as a rack of lamb are available during the Easter season, and become hard to find after that. When they do have it after Easter the price is ridiculous. Only one of my normal stores had a rack, and it was priced at $45. The rack from the farmers market, which was exactly the same minus the shrink wrap, was $26. The lesson? If you have access to a farmers market, go forth and shop.

Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb

1 (8 bone) French Rack of Lamb, trimmed

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. white pepper

1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard

2 Tsp vegetable oil, or other lightly flavored oil

For the Herb Crust Topping

1 c. Panko bread crumbs

1 tsp. minced fresh thyme

1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary

1 tsp. minced fresh dill

1 Tsp. minced fresh flat leaf parsley

1 clove garlic, very finely minced into a paste

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. white pepper

2 tsp. olive oil

To make the Herb Crust: In a small bowl combine all ingredients, except oil, and stir well with a fork. Add the oil and blend very well; set aside.

Preheat oven to 350. Trim the fat and any silver skin from the rack of lamb, season with salt, white pepper, and garlic powder; set aside. Heat the vegetable oil, in a large cast iron skillet, over medium heat. When oil is hot, but not smoking, brown the lamb on all sides including the ends. When the lamb is nicely browned turn off the heat, and remove the lamb and place on a clean cutting board. Quickly brush the lamb with the Dijon mustard. Using clean hands, press the bread crumb mixture on to the mustard coated lamb. Wash your hands. Carefully pick up the lamb by the exposed ribs, letting any excess bread crumbs to fall off. Return the rack of lamb to the hot cast iron pan, and place it in the oven. Roast the lamb until the internal temperature reaches 140 for medium rare, or 150 for medium. Do not over cook the lamb. Once lamb reaches the desired temperature, remove from pan and allow it to rest for at least 5 minutes. Cut the lamb in to 2 bone chops. Serve immediately.

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The ‘This wasn’t suppose to be a post’ Post

Hey Y’all! It’s officially summer, and it’s been hot here in the ATL since mid April. It seems every year summer comes earlier and earlier. It wouldn’t be so bad if there was a nice shade tree to hide under. For about three weeks, I watched as Piedmont Hospital cut down and rip up couple hundred year old magnolia trees. I assume they are expanding since they have removed some of the bricks from the end of the building. The price we pay for living in the city, I guess. At least I have a nice canopy of trees to be under when I come down the drive way into the complex.

This recipe wasn’t suppose to be a post. Once I made it I could help myself. Granted it took me a week to type it out, but I digress. I’m always looking for new ways to make pasta. Pasta is a staple in our house. I generally cook it once a week, sometimes more depending on my work schedule. There is only so many times you can make tomato sauce or Alfredo sauce, or their many secondary sauces, before you get tired of them. I am very pleased to say this recipe is sauce-less, yet creamy. The secret to it is to treat it kind of like risotto. Stir it often while the orzo cooks helps to release the starch in the pasta. This starch in turn thickens the stock making it’s own creamy saucy. I guess I shouldn’t call it a sauce since the end result isn’t saucy. You can eat it hot, cold, or at room temperature.

Orzo with Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes, Shrimp, and Spinach

3 Tsp real butter

1 lb. orzo pasta

1 lb. shrimp; peeled, de-veined, tail off

1 lb. fresh spinach, cleaned and stems removed

1 lb. heirloom tomatoes, washed and dried

1 clove garlic, finely diced

1 large shallot, finely diced

4 Tsp good quality olive oil, divided

3/4 tsp. crushed pepper flakes, divided

1/4 tsp. garlic powder, divided

1/2 tsp. dried basil, divided

salt and black pepper, to taste

Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Preheat oven to 375. Wash and dry the tomatoes. Make sure the tomatoes are completely dry before moving forward with this recipe. Spread the dry tomatoes on a baking sheet just large enough to hold them in a single layer with a little wiggle room. Dress the tomatoes with one half of the olive oil, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Using clean hands, roll and toss the tomatoes to spread the oil and seasoning evenly. Place in the center of oven, and roast until they burst. On a separate baking sheet, prepare the shrimp in the same way as the tomatoes, set in refrigerator until ready to use. While the tomatoes roast, prepare the orzo. Melt the butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat. When the foam begins to dissipate, add the orzo. Cook the orzo, stirring often, until lightly browned. Add the shallot and garlic, cook for 2 minutes. Add three cups of stock to the orzo, stir well. When the stock as reduced and the orzo is just shy of al dente, add remaining stock. Stir the orzo very well, and top with the spinach. Season with salt and black pepper, and cover. All the spinach to wilt, stirring into the orzo until completely wilted. Place the shrimp in the oven and roast until slightly pink, about 3 to 7 minutes depending on their size. Add the roasted tomatoes and roasted shrimp, and their juices, to the orzo; stir well to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve garnished with Parmesan cheese.

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Herb’s Chicken Casserole

Here we are again. I hope everyone is doing well. I’m coming off a rough three weeks at work. Another manager was on vacation, so I had to cover some extra shifts. I don’t mind, I like the over time, but man was I tired. I’m still tired. >sigh< I’m getting old. I remember when I could work 100 hour work week and still party it up every night. Not so much now. Needless to say, it’s been take out food for the past few weeks.

