Foie Gras, Magret and Duck Legs Sorted

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My husband and I were discussing the ban on foie gras in California and wondered if it was banned in other States.  What California actually banned was the gavage or force feeding of birds.  I don’t believe that you can have “real”, quality foie gras without force feeding but I do understand the why of California, the State I grew up in;  California is filled to the brim with bleeding heart, tree hugging, liberal, vegetarians!  I, of course, escaped this subversive influence because my mother was from Texas 😉

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Happily for us, according to the internet, foie gras is not banned in the other States.  In fact, right across the Delaware river in Ferndale, New York, not far from where my husband grew up, is the Hudson Valley Foie Gras and Duck Company, the proud producer of duck products from Mulard ducks, including foie gras, duck legs and duck breasts.

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Despite a particularly virulent news article by Huffington Post, Hudson Valley Foie Gras unflinchingly practices gavage in order to to offer the American public French quality magret(duck breast) and foie gras.  Having nothing to hide, the company has an open door policy and will show a visitor anything they are interested in seeing, including gavage.

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Since I have already seen gavage, and cage free ducks standing around in a large, clean shelter are pretty boring, I quickly moved on to the purpose of the visit; food buying.

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Hudson Valley’s duck farm is not really a tourist destination.  It’s just a large compound with offices ( 3 of them for USDA personnel), a processing plant and duck sheds.  They raise the ducks, process them, package them, store them in refrigerators/freezers, then ship the finished product to restaurants, retail businesses and individuals.  I was a little disappointed that they did not have a cute, onsite store with t-shirts, coffee mugs, stuffed duck toys, porcelain figurines, etc, however they are more than happy to sell to walk in customers.  Still, a t-shirt would have been good, but I understand you can buy one at their online store.  😊

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Frankly, after spending so much time eating duck in France, I didn’t know what to expect from an American duck farm.  M. Parret would have been pleased!  Everything looked “correct.”  I bought 16 portions of frozen foie gras scallops, 2 packages of magret and a hefty package of 6 duck legs in case of surprise visitors or a blizzard.

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It was difficult to choose what to cook first but because I had some fresh borlotti beans in the freezer, I thought what the heck, might as well do a cassoulet.

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This was a good choice because between trimming and browning the legs, I had quite a bit of rendered duck fat that I was able to pour in a jar and store in the refrigerator for future gastronomic events.

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The duck was very, very good!  This was my first time eating a Mulard duck and while the flavor is discernibly different from the French Muscovy/Barbery duck, I am grateful to find such comparable quality on this side of the Atlantic.  Thank you M. Yanay and everyone at Hudson Valley Foie Gras!  Saved!

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Now I need to find a reliable rabbit source!  My husband is threatening to load up his gun, but that’s okay because we live in Pennsylvania and it’s his constitutional right :)

Duck Cassoulet

3 large duck legs

Salt and pepper

1 1/2 cup smoked pork butt, diced

1 large onion, chopped

2 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1 bunch parsley, leaves chopped

1 bay leaf

1 tsp dried oregano

3 cups shelled fresh borlotti beans

2 cups chicken broth

Trim some of the excess fat from the duck legs and render the fat in a slow skillet, discard/give to the dog the browned pieces and pour the rendered fat into a jar.  Season the duck with salt and pepper, then brown in the same skillet, again pouring the fat rendered into the jar and setting the browned legs to the side.

Reintroduce 2 tbsp of rendered fat to the skillet, then lightly brown the diced pork.  Add the onion and continue to saute until the onion is soft.  Add the tomatoes, parsley, bay leaf, oregano, beans and chicken broth, bring to a boil, then pour all into the bottom of a tajine, top with the duck legs, cover and roast in a 400 F oven for 30 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350F and continue to roast for 1 hour.  Remove the cover and roast for a final 30 minutes.

 

 

Posted in Cooking, Food and Wine, French, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Rolled Rack of Lamb Roast

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Thinking to give American lamb another try because I like lamb and American lamb is all that’s available, I went to the German butcher and purchased a pretty little rolled, boneless rack roast.

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I gave it the usual olive oil, herbs and garlic treatment, using an enormous clove of the seemingly popular elephant garlic.  I’m not quite satisfied with the available garlic; it’s either small, dry, hard cloves or alien, enormous but juicy elephant garlic.  Sigh.

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But the roast looked good and my hopes were high.  I brought out my green tajine and loaded it with baby potatoes, “baby-like” carrots, parsley and onions(I have lots of parsley).  I would have liked to add some whole shallots but they’re quite expensive and ugly.

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If it wasn’t for the wind chill factor, this would remind me of spring.

