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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Retro Food Redux - Mad Men Viewing Party Menu


NK's favorite show, Mad Men, is finally returning to AMC after an excruciatingly long hiatus. We just can't wait, and I know we aren't alone. What better way to celebrate our favorite cocktail-swilling, angsty and adulterous ad execs, than with a Sixties-style menu? To put our own mark on tonight's offerings, we've modernized them just a bit - mainly to increase the ease of preparation. Below, you'll find quite a few tasty bites, just like him:

Don Draper, Photo Courtesy of AMC TV
Mad Men Menu:
Pre-Dinner Bite - Mock Rumaki and Pineapple Skewers
Cocktail - Don Draper's Rye Old Fashioned  
Main Course - Easy Deconstructed Beef Wellington 
Dessert - Grasshopper Ice Cream "Pie" Sundaes

Got your Sixties duds ready?  

Now eat up, and happy Mad Man premier night to you all!

Pre Dinner Bite: 
Back in the Sixties, Rumaki was as pervasive at cocktail parties as pigs in a blanket are today. Their invention, which most likely occurred a decade before, is widely attributed to Vic Bergeron of Trader Vic's Restaurant in San Francisco. But what in the world is Rumaki? Traditionally, it's a chicken liver and water chestnut wrapped in bacon and dipped in a sweet and savory sauce. It was said to be Polynesian-inspired with Asian origins.  Back in the Fifties and Sixties, Polynesian food and Luau themed party foods were all the rage. Need more proof? Betty Draper serves Rumaki in season two during the episode, A Night To Remember. 

Our update of Rumaki was two-fold: first, I eliminated the chicken liver component. I wanted to simplify, and though I like various liver-based foods (especially foie gras, which pops up later in our menu), I hadn't yet tackled the liver of a chicken. Secondly, because pineapple was such a favorite addition to any party skewer back in the Sixties, I felt that adding a pineapple cube would add some extra flair and color, while increasing the sweet/savory flavor or these little bites. I have to say, they came out really good.  

Mock Rumaki and Pineapple Skewers
Adapted from Tasty Kitchen
Serves 3-4 as a light cocktail bite

Ingredients:
1 Lb Bacon, each slice cut into thirds (you'll need 1/3 of a slice of bacon/piece Rumaki 
2 cans Whole Water Chestnuts, drained on paper towels 
Small Pineapple cubes. 1 for every Rumaki bite
1 cup Brown Sugar
4 Tablespoons Ketchup
3 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 Tablespoons Yellow Mustard of your choice. We used regular yellow deli mustard
2 Tablespoons Butter
3 Tablespoons Soy Sauce

Method:
Preheat oven to 350. 
Wrap bacon around the water chestnuts and secure with a toothpick.
Set on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes if you like bacon crispy. Less time, if not. 
Bacon should be golden brown.
Drain skewers on paper towels.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a small to medium sized saucepan and heat through until sugar is dissolved and sauce is hot.

Cook one minute longer, and then transfer to a small bowl. Top each skewer with one cube of pineapple, then dip skewers into sauce and set on a serving plate.
Enjoy! 
Rumaki and Pineapple Skewers! Photo: NK

Cocktail: 
Rendezvous Rye, High West Whiskey, Photo: NK
Our cocktail of the night is not just retro, but very retro. The Old Fashioned is a drink that actually dates back to the late 1800's. There's plenty of hard drinking on Mad Men, and the more drama-stacked scenes just would not be complete without a finger (or three) of scotch and a Lucky Strike. I wish drinking at the office like Don does was still acceptable. Wouldn't that be something? The Old Fashioned is definitely Don's go-to drink, and it was also quite popular in the Sixties and has experienced a resurgence during the last decade as well. Here's a great scene where Don jumps behind a bar to make one himself in Season three's episode, My Old Kentucky Home. Check it out: Don Draper making an Old Fashioned This time around, his chosen spirit is Rye, but Old Fashioned's can also be quite nice with bourbon. After sampling quite a few of both varieties lately, I think Rye makes for a smoother cocktail. 

