As everyone knows, I can cook. I do cook, but I don't consider myself someone who cooks. My mettle hasn't been tested in way too long, sad really. So when Laurel of Mire Poix the premier site for foie gras, truffles & caviar offered to send me a bevy of fresh fancy pants ingredients to review, I jumped in with both feet.
Then I spent a week losing sleep and fretting about every little angle. In my cooler were fresh duck chops, fresh truffles, truffle butter & rillettes du perigord. I decided to break it up in to a few posts so I didn't lose all my marbles (don't have many to begin with).
My first email, then a phone call was to Kevin D. Weeks of Seriously Good, "Halp!" He and I have been online buddies for quite some time and I needed a little reassurance and guidance. Given he does this kind of stuff both in the kitchen, teaching and in written word for a living, I figured he'd calm my squirrelly ass down. He did and I was on my way with a list for a 12 hour brine and a peach gastrique (French sweet & sour sauce), hot smoke that duck!
All seems simple, right? Ha! Yeah sure, later that same day I came home with a few pounds of absolutely amazing FREE cherries. Peaches? Cherries? Duck, oh my. It was then I remembered that Rick the retired butcher used to make a cherry & apple brine for his fowl and it was fricken amazing, I wanted THAT brine. See, if I'm going to take the time to brine something, I want more than just salt and sugar, seems like a waste of time to me.
Ain't it fun taking something simple and throwing a wrench in to it? It's what I do best. Hell, I could have just salted the duck and grilled it. But I felt I should pay some respect to the duck and Laurel for sending over free food.
I really took my time and was careful with it all, got the duck in the brine without any mishap. It was halfway through the brining that I realized, Rick still makes money off this brine. But then I thought, anyone who gives me a recipe or has their picture taken of me surely has to know it's going to be on the internet for all to see. But out of respect (this doesn't happen that often) I called Rick back and talked to him about it. Sure enough, he wasn't comfortable letting his labored over brine recipe hit the streets. Figures. Here I am, Meathenge and I can't give you the exact recipe. I love my life, and what I've done to it.
So, let's just say I brined the duck and leave it at that, eh?
Next up the gastrique, eeek! French cooking oh my! As I found out pretty darned quickly even an anxiety ridden hillbilly with no hair can make one of these sauces. I had planned on doing a test run, but in my traditional way of doing things, I didn't. It was dead simple and can whip one up without even giving it a second thought today. And if you haven't made or tried one? You need to. The absolutely amazing flavors will astound you. The rich bright flavors of the fruit, then the tiny bite of the vinegar muted with the rich love of the butter and shallot cannot be matched.
Oh! I have a funny story! Kevin sent me a link to his recipe, which when I needed it, could not locate. I did what I hate to do, pull one off the net, look over the ingredients and procedure and make it in my mind to see if it might do the trick, I found one! A few days after I'd made it? I noticed it was Kevin's recipe at about.com. Dang.
wine or cognac
See? What part of that doesn't totally rock, here's his recipe for: Gastrique - French Sweet and Sour Sauce
When the sauce was done, I waited for the duck to get to 160 and pulled it. Truly smoked it in the traditional sense with a hunk of peach wood for flavor that Chilebrown gifted me. I let it rest a bit, sliced and poured some sauce over it. The duck was fork tender with a solid but not nearly overpowering waft of smoke. The gastrique was a compliment and didn't even remotely over power the duck, oh lovely duck meat!
But now the true test, would my picky 14 and 9 year old boys dig it as much as I did? The 4 chops never left the cutting board in the kitchen, oohs and ahhs were heard during the entire time. They talked to nearly everyone they saw over the next few days saying how good the smoked duck with a peach gastrique was. The look on people's faces, then staring at me. Oh yeah baby, I can cook.
Thank you to Laurel, thank you Kevin, thank you Rick and thank you Chilebrown for an outstanding meal. If you can't get such things locally, then Mire Poix of Napa California can get you what you need.
ps - There's more to come from Mire Poix, stay tuned!