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Pretty tajine lamb roast, but yes, as tasteless as I remember.  I think I’m going into a decline :D

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Rolled Rack of Lamb Roast

2lb rolled rack of lamb roast

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped

1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped

2 tbsp olive oil

1 lb potato fingerlings

1/2 lb “baby-like” carrots

2 small onions, quartered

1 handful parsley, chopped

Salt and pepper

1 tbsp olive oil

Mix the teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, thyme, rosemary and olive oil together, stab the roast all over with a knife, then rub in the herb mixture.  Refrigerate overnight.

Mix the potatoes, carrots, onions, parsley, salt, pepper and olive oil together, then place on the bottom of a tajine or baking pan.

Place the marinated roast on top of the vegetables, then place in a 425 F oven for 30 minutes.  Reduce the temperature to 350 F, stir the vegetables, then return to the oven for 30-45 minutes.

 

 

Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Successful Careless Cooking

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Some days I just don’t feel like cooking.  Can’t be bothered.  Could care less.  Today was one of those days.  It’s raining, there are still unopened boxes in the garage and everywhere, there is nothing truly exciting in my freezer and refrigerator.  Still, the spouse and child must be fed.  Time for careless cooking.  Careless cooking is only successful when you have the right audience, include certain essential ingredients and make the correct quantity judgement.

Baby boomers are the best targets for careless cooking (Boomers from the “deep country” are perfect).  Born between 1946 and 1964, these are the original one-dish casserole kids. Moms were mostly stay at home but housewife-ing with multiple children was and is an unpaid full time job that naturally runs into overtime; housecleaning, laundry, driving the kids to events, budgeting, cooking, etc. Food companies often advertised their products as time saving and economical which appealed to the housewife trying to find a little personal space for lunch, bridge, the hair salon or whatever.  Cans were good things and in the beginning the contents were not so bad. Casseroles were good things because you could dump a bunch of cans in one pot, sprinkle with cheese, add a little parsley, innovative presentation and you had a family meal.  Note: It is more than possible to successfully careless cook for the generations after the boomers; just add about 2 tablespoons of sugar and maybe some ketchup to whatever casserole you make.  Avoid vegetables that can not be pureed into the sauce.

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As to ingredients, careless cooking is centered around a well stocked pantry of canned goods; vegetables, tomatoes, beans, sauces and broths.  Use your imagination and do have on hand a ridiculous amount of dried herbs and spices.  It is essential that no matter what you are making, be sure to saute some onions, garlic and bell pepper to include in your one-dish triumph.  Above all, careless cooking must taste good and these vegetables and aromatic pretty much guarantee that.

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If you are cooking for carnivores, be sure to add a decent quantity of meat. Meat casseroles with fillers(rice, pasta, potatoes) that overwhelm to the extent that the carnivore has to search for the meat are not successful, just frustrating.  For vegetarians, just make sure that there’s plenty of sauce and serve everything with thick slices of bread and maybe butter if they’re doing butter.

Chili Mac

1 1/2 lb ground veal

1 lb ground pork

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 large red bell pepper, diced

2 cans diced tomatoes

1 small can tomato paste

1 1/2 tbsp Mexican chili powder

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp piment d’espelette

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 can pinto beans, drained

1/2 bean can of water

3 cups cooked elbow macaroni

1 mounded cup grated cheese

Brown the ground meats in a dry skillet, then remove and set aside.  Pour out the accumulated fat, wipe the skillet with a paper towel, then add the olive oil, onion, garlic and bell pepper, sauteing until the onion is soft.

Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, piment, salt, pepper, beans, water and reserved meat to the skillet, stir well, bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes.  Stir in the macaroni and cheese, then allow to simmer, stirring for about 3-5 minutes.

 

 

Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

Smelt

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Whenever I see tiny fish like whitebait or sardines, I think of the fresh smelt my father used to fry.  I don’t know where he bought them but there was a season and he would come home with large sacks of unfrozen, small, whole smelts that he fried “hard” so that you could eat the head, bones and all without a squeamish pang.  Lovely.

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I found these smelt at the Super Duper Market and even though they were frozen, headed and gutted, I couldn’t resist.  No they didn’t have that just-out-of-the-water fresh taste, but I could taste the memory.

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Instead of reaching for a jar, I prepared some easy tartar sauce to combat any frozen, cardboard, fishy taste these smelt might have.  After all, Pennsylvania is landlocked and these fish had to travel.  Bummer that I couldn’t find the French cornichons but substituted with small dills.  This worked out okay but, if you can find them, use the cornichons.

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Most of my fresh potted herbs have suffered from the cooler weather and are stone cold dead.  I still have parsley, oregano and a little thyme.  I used them for the buttery herb and chilli topping, but dill in place of the oregano is perfection.  I had some chillies in the fridge and used them until I was satisfied :)

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A song in memory of my father.

