Andy’s Duck Confit
Makes 16 portions
16 whole duck leg and thigh
2.5 tablespoons black pepper corns, cracked
3/4 cup kosher salt
8 cloves garlic, smashed
4 sprigs fresh thyme, bruised
2 bay leaves, bruised
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 pounds rendered duck fat
- In a large non-reactive container mix together the pepper, salt, garlic, sugar, bay, and fresh thyme.
- Trim any of the excess fat from around the duck, render in a pan with 1/4 cup water over slow heat until the fat melts and the water has evaporated. Save the cracklings for a snack.
- Rub the duck with the salt cure, making sure to coat the legs well. Place in the cooler and let cure up to 8 hours but no longer than 12 hours. Remove from the cure mixture and rinse under cold water then pat dry.
- Place the duck in a large casserole and cover with the rendered duck fat (making sure that the fat completely covers the duck legs) and place in a preheated 300˚f oven and cook for 4 to 6 hours. The meat should be tender but firm and come away from the bone with some slight resistance.
- Remove from the oven and you can now place individual portions into mason jars and cover with the rendered duck fat, being sure to cover the legs completely and store for up to 6 months or store the whole batch covered.
Nobody knows the truffles I’ve seen…and I am not talking about the chocolate type – we will save that for a later date.
So what’s the deal with this fungus? Why is it the most expensive mushroom out there and what can you do with it once you buy one and really, do you need to buy one? One site on the Internet listed prices from $500 per pound for fresh black French truffles. What is all the hubbub? Let’s begin by talking a bit about what truffles are. These little delicacies are a hypogenous (underground) member of the mushroom family. Prices vary with the season and year. There are many types of truffles and not all are edible. Some types lack in flavor and aroma and are sometimes called false truffles.
Geographically speaking, truffles are found in many places around the world; Asia, Europe, and even in the United States of America, but there are really only two species which we will discuss and they are the ones that are the most commercially important and widely available to you, the consumer. The two types that we will focus on are the French black truffle from the Périgord region of southwest France (Tuber melanosporum) and the white truffle of Alba from the Piedmont region of Italy that is known for its intense fragrance. (In addition, there is the Chinese truffle, which is exported around the world and is known as an inferior substitute for the French black truffle. This variety is sometimes passed off by less then honest shop owners under French black truffle prices.)
Finding truffles is an adventure in itself. One can travel to France or Italy and go on guided truffle safaris in the idyllic hills surrounding some quaint bucolic village. You can dig in the dirt and among leaves that carpet the woods around you in hopes of finding a morsel for the evening meal back at the château. (Hey that sounds like fun to me, but the price tag puts an end to my little fantasy – $3,000 US). Any way you look at it, if you want truffles you have to pay.
When are truffles in season and for how long, you ask? Truffles start to appear in shops and markets in late fall / early winter (just in time for the holiday season) and usually run out some time in late winter, around February. Shelf life is usually a few fleeting weeks before the aromas begin to wane and they start to shrivel up and turn to mush. You can certainly store them with your eggs for a few days. Sometimes I store a dozen eggs or Arborio rice in a plastic or glass container with a truffle and the aroma will permeate the food and impart it’s essence upon it.
You don’t have to deplete your bank account and limit your quest for truffle flavors to a specific time of the year to enjoy that distinct flavor. You can find a plethora of truffle related items year round to use as you wish. One example is truffle oil, which is infused with the essence of truffles and is usually made from an oil that has no flavor itself and provides the truffle aroma, such as vegetable oil. In some cases you may find an infused olive oil, which is great when added (with care) to mashed potatoes or drizzled on a wild mushroom tart. Truffle salt is great to sprinkle on a dish at the table and add a burst of truffle flavor. The salt is also ideal to blend into softened butter and then store in the refrigerator so that you have truffle butter available to toss on warm pasta, cook eggs, or even add under the skin of a roasting chicken. Another option is canned truffles; typically a whole truffle packed in juice and preserved in a tin or glass container. In a pinch, canned truffles will suffice, but they can be pricey and I have yet to find one that blows my socks off.
The goal is to stretch those fleeting aromas and flavors by infusing small amounts of truffles into an ingredient that you can add to a dish and make it seem as if you used a lot. Restraint is the word of the day – don’t overdo it as this one single flavor can overpower the character of the dish. After all, truffles are best enjoyed as an essence. That is, unless you are roasting a whole truffle in the coals of a wood fire and eating it on grilled bread with butter and sea salt…now that’s over the top!
So let’s play with a recipe or two. Here are some simple and flavorful dishes to utilize your truffles and share with your family over the holidays.
