Roasted Spiced Duck Leg & Thigh with Butternut Squash Purée

This was the fifth course to my 7-course Friendsgiving party for 8 people.

I usually serve the legs and breast of the duck together in one composed dish but this time I decided to separate them into two separate courses!

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Serves 8.

For the Marinade

  • 2 bottles red wine
  • 2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ cup rosemary, chopped
  • 8 crushed juniper berries
  • 8 star anise
  • 4 bay leaves, crushed
  • 8 duck legs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, combine all spices.

Wash and pat dry the skin of the duck leg with a kitchen towel. Using a cake tester or fork, prick tiny holes all over the skin. Rub spice mixture onto skin side of each leg.

Pour the wine into a large mixing bowl and add the legs and stir. Cover with plastic wrap, put in the fridge, and leave to marinate for 3-4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Remove the legs from the marinade. Pat dry with paper towels to clean off spices. Place on a wire rack on a roasting tray and cook in the middle of the oven for 1 hour or so, depending on the size of the duck legs, basting frequently with pan juices.

For the Purée

  • 1 lb butternut squash, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 small onion, sliced into 8-wedges
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 star anise
  • ½ tsp cardamom seeds, crushed
  • 150 mL/5 oz. cream
  • 1 TBS fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 TBS vegetable oil
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper

Place the cream in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, stir in cinnamon stick, anise, cardamom seeds, cover, and set aside for at least 1 hour.

Place the butternut squash and onion in a large bowl. Add 1 TBS of oil and toss well to coat. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the tossed squash and onion on it. Roast until the vegetables are fork-tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Remove the squash and onion from the oven and place into a blender. Strain the cream mixture through a chinois over a small bowl. Pour the strained cream into blender, add 1 TBS of lemon juice, season with salt, black pepper, and paprika. Blend until smooth.

TO ASSEMBLE

Remove the duck legs from the oven, cover with foil, and rest for 10 minutes.

Spoon the purée into the center of warmed plates and top with the roasted duck legs. Drizzle with pan juices and serve.

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Roasted Quail, Crushed Peewee Potatoes, Mushrooms with Montegrato Pedro Ximénez Reduction

This was the third course to my 7-course Friendsgiving party for 8 people.

These little birds are so tiny! Two birds per person was a good idea this year!

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Serves 8.

For the Brine

  • ½ cup salt
  • 8 cups water or 2.5 bottles white wine
  • 8 bay leaves
  • 8 quails

Bring everything to a boil and cool down immediately. Using a cake tester or sharp paring knife, stab quails, then submerge quails in this brine for 6 hours in the fridge.

For the Peewee Potatoes

  • 1 bag of Peewee potatoes
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 1 garlic head
  • 2 TBS whole black peppercorns
  • Salt

In cheesecloth, wrap bouquet garni with twine and in cold, salted water, boil potatoes and simmer until potatoes are tender, 15-20 minutes. Cool down in its cooking water then drain and set aside.

For the Sherry Reduction

  • 1 bottle of Montegrato Pedro Ximénez vinegar
  • 2 TBS brown sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 TBS fresh rosemary, minced
  • Part of a orange rind

In a medium-sized saucepan, add the sherry vinegar and aromatics. Bring to a light boil then turn down to keep at a low simmer.

Be careful not to burn it or over-reduce it. When it becomes nappant (coats a spoon), it will be thick enough. When reduced more, it will thicken up considerably once cooled. You can always gently reheat and add a little water, as needed.

For the Finish

  • 8 maitake mushroom packets
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

TO ASSEMBLE

Remove quail from brine and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper on a wire rack. Sear quail skin-side down in either neutral cooking oil or butter. Sear for 2 minutes and then flip over for another minute.

Sauté mushrooms in a hot pan and season with salt and pepper. Using your thumb, crush potatoes then add in same pan as mushrooms to warm them up.

Reheat balsamic reduction.

Spoon mushrooms and potatoes on warmed plates. Arrange cut quail on plates and then drizzle with balsamic reduction.

Braised Lamb Shank with Couscous

For some strange reason, I thought that the food that we would use in culinary school would be organic. That is definitely not the case. I’ve witnessed the biggest gingers and the biggest bell peppers in the world in class and that’s just scary.

  • 2 lamb shanks
  • 3 TBS olive oil
  • ⅔ cup onions, cut into large chunks
  • ⅔ cup carrots, cut into large chunks
  • ½ cup celery, cut into large chunks
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled & crushed
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • ⅔ cup red wine
  • ⅔ cup white wine
  • Brown stock, enough to cover
  • 3 very ripe plum tomatoes, chopped

Give a good sear to the lamb shanks. Add in the braising liquid and mirepoix and braise the lamb for 2.5 hours in the oven (350-400°F), once boiling. Couscous is made with chopped parsley, pine nuts, olive oil, and dried blackcurrants.

*From the French Culinary Institute.

Pizza Polenta Stuffed Peppers

The last time I stuffed peppers, I loved how it turned out. I think stuffed peppers are perfect for get-together meals. So this time I found another interesting way to stuff them.

I made this for a dinner party. It’s 100% vegan if you don’t add the parmesan cheese. But how can you call something “pizza” without adding cheese so that’s why I added parmesan as an ingredient. Also garlic… I love garlic and garlic needs to be in a pizza.