Deep Fried Smelt

2 lbs fresh or frozen smelt, headed and gutted or not

1 cup flour

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 tsp smoked paprika

Peanut oil for deep frying

2 cloves garlic, slivered

1 or 2 colorful chillies or to taste, seeded and sliced

2 tbsp butter

1 handful each; dill(oregano), parsley and thyme, chopped

Mix the flour, bread crumbs, salt, pepper and paprika together in a plastic/paper bag. Toss in a handful of the smelt at a time, coating well.  Fry in the peanut oil until golden brown and crispy.

Melt the butter in a small skillet, then add the garlic and chillies, sauteing until aromatic. Remove from the flame, stir in the herbs, then pour over the fried fish.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in American, Appetizer, Cooking, fish, Food and Wine, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Cordero’s – Honesdale, Pennsylvania

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Home-style, according to the dictionary,  means “such as would be made at home; simple and unpretentious”.  When I think of home-style I think of good food, served with warmth and caring, food served up in the style of my mother, grandmothers and aunts, not to forget my father, grandfathers and uncles as they presided over a down home barbecue or fish fry.  I hope, whether I’m making a foie gras saute or a meatloaf, that I manage to maintain this tradition of gifting my friends and family with food.

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Back in the day, popular home-style restaurants and diners managed to re-create this familial atmosphere of comfort, warmth, simplicity and good food.  Unfortunately today most of these restaurants have disappeared and been replaced by chain restaurants that cater to a population that is satisfied with fake, over-sugared, plastic fare, as long as it’s fast and copious.  A population that, even when eating together, eats alone.

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Cordero’s, a family run restaurant, has been in business for over 60 years and it’s easy to see why.  No matter how busy the wait staff is, they always seem to have time for a good morning, hello, coffee? or some form of friendly recognition to reassure their valued clients that they have been seen.  Multitaskers and in general just happy people, the staff greets their regulars, welcomes newcomers, takes and delivers orders with smiles, jokes and laughter.  We love these people!

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The counter seats are as comfortable as the booths and whether you drop in for a meal or a coffee and a look at the local newspaper, you know you’re in the right place.

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At Cordero’s the family has paid attention to every detail, and rather than the studied staginess  of chain diner/restaurants, the authenticity of Cordero’s speaks to a way of life that has not been forgotten or abandoned.

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Look at the “correctness” of the salt and pepper shakers, the sugar dispenser and the heavy solidity of the coffee mugs.  You could live here.  We almost do :D

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Cholesterol?  Not a problem.  We don’t mind taking a few risks for the quality of this real food.  Sausage, eggs, home fries and buttered toast.  To die for :)

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Shockingly, this summer I saw a sign at another diner that limited the time you had to finish your meal to 45 minutes from the time you were served.  Ironically, the server mechanically urged us to enjoy our meal!  How could we?  That was a little nerve-racking and we haven’t and don’t intend to return.

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Winter is coming but Cordero’s is on a main road that’s sure to be plowed by the time we’re ready for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Such a relief!

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Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Red Pears

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Haiti was my first experience living overseas.  We didn’t live in the capitol city of Port au Prince, but in the southern town of Les Cayes, about 12-13 hours over unpaved roads, about 190 km (118 miles).  But we were young and the trip was an adventure.  We thought it was so cool to have to ford rivers, sometimes getting stuck in the middle and then being pulled and pushed out by the very friendly locals.  Ah youth!  Idiots :D

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Because Les Cayes was in the “deep” country, there weren’t a lot of supermarkets.  There was one, a sort of general store that sold everything from pesticides to take out sandwiches, often side by side.  Most shopping was done in the country farmers’ market. It was in these local markets that my love affair with Haiti hit shaky ground.

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Cows, pigs and goats were slaughtered and butchered in open fields at the markets. It wasn’t that I didn’t know where meat came from, it was just that I was used to buying it on a styrofoam tray, wrapped in plastic, with a descriptive label.  Even back then, presentation was an issue for me.  I didn’t know what part came from where and every newly butchered piece of meat looked the same to me.  I would just choose a likely looking lump, take it home and try to cook it.  I hated not knowing what I was getting.  I still hate that.

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I bought some red pears at the Super Duper market yesterday.  The sign above, rather redundantly, said “red pears”.  I thought the tiny sticker attached to each pear would enlighten me but it just said U.S.A.  Were these Bartlett, Anjou, Bosc, Concorde, Starkrimson, Williams???  Not that I know a lot about which varieties of fruit are good to cook with, but I could always look it up on the internet.

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I mean, what if I had never heard of or cooked spaghetti squash(my first time was in Sens) and when I saw it at the Scranton Farmers’ market, it just said “yellow squash?”

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Imagine what my reaction might have been when it fell to pieces in shreds and strings after cooking!  A perfectly good yellow squash tossed into the garbage bin!  Hello supermarket people!  We, the other people, need to know!