It’s comfort food night. What’s more comforting than a good ole casserole? Chicken casserole was one of the first things I remember seeing my stepdad make. This was before he and my mom were married. I guess I was in seventh or eighth grade. He had invited us to dinner at his townhouse he shared with his sister Liz. I can’t remember what all there was to eat that night. It was card night, and there was a lot of other food to be distracted by. Other than my grandpa, Herb was the first man I ever saw cook. I was so used to seeing my mom or my grandma’s cooking. Never the men. How times have changed.

For this recipe I take a little help from the store. Herb’s recipe, he actually stewed or roasted the chicken his self. This is also the way I usually make it, but not today. It’s too hot and humid for that long sweat inducing process. Today I used a store bought rotisserie chicken from the Kroger deli.  We are barely half way through June and it’s too hot to have the blinds open. His recipe also required you to cut the cheese, if you will, by hand. Again this is the way I usually do it, but the sliced Velveeta cheese was on sale, and you know I like a good sale.

Herb’s Chicken Casserole

3 boxes Stove Top Chicken Flavored Stuffing Mix

1 Family Sized can Cream of Mushroom Soup

15 slices Velveeta Cheese

1 whole store bought rotisserie chicken, shredded

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare the stuffing mix according to the package instructions; set aside for 5 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Once cooled, spoon half of the stuffing in to a 9″ x 13″ pan. Use your clean hands and light press it together to form a loose crust. Add the shredded chicken to the top of the stuffing, distribute evenly. Spread the cream of mushroom soup evenly over the chicken. Place 6 slices of cheese, 3 on each side of the pan, on top of the soup. Top the casserole with the remaining stuffing, and place remaining cheese of top. You will need to tear a few slices in half for the best cheesy coverage. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until cheese is melted and hot all the way through.

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In Memoriam

You know I usually talk about the women in my family, but not today. Today, I want to talk about my stepdad Herb. Herb and my mom were married my freshman year of high school. Until that point I didn’t have a constant male role model in my life. He filled the role treating me like I was his own. He taught me how to fish, and to drive and how to take care of a car. Come to think about it, he sold me my first two cars. He introduced to me to gardening and lawn care. He also taught me a few of his recipes. To this day, his chocolate pie is by far my favorite.

Last night he passed away with my mom by his side. These are his recipes. I will remember him, and the life lessons he taught me every time I make them.

“Almost” Skyline Chili

2 lbs. ground beef

1 qt + 1 c. tomato juice                                     OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

1 Tsp cinnamon, ground

1 Tsp cumin, ground

1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1 Tsp allspice, ground

4 Tsp chili powder

1 Tsp black pepper, ground

1 Tsp salt

1 Tsp + 1 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar

5 whole bay leaves

1 1/2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips, about 30 chips depending on the size of the chips

1 onion, peeled and left whole

Place ground beef and tomato juice in a large, high sided pot. Using clean hands, break the ground beef up into small crumbles. Add all the spices to the meat/juice mixture; stir to combine. Add the whole onion, press toward the bottom of the pot. Simmer over medium heat for 2 hours.

After the two hours has past, you have a choice to make. You can:

  • Cool slightly and skim off the grease that has floated to the top. Serve immediately. You can use this chili on just about anything, but sticking with tradition you should serve it over spaghetti with various toppings. Each topping add is considered to be a  “Way.” Adding cheese to the chili and pasta is called a 3- Way. The most common toppings are: cheddar cheese, oyster crackers, minced onions, diced tomatoes, and jalapeno peppers. There is no limit or restricts to what you can add to it.
  • Cool the chili over night. Skim off any grease that has settled on the top. Divide into freezer containers and freeze.

You can easily double or triple this recipe to have it both ways.

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(You can see the original post here.)

Herb’s Chocolate Pies

¾ c. all purpose flour

6 egg yolks (save the whites)

½ c. cocoa powder

1 c. sugar

1 Tbsp. vanilla

1 stick butter or margarine, softened

4 c. whole milk or half & half

Mix all dry ingredients together. Mix wet ingredients together, add to dry ingredients. Place all ingredients in top of double boiler, cook until thick*. Pour into 2 baked 9” pie shells. (Do not use deep dish shells.)

*If you don’t have a true double boiler, use a glass or stainless steel bowl over boiling water. Make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Keep in mind the bowl will be hot, so use a pot holder to remove it from the top of the pan. The thickness should coat the back of a spoon and should stay apart if u run your finger down the spoon. A little looser than cake batter.

For the meringue:

6 reserved egg whites

1 tsp. Vanilla

2 Tbsp.  sugar

1/8 tsp. cream of tarter

Mix all ingredients, whip whites to hard peaks. To test for hard peaks turn off the mixer, push the beaters into the center and pull up. If they do not fall back on themselves and hold a up right slightly curled form they are ready.Spread on top of pies.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes or until browned. Cool completely on a wire rack. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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(You can see the original post here.)