[100% organic]

  • 4 bell peppers (peppers should stand upright)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup polenta
  • Sea salt
  • ½ cup quinoa, cooked
  • 3 TBS tomato paste
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 TBS red pepper flakes
  • 15 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
  • 1 cup grated parmesan, more for garnish

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Bring water to a simmer, add the cornmeal. Stir consistently for the first 5 minutes, watching and stirring frequently. Once it comes together, approximately 20-25 minutes, add the salt to taste. Add the cooked quinoa to polenta, and stir.

Combine tomato paste, rosemary, oregano, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Add that to the quinoa polenta, and stir. Add in fresh basil and stir. When ready, remove from heat then stir in the cup of parmesan cheese.

Cut the top off the peppers and clean out the membranes and seeds. Stuff with quinoa polenta and garnish with basil leaves. Put the tops back onto the peppers and bake for 30 minutes.

Serve immediately. Sprinkle some parmesan over the bell peppers.

*Adapted from Spabettie.

Crispy Herb Fried Chicken

I cannot tell you how delicious this tastes! It’s light and crispy and it has no taste of that fried-oil flavor at all. I’m completely in love with this recipe. I could eat ten pounds of chicken if it was all cooked like this.

And wow! Potato starch is AMAZING! It doesn’t burn and it makes things crisp.

[100% organic]

  • 1 lb chicken thighs, cut into medium pieces
  • 1 TBS EVOO
  • 1 TBS white wine
  • 2 tsp rosemary, finely minced
  • 2 tsp thyme, finely minced
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ cup potato starch
  • Canola oil for frying
  • Lemon wedges
  • 1 TBS parsley, finely chopped

Add the chicken, olive oil, wine, rosemary, thyme, garlic, and salt to a bowl, then mix well to combine. Let the chicken marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Start heating ½-inch of oil in a pot on medium-high heat. Put the potato starch in a bowl and then lightly dust each piece of marinated chicken in the starch. When the oil is hot, start frying the chicken. Since the pieces are small, they will fry up quickly, so be careful not to overcook them. Because you are using potato starch they will not turn dark brown, but they will still be crispy.

When the chicken is done frying, transfer them to a paper-towel lined rack to drain. Sprinkle chopped parsley, and serve immediately with lemon wedges and celery sticks.

*Adapted from Marc Matsumoto.

Rosemary Seared Scallops with Cilantro Lime Spaghetti

I finally had time to go to Chinatown today. I have been craving for shrimp since I left Hong Kong three weeks ago. The shrimp at Whole Foods is insanely overpriced and I refuse to buy those frozen packaged ones. This morning, I was going to go to Whole Foods but I suddenly thought about visiting a fish market. I searched on Yelp and people said to go to The Lobster Place in Chelsea or Chinatown.

Duh.

I went to Chinatown and spoke Chinese there to the staff. They don’t accept credit cards – Yelp got that wrong. It was only supposed to take me 20 minutes to get there but there are always shutdowns of certain express lines during the weekend so it took me double the time.

[100% organic, scallops from Canada]

  • Thin spaghetti
  • 1 TBS EVOO
  • 1 TBS butter
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large button mushroom, sliced
  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • ½ lime, zested & juiced
  • 1 rosemary twig, leaves removed and finely chopped
  • 5-7 scallops, soaked in cold water for 15 minutes
  • Salt & pepper

Boil the spaghetti in salted water and add a few drops of oil to prevent sticking. Cook 1 minute short of al dente, remove from heat and drain (pasta should still be quite firm) and keep warm, save some pasta water.

Drain the scallops and pat-dry with paper towels. Season generously with salt and freshly ground pepper.

In a pan, melt the butter and heat up the EVOO on medium-heat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms, cilantro, lime zest, and lime juice and cook for 3 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Season with salt and add cooked pasta to the pan and cook covered for one minute. Add some pasta water if too dry.

In a separate pan, sear the scallops. When scallops are almost ready, sprinkle rosemary over scallops. When done, remove from heat and place on top of pasta and serve!

Flat Bread

This is a continuation of the Traditional Hummus post. You can use any bread or any cracker to use the hummus as a dip or spread but I made my own flat bread.

[100% organic]

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Olive oil
  • ¼ cup plain yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
  • ¼ cup non-fat milk
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 2 TBS rosemary leaves, chopped
  • 2 TBS garlic oil = 2 TBS olive oil and 2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • Salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Add the flour in a medium bowl and make a well in the center and add in the yogurt, milk, and olive oil. Lastly, add the warm water into the well and immediately use a wooden spoon to gently combine all the ingredients together. Remove the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes at room temperature.

Meanwhile, make the garlic oil. Combine the garlic and olive oil in a small saucepan and gently warm over low heat until fragrant but garlic is not brown. Remove from the heat and set aside.

After the dough is rested, divide into 4 sections and stretch each section with your hands. Add some flour if the dough is too sticky. Line two baking trays with parchment paper and place two flat breads on each tray. Using a pastry brush, brush the surface of each flat bread with some garlic oil and sprinkle chopped rosemary and sea salt on top.

Bake the flat bread for 10-12 minutes or until the flat bread is lightly brown. Cut into wedges and serve with hummus or other dips.