Don Draper's Old Fashioned
Yield: 1

2 ounces Rye Whiskey
A few dashes Bitters
1 sugar cube
1 drop of Club Soda 
1 orange peel or 1 wedge of orange
Garnish with an orange peel or orange slice. A cherry makes a nice touch too

Don's Favorite Old Fashioned, Photo: NK
What to do: 
Add orange peel or wedge to the bottom of a short rocks glass or tumbler.
Add sugar cube and bitters. 
Pour club soda on top of the sugar cube and muddle carefully as sugar dissolves.
Add Rye, ice, and stir.
Serve with your chosen garnish.

Now look brooding as you sip, like Don. Cheers.

Main Course: 
Beef Wellington was a staple dinner party offering in the Sixties, and a dish that I have always wanted to attempt. Trouble is, it's notoriously difficult to make. A traditional Wellington will be made with a large tenderloin roast, coated with a mushroom and foie gras mixture, then wrapped in a sheet of puff pastry before cooking. I wanted to eliminate the puff pastry wrangling, so I opted for ready cut puff pastry cups to hold our deconstructed Wellington. My variation was inspired by Martha Stewart's "Beef Wellington Tarts." 

Easy Deconstructed Beef Wellington
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Serves 3

Ingredients: 
2 Beef Tenderloin Filets, a half pound a piece
Salt and Pepper
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 package frozen Puff Pastry Shells (packages come six per, you'll use 3)
1 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter
1 package Cremini Mushrooms, sliced thin
1 Tablespoons fresh Thyme leaves, plus a few sprigs for garnish
1 Garlic Clove minced
1/2 cup dry White Wine
4 oz Foie Gras Mousse (available at specialty food shops)

Method:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
Season beef with salt and pepper. 
Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a large oven proof skillet over medium-high heat.
Add medallions of beef and cook about 1 minute per side until nicely browned.

Browning Tenderloin, Photo: NK
Place skillet in oven and cook to desired doneness, about 17 minutes should get you to a nice medium rare. The thermometer should register an inside temperature of 130 degrees.

Transfer beef to a plate and let rest, uncovered. Next, turn oven up to 425 and set the puff pastry rounds, one per person, on a cookie sheet. Cook for 20 minutes until they are puffed and golden brown. If cooking directions on the puff pastry box differ, follow them instead.

Meanwhile, melt butter with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add mushrooms, thyme, and garlic, cooking until mushrooms are tender, about 8-10 minutes. Add wine and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about 1-2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl using a slotted spoon, leaving the liquids in the skillet.

Add foie gras mousse to the same skillet and reduce the heat to low. 
Stir until just melted and remove from the heat. You'll want the texture to be a bit runny so it works like a sauce, so feel free to thin it out with a bit more wine if need be.

Note: Your meat will be cold by now. If this bothers you, other variations I would recommend would be:

1. If you are lucky enough to have a large toaster/convection oven or second stove, you could opt to cook the puff pastry at the same time you cook your tenderloin. None of these options applied to me, so I went with the second option.

2. Quickly flash-warm the meat in a pan for about a minute, just to heat it up a bit. If you do choose this option, you may want to shave a few minutes off the original cook time so you don't over cook it.

3. Keep in mind, Filet is pretty delicious even at room temperature and both your foie gras topping and mushroom will be hot.

To assemble: Take each puff pastry round and remove its middle. It should appear like a cup shape. Next, cut about a three inch slice out of its side, leaving the pastry base but removing a portion of the puff pastry wall. Thinly slice beef and arrange a few slices inside the puff pastry circle, spilling out through the cut in the pastry wall. It will look like this:

Assemble like so, Photo: NK 


Place a few more slices of beef between the inside and outside of the puff pastry. Top with the mixture of mushrooms and thyme then drizzle with the foie gras mousse. Serve immediately with some thyme sprigs as garnish and Enjoy! 