Charcutiere Sauce

Hey friends!  Welcome back. It’s a warm 88 here in the city with a nice little breeze blowing. It’s nice enough outside that there’s a few sun bathers by the pool. Why they are out there is beyond me. Our community pool isn’t open yet, and they can’t get in it. I guess early tanning is the new trend. When I was young, without a care in the world, I would be out there with them getting all golden before the summer heat wave comes.

I’m breaking out the big guns for this post. Pork Chops with Charcutiere Sauce. Fancy, huh? Yes? No? How about if I explain what that is before we decide for sure. Let me start by saying, this is going to sound complex even though it’s not, and I’m sorry. The literal translation of charcutiere sauce is ‘sauce of the pig butcher’. In French cuisine there’s five mother sauces: hollandaise, veloute, sauce tomat, bechamel, and espagnole (brown sauce). Espagnole is the main base for charcutiere sauce. Are you with me so far? Here’s where I may lose you. The mother sauces are the bases for all the sauces in French cuisine. Once you have the completed base, or mother sauce, what you add to it changing it to a secondary sauce. In a nut shell, what we have with charcutiere sauce is a brown sauce reduction with French pickles and wine. For my version of this classic sauce, I reduced the steps and made it a little more home cook friendly.  I pared my sauce with bone in, rib cut pork chops. If you aren’t a pork chop person, no worries. You can use this sauce for just about any cut of pork.

Charcutiere Sauce

4 Tsp unsalted butter

2 c. diced yellow onion

1 c. diced celery

1 c. diced carrots

2 Tsp tomato paste

2 Tsp flour

2/3 c. dry white wine, such as a Sauvignon Blanc

4 c. pork stock, see chef’s note for substitution.

1 bay leaf

4 sprigs fresh thyme

12 cornichon pickles, sliced then roughly chopped

salt and ground white pepper

Melt the butter in a large sauce pan over medium to medium heat. When butter is hot and the foaming has stopped, slowly brown the onions, carrots, and celery, stir often to avoid over browning. Once the vegetables are browned, add the tomato paste. Stir and allow the tomato paste to brown to a brick color. Add the flour and allow it to brown. Add wine to deglaze the pan, stir to loosen any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Allow the wine to cook while stirring for 2 minutes. Add stock, bay leaf, and thyme; stir well. Bring sauce to a boil, reduce to simmer, do not cover. Simmer sauce for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring often. Check the thickness of your sauce by dipping a spoon into it, and running your clean finger through it. If the sauce stays separated it’s good to go. If too thick add a little more stock and simmer a few more minutes, and test again. If too thin, simmer a little longer. When sauce is perfect, strain the sauce in to a heat proof bowl. Make to press the vegetables to extract all the sauce and flavor. Return sauce to the pan over low heat, and add the cornichon pickles. Let pickles heat through, about 3 to 4 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

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Pork Chop Charcutiere with Mashed Potatoes, and Sauteed Kale with Lemon and Garlic

***Chef’s Note: If you don’t have, or can’t find pork stock use 1 1/2 c. beef stock and 2 1/2 c. chicken stock. The two flavors combined together is fairly close in taste to pork stock.

 

 

From the Vault: Osso Bucco

Hey, Y’all. Happy Tuesday. I’m a mere eight more work hours away from my weekend. I’m so ready for it. I have already nailed down dinner #1. I will be sharing that recipe as soon I prepare it. The meal, not the recipe. I wrote the recipe awhile ago.

Today, I thought I would dip back into the vault to see what I could find. I wrote this recipe for osso bucco back in February. I meant to post this back then. I really wanted to make it with veal though. As I have said before, my grocery stores have stopped carrying veal and many other meats. Beef shanks to the rescue. Think of this recipe as a faux osso bucco.

Osso Bucco 

2 qt. beef stock

1 c. Cabernet, or your favorite red wine

5 beef shanks

5 c. diced yellow onion

2 1/2 c. diced carrots

2 1/2 c. diced celery

tomato paste

5 bay leaves

5 sprigs rosemary

6 sprigs thyme

5 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole

1 c. vegetable oil

salt and white pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 325. Heat the vegetable oil in a Dutch oven. Pat the shanks dry with paper towels. Tightly tie the shanks with kitchen twine; season both sides with salt and pepper. When oil is hot, brown the shanks on both sides. Transfer the browned shanks to a roasting pan. Remove from heat. Discard the oil reserving 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of oil in the pan.  Surround the shanks with the diced vegetables, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, and rosemary. Pour wine and enough stock to almost cover the meat. For my pan, which was a large turkey roaster, I used 2 quarts of stock. Cover with foil, and braise for 2 hours.  Heat the Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the tomato paste and allow to toast while stirring for 2 minutes Transfer the shanks to a plate. Tent the plate with the foil to keep warm. Remove the herbs and bay leaves from the vegetables. Carefully pour a little of the braising liquid in to the pan. Stir well, making sure to scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Add the rest of the braising liquid and the vegetables. Stir to combine, and turn off the heat. Using a hand blender, puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. If the sauce is a little thin, thicken it with a slurry of equal parts of water and corn starch. To serve, pass the shanks through the sauce and plate as desired. Spoon extra sauce over the shank, and serve.

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