Potato Gnocchi con Tartufo Nero
Potato Dumplings with Black Truffles
Gnocchi is wonderful when made well, and twice as good when the potato (a tuber) is pared with this fragrant mushroom from the earth. These freeze very well so make a double recipe if you have the time.
2 pounds starchy baking potato such as a Russet
8 ounces (1.5 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon truffle peeling, minced fine
½ cup heavy cream
1 clove garlic, split
2 ounces Fontina de aosta cheese, grated
4 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
¼ teaspoon fresh grated black pepper
1 small whole truffle, for garnish
1. Preheat an oven to 425ºf
2. Place potato on a sheet pan and roast in oven until tender. Remove from the oven and let cool enough to be handled but still warm, peel and run trough a ricer or a food mill and into large mixing bowl. Add the flour, eggs, minced truffle, and salt. Mix until well combined, turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth.
3. Divide the dough into 10 equal portions and roll with your hands on the work surface to form a long thin rope about 8 inch long, cut into ½ inch lengths and press gently with the tines of a fork to give the pasta texture for the sauce to hold onto. Set aside until ready to cook. Place a large 8 quart pan filled with water on high heat and bring to a boil, season the water with salt( ¼ cup) so that it taste like the sea.
1. In a sauté pan add the cream and garlic clove and bring to a simmer, then add the cheeses and slowly whisk until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth and creamy. Season with fresh black pepper. Working in small portions add the gnocchi to the boiling water and cook for 6 minutes or until they rise to the surface, drain and place in a warm serving bowl and spoon the cheese sauce over the pasta and shave a few flakes of fresh truffle on top and enjoy.
It is said that the works (writing) of Sarah Josepha Hale from Newport, New Hampshire are partially responsible for the Thanksgiving holiday becoming in grained in the psyche of the American public. In or around 1827, Ms. Hale wrote a book titled,” Northwood: A Tale of New England.” The book had an entire chapter devoted to a grand meal of Thanksgiving. At the time, this book was considered a best seller and brought Hale fame and a steady job as a writer. She also was one of the persons reasonable for campaigning to make the last Thursday in the month of November a national holiday. Until then the celebration of Thanksgiving was usually a meal observed around a special event, such as a military victory or a bountiful harvest. The only information that we have from 1621 about a “Thanksgiving meal’ is from a letter dated December 1621 from Edward Winslow, which describes a three day long celebration that was held after the harvest of crops in that year.
The changes that we see at the holiday table are ever evolving. Each year, things change ever so slightly. Aunt Martha brings a new pumpkin pie or garlic is added to the mashed potatoes! So why is it so strange that we are sometimes confronted with a new main course at Thanksgiving? Well, for one thing, we don’t like dramatic changes with what we see as tradional holiday fare. But who’s to say what’s traditional for your family is the same for my family? For example, we (my family) don’t like cornbread in our stuffing or oysters, and the after dinner turkey sandwich must always be made with that terrible white bread that sticks to your teeth when you bite into it. Oh how wonderful it is, just like I remember it as a child back East.
Let’s start off on the right foot: the written word is not my strong suit, but my love of all things culinary and quaffable is where my strength resides, so please bear with me and my rantings and join me in what I hope will be an epic adventure into the wild world of food and drink. This blog is the chronicle of my life in the culinary world. I have been involved with food all my life. As far back as I can remember, there was an interest, or should I say, a Love of food. I knew this was something important to me and I wanted to work with it, read about, it hear about it, taste it, explore it, and see it in all its many aspects. I know that I am not alone in this feeling – we all have some kind of memory attached to food or drink that inspires a rush of emotion, whether good or bad, it is in us and it will pop up in some unexpected moment. The sweet smell of vanilla, a waft of coffee aroma, a walk past a bakery…WOW – that just brought back a flood of memories and the rememberance of smells just as I typed this sentence. A warm headlight doughnut from New York Bakery on the corner of Teall Avenue and Burnet Avenue in Syracuse New York. It was owned by a neighbor girl’s dad, her name was Nancy. I can almost taste the waxy fake butter cream frosting. It was crowned on top with a thick smear of dark chocolate and a swirl of white frosting in the center (like a headlight) and set atop a lighter than air fried yeast doughnut. MAN, they where good! You see, it doesn’t have to be “GOURMET” (a word that I think is overused). It (food) just has to stir something inside you and bring it to the surface of your memory with a jolt of good or bad – it’s a memory. Hopefully, this site will bring some memories back for the reader and also create some new memories and inspire us to explore the world outside our front doors and around the corner. So open your mind to new foods and new drinks and step out of you comfort zone into Wild about food and drink.