Deconstructed Beef Wellington, Photo: NK 
For more Wellington adventures, check out Martha Stewart's hors d'oeuvre adaptation here:

Dessert:
Grasshopper Pie is traditionally a chiffon pie of creme de menthe and gelatin in a chocolate cookie crust. Though likely originating in the Fifties, this pie enjoyed great popularity during the Sixties, primarily around the time when all things Jello were incorporated into party dishes (including Jello salads!). You may recall a cocktail called the Grasshopper, also popular during the Sixties, which was made with a concoction of Creme de Menthe, Creme de Cacao, and milk. You haven't really experienced a spinning room until you've overindulged in grasshoppers. I once served them at a party I hosted in my (very) early twenties, and the results were messy, to say the least. They basically taste like a delicious mint chocolate chip shake so it's easy to overdo them... Anyways, never again.  Since we were only serving three people tonight, I felt making a whole pie would be overkill. When I came across this easy, no bake, Grasshopper Ice Cream pie, Grasshopper Ice Cream Pie I got an idea. 

Why not adapt this into more of a sundae? It would be easy to create single serve portions in dessert cups and guests could have fun topping them themselves. Problem solved.

Grasshopper Ice Cream "Pie" Sundaes
Serves 4
Adapted from Taste of Home

Ingredients: 
1 Pint of Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
15 chocolate wafer cookies such as Famous brand. 
2 Tablespoons Butter, melted in the microwave
Toppings: Chopped Mini Oreos, Smucker's Magic Shell Chocolate Topping, Dark Chocolate Mint Bar shaved into curls with a vegetable peeler.
Sprigs of Mint - as an optional garnish

Method:
Place chocolate wafers into a zip-loc bag, press out the air, and seal.
Using the bottom of a pan or a rolling pin, press the cookies into crumbs, taking care not to pierce the bag. Remove crumbs to a small bowl and pour in melted butter slowly, until a  crust comes together. If you need a bit more liquid you can add a bit of water. Spoon even amounts of crumbs into each cup, and press moist crumbs into the bottom with your fingers. This can be done in advance if you like. 

Chocolate Crust, Photo: NK
When ready to serve, top with a few scoops of ice cream. Drizzle with Magic Shell chocolate topping, and serve with mini oreos and chocolate curls on the side for guests to add as they like. Garnish with mint if you like. 

Grasshopper "Pie" Sundae, Photo: NK


Thanks for checking out our Mad Men Season Premier menu. For more great ideas on how to throw a Sixties cocktail party, check out AMC TV's Mad Men Party Planner:
AMC's Mad Men Party Guide


Monday, March 19, 2012

Takeout No More - Easy Tom Yum Goong

The first day of spring is tomorrow, and my craving for hot and cozy soups is fading fast. But there's one soup I never stop jonesing for, no matter the season, and that's Tom Yum, or Thai Hot and Sour. Easy to find in Thai restaurants, this soup is usually prepared with Chicken or Shrimp. To be exact, Tom Yum Goong is made with shrimp, and Tom Yum Gai is made with chicken. With an intoxicating spicy, salty, and tangy taste, Tom Yum is, to my mind, really the king of soups. Not only is it packed with flavor, but when prepared right, I find it incredibly refreshing and light. 


Tom Yum Goong Ingredients, Photo: NK

Tom Yum is also one of those dishes that can be hit or miss. I can't tell you the amount of times I've salivated while tearing into my brown takeout bag only to find my soup covered in an unappetizing slick of oil, or maybe with too much fish sauce, too little spice, or not enough citrusy pucker. I tell you, few things are sadder. It's for this reason I took a break from Tom Yum. For someone who craves certain foods as much as I do, the stakes had become too high and the risks, just too great.  

My Tom Yum turnaround occurred just last week in my office, of all places. While ducking into our kitchenette (likely to pull out some incredibly snore-worthy healthy snack from the fridge), I noticed my coworker, Nancy, chopping away at some mushrooms and filling her mini crock pot with some interesting ingredients. Nancy is always creative with food but I still had to wonder, what's she up to? I'm nosey, so I hung around long enough to ask. "I am making homemade Tom Yum soup," says Nancy. Wow. This is a majorly resourceful office lunch. 