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Anyway, let’s get back on track.  I saw this marvelous recipe for spaghetti squash on the internet that sounded delicious and I wanted to make it or a reasonable facsimile thereof. Such wonderful ingredients; spaghetti squash, garlic, fresh basil, spinach, tomatoes, mozzarella!

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I went rogue immediately by crisp frying some chopped bacon that was languishing in the refrigerator, then toasting the chopped garlic in the bacon fat.  I added the bacon because it existed, but it wasn’t necessary.  The original recipe, Spaghetti Squash Caprese is wonderful as it was written.  I call my version Spaghetti Squash Capricious :)

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My husband mounded an unsightly amount of this casserole on his plate for lunch!  I was pleased ;)

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I’ve always thought that my favorite color was blue but I’ve changed my mind.  Red is my new favorite.  I mixed the red pears with red potatoes, white onions and green thyme whose scientific and common names will remain as anonymous as they were when I bought them.

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I bought the smoked pork chops at the Alpine Wurst and Meat House (German butcher). He purchases his meat locally and smokes selected cuts in house.  The chops were delicious as usual.

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Spaghetti Squash Capricious

1 large spaghetti squash

1/3 cup chopped bacon

2 large garlic cloves, chopped

2 handfuls spinach, chopped

3 tbsp fresh basil leaves, chopped

4 plum tomatoes, cut into chunks

2 tbsp olive oil

3/4 cup mozzarella plus extra, as much as you like, for topping, grated

Salt and pepper

Pierce the squash with a cooking fork on four sides, then roast for 40 minutes at 375 F, turn, and roast for another 40 minutes.  Remove the squash from the oven, cut off the stem end, cut in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and slimy stuff, then scrape with a fork and remove the spaghetti like threads to a large bowl.

Cook the bacon in a skillet until brown and crisp, then remove and drain on a paper towel. Add the garlic to the skillet and briefly toast.  Put the bacon, garlic, spinach, basil, tomatoes, olive oil, the 3/4 cup of mozzarella, salt and pepper in the bowl with the squash. Mix well, then pour into a baking pan, sprinkle with the extra cheese and bake at 375 F for 30-40 minutes.

Baked Smoked Pork Chops with Pears and Potatoes

1 large onion, cut into 8 wedges

2 red pears, cored and cut into 8 wedges

1/2 -3/4 lb red potatoes, sliced thickly then halved or halved and sliced thickly :D

Several sprigs of thyme

Salt and pepper

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp brown sugar

4-6 smoked pork chops

Mix the onion, pears, potatoes, thyme, salt, pepper and olive oil in a large bowl, then pour into a baking pan.  Roast at 425 F for 15 minutes, stir and sprinkle with the brown sugar, then top with the pork chops.  Return to the oven for 20 minutes, then turn the pork chops over and continue cooking for about 15-20 minutes more.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Masala

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Wakeful in Wayne County, Pennsylvania, I mentally reviewed some of the great produce I bought at the Scranton Farmers’ Market, thinking of Indian masala.

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I still had some Tuscan kale and pretty, little red potatoes that remind me of apples when they are sliced.

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I remembered a large package of chicken gizzards that kept waving at me each time I opened the freezer and resolved to include them in my melange.

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As the masala started to come together, my husband could not stay out of the kitchen.  I should have used his distraction to ask for something utterly expensive.  Like a diamond bracelet.  Next time :)

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This time I just took the picture, poured him a glass of wine and handed him a plate full of rice and masala. He was glad.

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Chicken Gizzard and Potato Masala

1 lb chicken gizzards, halved

1 bay leaf

1 thick slice of onion

2 cups chicken broth

Salt and pepper

4 tbsp ghee

2 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp cinnamon powder

1 tsp crushed red pepper

1 large onion, processed into a paste with 3 tbsp water

1 1/2 inch fresh ginger and 6 garlic cloves, processed into a paste with 4 tbsp water

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp sugar

2 cans diced tomatoes

8 small red potatoes, cut into eighths and boiled for 10 minutes.

2 cups Tuscan kale, chopped

Bring to a boil and simmer the gizzards with the bay leaf, onion, chicken broth, salt and pepper.  Drain, reserving the broth and set aside.

Melt the ghee in a wok and cook the cumin, fennel, cinnamon and crushed red pepper until aromatic.  Add the onion paste and continue to cook for about 8 minutes.  Add the ginger/garlic paste and continue to cook for about 5 minutes.  Stir in the garam masala, tumeric and sugar, blending well.  Stir in the tomatoes, gizzards and reserved broth,  bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes.  Add the potatoes and continue to simmer for 15 minutes.  Finally, add the kale and cook until wilted.

Serve with rice or chapatis.

 

 

Posted in Asian, Cooking, Food and Wine, Indian, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments