January 2010 Archives

 

I've been having some bad luck in the kitchen: two batches of pickles came out tasting off, twice pans of caramels have burnt, my kefir grains are struggling to return from dormancy, and my freezer is just two darned small. Lately it seems like all I can do to make a decent dinner — like this lamb tagine with raisins and almonds, carrot salad, and tomato and pepper salad with preserved lemon. It's not much, but I did manage not to burn it.

 

Since the nice long holiday break gave me a couple days to run errands and fart around the kitchen, I decided to take on a project more time-consuming than any I've done since we moved — confit.

It may be time-consuming, but it's not exactly difficult. If you can set your oven for 200 degrees and leave it there for a few hours, you can make confit. I started by buying two ducks and removing their legs, saving the breasts and carcass for another meal. I also scavenged all the skin and fat from the ducks. The legs I cured with salt, pepper, cloves, garlic, and bay leaf for two days in the fridge, as per Ruhlman and Polcyn.

The morning I made the confit, I took the fat I had salvaged from the ducks and chopped it and rendered in the oven on low heat. As the guy at the butcher shop had suggested, the ducks I got were rather too lean to supply enough fat to cover the legs — luckily he also gave me a supplementary tub of duck fat. I added that to the fat I had rendered and poured it all over the rinsed and dried legs, making sure they were completely covered (I had to poke a few air bubbles out from underneath the skin to convince them to stay at the bottom of the pan). I turned the oven to 200, popped em in, and forgot about them until bedtime, approximately eight hours later.

But to really make confit, you can't just cook the duck in fat, you have to age it there too. The legs get transferred to a crock, and the fat is poured on top (carefully, so the settled cooking liquids don't make it into the crock), where it hardens and solidifies when refrigerated. Some weeks later, you remove the legs, heat them and crisp the skin, and enjoy - but that's for another entry.

 

Here's what I brought to the christmas table — clockwise from the top: malted milk honeycomb, chocolate covered turkish delight, molasses honeycomb, mexican chocolate caramels with chili and salt, Lillet marshmallows, turkish delight, and chocolate covered honeycomb. Sprinkled throughout are orange and peppermint ribbon candies.

And here's a selection of some of the treats that others contributed to the dessert table. I can't identify half of these cookies, but in there somewhere are pfeffernusse, crisp cherry chews, three kinds of sugar cookies, gingersnaps, and there are a half-dozen more I didn't get photos of!

It was a long, lazy, and sugar-filled holiday vacation, and I hope yours was as restful and joyous! Now it is back to the grindstone!

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