Soon after, an amazing aroma began to waft throughout the office. I was inspired. Later on, while scouring the interwebs for authentic recipes, I landed on a website called Thai Table that features recipes that appear to be from everyday cooks. I prefer my Tom Yum with shrimp, so I was pleased when I came across an easy looking recipe from a contributor by the name of Natty Netsuwan. Here's what she had to say about her Tom Yum Goong:

"This is my mom's recipe and method of making tom yum goong and it is the best! It is simple and fast to make. . . tom yum should never be bland, but hot and sour... I have seen many recipes calling for chicken broth. It is totally unnecessary! We don't use chicken broth in Thai cooking like in Western cooking. Tom Yum Goong should have shrimp flavor, not chicken!"

I don't know if it was her emphatic use of exclamation points or fervor about tradition, but I felt an immediate kinship with this woman. This recipe was gonna be good. 

Please note, any changes to Natty's recipe below are more a function of what ingredients I could scare up. If I ever do find kaffir lime leaves in my neighborhood, I should be all set to make this recipe exactly as indicated. Even with a few slight changes, it came out utterly delicious, light and refreshing. Also, she was right - it was so easy. Enjoy, and thanks for the inspiration, Nancy and Natty.

Tom Yum Goong (Thai Hot and Sour Shrimp Soup)
Adapted from Natty Netsuwan of Thaitable.com
Serves 2
Cook and Prep Time - 25 minutes

Ingredients: 
4 Green Thai Chili Peppers lightly score with a knife to release their flavor
2 Tablespoons Fish Sauce 
1 Lemongrass stalk cut in 5 inch lengths and bruised or slightly scored with a knife
6 medium Button Mushrooms, halved
6 Jumbo or 8 to 10 large Shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails off
4 Cups Water
6 Cilantro sprigs
3 Kaffir Lime leaves or a 1/2 teaspoon Lime Zest
1 Lime
2 teaspoons Nam Prig Pow* what is Nam Prig Pow?

*I wasn't able to find Nam Prig Pow that was labeled as such, but after finding this chili paste and noting that it included most of the traditional ingredients, I decided it made a fine substitute. Thai Kitchen brand can be found in most supermarkets:
Roasted Red Chili Paste, NK


Method:

Boil water in a large pot. 

Set out your two serving bowls and fill each with the juice of half a lime and 1 Tablespoon fish sauce. Next, add two chili peppers to each serving bowl. 

Once water is boiling, add lemongrass and boil for 5 minutes. 

"In The Bowl" Ingredients, Photo: NK




Add the Kaffir Lime leaves (stems removed) to the pot. If you are substituting lime zest, add it to the pot now. Let boil for 2 minutes. 

Add the Shrimp and immediately turn off the heat. Shrimp will cook quickly in the hot broth. 

Scoop Shrimp and Liquid into serving bowls right away. 
You may leave the Lemongrass in if you like, but it's not edible. 

As you add the liquid to the serving bowls, it will become cloudy due to the lime juice. 

Add a teaspoon of Nam Prig Pow to each bowl, give them a stir, and then sprinkle in the cilantro sprigs and serve. 

You can adjust this recipe to your tastes easily by adding a bit more lime juice, fish sauce, or Nam Prig Pow, as you see fit. 

Lastly, be careful with the chilis. Definitely don't bite into them and certainly don't rub your eyes. I am a major spice-lover so despite Natty's warnings, I took one little nibble of a chili. I learned my lesson after having to dash to the fridge to swig milk.

Enjoy! 

Tom Yum Goong, Photo: NK

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sinless Southern Comfort - Pork With Bourbon-Peach Sauce

"The Scream" Edvard Munch
With the mercury rising to the mid-sixties just yesterday, an unseasonably warm winter here in New York seems to be drawing to a close.

While balmy weather in early March is definitely a reason to frolic, it also brings to mind the unsettling specter of bathing suit season just around the corner...

As you've probably gathered, we here at NK don’t enjoy deprivation, so this week’s challenge is to cook up a calorie-conscious yet satisfying meal that won't plump up our waistlines. Southern food is one of our favorites, but it’s not a cuisine typically associated with lighter fare.  


Today’s recipe is an easy and healthy pork dish that spotlights the oh-so-southern ingredients, bourbon and peaches. It can be prepared in under 25 minutes as well.




This dish doesn’t skimp on flavor, and keeps the calories under 300 by using less oils in the cooking process and smaller portions of protein. Serve alongside a steamed veggie, and you have a balanced dinner that’s fast enough for a weeknight. I hope you'll find that the bourbon peach sauce makes for a surprisingly delicious light meal. Using frozen organic peaches makes it an entree that can be made all year round.


Frozen Peaches, Photo: NK


Here's how to do it:


Pork Chops with Bourbon-Peach Sauce
Adapted from Cooking Light
Serves 4 
*Per Serving: about 275 calories, 9g of fat


Ingredients:
4 (4 ounce) boneless Berkshire Pork Medallions - about an inch thick
Salt
Pepper
Cooking Spray
Pork Medallions, Photo: NK
1 Tablespoon minced Shallots
1 teaspoon minced Garlic
1 1/2 cups Organic Frozen Sliced Peaches
1/2 cup fat free, reduced sodium Chicken Broth
2 teaspoons Brown Sugar
2 Thyme Sprigs plus extra for garnish
2 Tablespoons Bourbon
2 teaspoons whipped Light Butter


Method: 
Season pork with salt and pepper.
Heat a large non stick skillet over medium high flame. 
Coat pan with cooking spray and add pork to the pan. 
Cook about 4-5 minutes on each side until browned and cooked through.
Remove pork and cover to keep warm. 


Add shallots and garlic to the same pan and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the broth and frozen peaches to the pan and sauté for about 2-3 minutes. 


Add the sugar and thyme to the pan and cook 1 more minute.


Photo: NK


Next, add the butter and the bourbon to the pan. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally until butter is melted and sauce thickens a bit. Remove the thyme and serve sauce and peaches atop the pork. Enjoy!


Berkshire Pork Medallions with Bourbon-Peach Sauce and Steamed Haricot Verts, Photo: Neurotic Kitchen

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Ingredient Spotlight - The Kumquat, Nature's Sweet Tart

What is a Kumquat? Until recently, I had no idea myself. They look like adorable miniature oranges.
 I guess I have seen them around but probably passed them over thinking, those are some really tiny oranges.

When I came across a Kumquat Salsa recipe while searching for new fruit salsa inspiration, I knew it was time try Kumquats. I always like to challenge myself to use new ingredients, and there's no time like the present. A quick trip to our local specialty market, and voila:


Photo: NK

Now these are some well-marketed Kumquats. 

No more mistaking the little guys for for weirdo-pygmy oranges, I guess. 

Some further internet research yielded a few fun facts about these diminutive beauties:
Here they are, courtesy of Fitsugar.com: 

"These fruits can be eaten skin and all, so look for organic kumquats, and wash them thoroughly before eating. They are like reverse oranges — the peel is sweet, and the pulp inside is sour." 


"When you eat them together, you get a unique sweet and sour flavor. The seeds are small so either swallow them whole, or spit them out. Kumquats were originally considered to be part of the Citrus family, but in 1915, they were given their very own genus, Fortunella. So technically, even though they look like oranges, they're not actually citrus fruits."


"Kumquats aren't just eaten raw. They can be pickled, candied, made into relish or marmalade, used in desserts, or added to meats."
Kumquats are Photogenic! Photo: NK 

OK, now that we're sufficiently Kumquat-savvy, time to make the salsa:

Kumquat Salsa
Adapted from Simplyrecipes.com
Serves 3 as a topping

Ingredients:
2 cups cleaned and thinly sliced Kumquats. Once sliced, pop out the seeds as best you can.
1/2 cup chopped Red Onion
1/4 cup chopped Cilantro
2 Tablepoons Olive Oil 
1/4 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper 
A dash of Cayenne Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1 teaspoon champagne or white Vinegar

Photo: NK 

Method:
Simply mix all your ingredients in a bowl and taste for seasoning. It's best to let this sit an hour or so in order to marry the flavors. Serve as you would any salsa. This would be great over meat or fish, even as a taco topping. 

Finished Salsa, Photo: NK
Looks yummy, right? 

Now, what to do with it? My plan was to use this Kumquat Salsa as a topping for the salmon dinner I would be making. I often serve sturdy fishes with fruit salsa. I just love the combination of flavors and how salsas really lend themselves to creativity. Last go around, I made a tasty mango salsa for grouper using this easy recipe: 
Grilled Grouper with Mango Salsa



Grilled Grouper with Mango Salsa, Photo: NK

But today, here's how we put our exciting new kumquat salsa to use:


Salmon with Kumquat Salsa, Photo:NK 


All in all, the Salmon with Kumquat Salsa was healthy, tasty and easy (minus the de-seeding process). 
Enjoy, and I hope to spotlight some more lesser-known ingredients in the near future!


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Sunday, March 4, 2012

French-Inspired Sunday Supper - Duck Breast with Orange Chili Glaze

What better way to wrap up a weekend packed with family, friends, and our ever-present list of household chores, than with a great meal? Sunday supper is a tradition in our house, one that we indulge in these days if we are lucky enough to have a few hours to spare at the end of the weekend. For us, it's usually a slightly more involved meal than we would attempt on your average weeknight.


This custom of cooking fancier meals on Sunday came about when I was dating my now husband. Back then, we lived somewhat far from each other, so I'd really look forward to seeing him on weekends. As a way to send off what was always a good time, I'd create a menu that we would shop for and cook together each Sunday night. Then we'd say goodbye, and I'd get into my purple Saturn and drive home to Brooklyn, often with a bit of a lump in my throat because I wouldn't be seeing Mr. Wonderful for another three or four days. Or maybe I'd be teary eyed nine out of ten Sundays. There's always going to be a weekend when you think, "enough of that guy, I can't wait to see my cat!"


French-Inspired Sunday Supper Menu:
~Mache Salad with Beets
~Breast of Duck with Orange Chili Glaze
~Mashed Sunchokes 


SALAD:
Let's start with our simple salad. Mache, also known as Lamb's Lettuce, is a salad green that has enjoyed increased popularity here in America over the past decade. It's a milder tasting lettuce first cultivated centuries ago in France. Though due to its clean flavor and attractive look, it is often seen as a garnish or micro-green on haute cuisine plates, mache makes a lovely salad in its own right. 


Mache, Photo: NK


Here's an interesting article on mache: http://www.npr.org


Soon enough, I came across a recipe for mache salad that included other very french components like shallots and tarragon. When I saw that it also included beets, which I just love, I was sold. Here's my quicker interpretation of a salad featured in Food & Wine Magazine that was contributed by one of the kings of French Cuisine, Jacques Pepin:


Easier Mache Salad with Beets
Recipe Adapted From Food & Wine
Serves 3 


Ingredients:
2 Pre-Cooked Beets such as Love Beets Brand (Available in gourmet stores) or 2 whole beets from the can
Salt
1 1/4 Tablespoon White Wine Vinegar
Beet Matchsticks, Photo: NK
3/4 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1/2 a small Shallot, minced 
1 teaspoon minced tarragon 
1 Tablespoon of Peanut Oil
1 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Fresh ground Pepper
1/4 Lb of Mache 


Method:
Cut the beets into matchsticks and transfer them into a bowl.

In another large bowl, whisk mustard with the vinegar, tarragon, and shallot.

Whisk in both the peanut and olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add a drop of vinaigrette to the beets and toss to incorporate.

Add the mache to the remaining vinaigrette and toss well. 

Combine beets into the large bowl of mache and serve right away.


STARCH:
Next up, I wanted an easy, starchy side for our duck breast. Since I am not a huge potato fan, I thought it might be nice to try to make an easy preparation of Sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem Artichokes. Sunchokes aren't artichokes at all. They are actually the underground tuber of the sunflower itself. They look a lot like ginger root or funny looking, gnarled potatoes. 


Sunchokes are another ingredient most often seen in restaurant dishes, but thanks to increased marketing here in the US, they are more widely available to the everyday cook. Unlike potatoes, they can be eaten raw, and their taste, somewhere along the lines of a water chestnut with a hint of turnip-y flair, is actually quite pleasant, even before cooking. They have a more complex flavor than potato, another reason I really like them.


Sunchokes, Photo: NK
Sunchokes can be prepared in the same manner as potatoes, whether roasted, mashed, or even sautéed. Their skin is so thin that peeling is not necessary. What's French about the sunchoke? Not a heck of a lot, since sunchokes were actually first discovered here in the US after having been grown by the Native Americans and used as sustenance by the early American settlers.  


They are sort of French by association. When the French navigator, Samuel de Champlain, came to the US on expedition he made sure to bring this unique tuber back to France with him where it was further cultivated. For today's dinner, we mashed the sunchokes using a very easy recipe, but if you'd like to try them raw, here's a great way: www.foodandwine.com/shaved-sunchoke-salad. Sunchokes are somewhat difficult to get to a fine mash, so I chose to leave in some texture. If you would like them smooth I would recommend cooking them ten minutes longer and perhaps blending them with an immersion blender. 


Mashed Sunchokes
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Serves 3 


Ingredients:
1 Lb Sunchokes, cut into 1 inch pieces. You can peel them if you choose, but not necessary
1 Cup Whole Milk
Salt 
Water
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil 


Method:
Place sunchokes in a large saucepan. 
Add milk and extra water if needed, until chokes are covered.
Season with a good amount of salt and boil over a medium-high flame.
Once boiling, immediately reduce to a simmer and cook until sunchokes are tender - about 40 minutes, skimming off the milk skin periodically.
Drain, reserving cooking liquid.
Return sunchokes to saucepan and add olive oil (I used duck fat instead and it was delish!). 
Mash with a potato masher until desired texture is achieved.
Stir in a few tablespoons of reserved cooking liquid to moisten to desired consistency.
Serve right away or reheat before serving.


MAIN COURSE:
Let's be clear here, our duck recipe, though inspired by the French classic Duck A L'orange, is by no means a traditional dish. Duck A L'Orange is somewhat involved, and includes many more ingredients. It is supposed to be made with bitter oranges, so our use of bitter marmalade to cut down preparation time is somewhat similar. This recipe is so easy, impressive, and just tres magnifique. It's a great choice for a special Sunday supper or dinner party. The chili component, which is totally nontraditional, adds a bit of interest that makes this glaze really irresistible. Enjoy with my apologies to the great "traditional" French chefs out there. 


Duck Breast with Orange Chili Glaze
Adapted from Waitrose.com & Raymond Blanc Method for cooking duck breast 
Serves 2

Ingredients:
2 Duck Breasts
1 teaspoon Sherry Vinegar
1 Orange, Juice of one half set aside, the other half cut in segments for serving
4 Tablespoons Orange Marmalade
Pinch of Crushed Red Pepper Flakes 


Method:
Preheat the oven to 375.

Score the skin side of the duck breast by cutting on the diagonal across the breast, then turning the breast to cut again, creating diamond shapes.

Season the duck with salt and pepper. 

Render the fat by putting the duck breasts, skin side down, in a large frying pan on the stove top over medium heat. Cook for a total of 10 minutes, pouring off the fat every two minutes until the skin is crispy and a golden color. Reserve the duck fat for another use.
Next, turn the duck onto the flesh side and sear one more minute.

Golden and crispy Duck Breast ready for the oven, Photo: NK

In a small bowl, make the glaze by combining marmalade, red pepper flakes, sherry vinegar and orange juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
Orange and Chili Glaze, NK

Line a baking sheet with sides using parchment paper. Place the duck fillets fat side up on the baking sheet and spread the glaze generously over the top of each one. Arrange orange segments around the duck and pop in the oven for 8-12 minutes. We cooked ours for 10 minutes, which is ideal for a perfect medium rare.

Check for desired doneness and let rest for about 5 minutes outside the oven. 

Transfer duck and orange segments to plate, drizzle more glaze on top, and serve.









Bon Apettit!!
Duck Breast with Orange Chili Glaze, Sunchoke Mash, and Mache Salad with Beets, Photo: NK


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