Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday Night Menu, Roast Duck with Orange Sauce, December 2, 2011

The Jeanne and Julia Project...

Julie and Julia came on last week and I watched it. One week later I have now made 8 of her recipes in the "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" book. Well one was just the Bechamel sauce as a component of a dish but of the recipes in the book. Starting on Monday night for dinner I made Gratin of Leeks with Ham, which included Julia's Bechamel Sauce (which has a slightly different ratio of butter to flour and even the milk then I have made from other recipes), the next night was Chicken Breasts rolled in Parmesan and Fresh Bread Crumbs with her Turnips braised in Butter. Two nights ago I made Fish Filet poached in White Wine with Mushrooms, and now I can check off the Roast Duck with Orange Sauce, Peas Braised with Butter and Onions and the Potato Cheese Sticks. The French have a way of making dishes so good! It might be the butter and cream, I don't know...but whatever it is, I like it!

Potato Cheese Sticks

I tasted one of these cheese sticks and couldn't believe was a Cheeze-it!! It was easy to make, but I did have trouble squeezing the mixture out of the pastry bag onto the baking sheet; I have some more of the unbaked dough that I am going to try just spreading it out onto a sheet pan, bake, cut and bake again to get the edges browned. But this is how Julia's recipe goes...
Peel and cut 1/2 lb baking potatoes (about 1 large russet) and boil in salted water until soft; drain and put through a ricer; you should have about 1 cup of potato; stir the potato over moderate heat for 2 or 3 minutes until it forms a light film on the bottom of the pan to dry them out a bit; Beat 2/3 cup of flour into the potato; bit by bit add 1 stick of softened butter; season with salt, pepper and cayenne to taste; add 1 egg and beat in; add 1 cup or 4 oz of Swiss cheese. (I seasoned and tasted it before putting in the egg and keeping in mind the cheese would add a saltiness). Julia pipes 2 1/2 inch sticks onto a cookie sheet, using a 1/4 inch fluted pastry tube; bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Roast Duck with Orange Sauce

I started by following her directions for the duck stock and cutting off the excess fat early in the day. I pricked the skin on the back, lower part of the breasts and the thighs like she said. She didn't say to leave it to dry in the refrigerator all day but that's what I did, since you want the skin to be dry to get a nice crust. I found the recipe already typed for me on line (I know it's cheating but I need more time to cook instead of typing).  So basically it's like a whole roasted chicken, but she says to roast breast side up in a 425 degree oven then after 15 minutes turn it down to 350 degrees, then on it's side for 30 minutes, the other side for 30 minutes, then back to breast side up until it's done.  I took the temperature after 1 hour and 20 minutes (she specified that it would take 1 hour and 20 to 1 hour and 40 minutes), and it shot right up to 165 degrees.  She says 165 is too much, the French like their ducks more like 140 degrees, but I thought the temperature was perfect, not dry at all.  The problem was the skin.  If I wasn't trying to follow Julia's recipe exactly (she is the queen in the kitchen), I would have left the temperature up at 425 degrees for a little longer to get the skin crispy more, It looked to me like it needed that heat, but now I know next time more heat or stick to duck pieces that can be pan seared???

Peas Braised with Lettuce and Onions

The duck chapter in "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" suggested peas to go with duck.  I flipped through the book and found this recipe.  She suggested you use freshly shelled peas in the spring but here we are in December and so I got a bag of frozen peas, it worked out perfectly.  Here is the way Julia says to do it....

First you cut a head of Boston lettuce into quarters and tie with kitchen twine to make sure they keep their shape, set aside; Bring 6 Tbsp of butter, 1/2 cup of water, 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar,1/2 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp black pepper to a boil in a saucepan; add 3 cups of peas and toss to cover in the liquid; bury 8 parsley stems in the midst; arrange the lettuce quarters over them and bast with the liquid; place about 12 green onions with bulbs or small white onions that have been blanched for 5 minutes, over the lettuce and be sure to pierce them with the tip of a knife for even cooking; cover the sauce pan with an inverted lid or bowl and fill the top with ice cubes to create steam, and as the steam condenses it falls back onto the peas; cook for 20 to 30 minutes until the peas are tender; correct seasoning; discard the parsley and lettuce strings; just before serving toss the peas and onions with 2 Tbsp butter; place on a serving platter and arrange the lettuce around and on top of the peas; serve at once.

So it was delicious, but I didn't think the inverted cover with the ice cubes was necessary (for frozen peas anyway), The idea of the lettuce holding it's shape was good but when you take the string off it falls apart anyway, and surprisingly the 20-30 minutes of cooking was good, I thought it would be way too long but I think I ended up cooking them 25 or 30 minutes.

Creme Caramel

This isn't from Julia's book, it's from Jacques Pepin's show called Essential Pepin. I am sure it's very close to Julia's recipe except I didn't heat the half and half. Jacques made it so simply without heating anything just whisking eggs, sugar, vanilla and half and half (he said there was no reason to heat the half and half anymore, that was years ago they did for some reason, but not necessary now-a-days). So caramel stumps me sometimes and I am trying to figure out a full proof caramel. So he did it this way and I followed...Pour 1 cup of sugar into a sauce and dribble in water, just enough to wet all the sugar granules, then let it boil over medium-high heat. After about 5-10 minutes you will see big bubbles appear and you can swirl the pan (before that don't touch the pan or even stir it or it will crystallize), let it get a nice deep golden color then pour out some caramel into a 6 or 7 cup,
round, Pyrex baking dish; enough to coat the bottom of the baking dish. Very carefully and slowly add water (about 4-6 Tbsp) to the caramel that is still in the pan and slowly stir over low heat so it cools to a sauce and doesn't harden. Now you can make the custard. It a large mixing bowl, whisk together
4 eggs

1egg yolk

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

1/3 cup sugar

After whisking for a good 2-3 minutes add and whisk in

3 cups half and half

Pour this mixture over the hardened caramel in the baking dish and place the baking dish into another baking dish that is slightly larger and pour hot water to come half way up the sides of the dish. Put into a 350 degree oven for about an hour ( mine took about 1 hour and 15 minutes). It will still be jiggly and you can test it by putting the tip of a knife half way from the center of the bowl and the outside of the bowl. If it comes out clean it's done (don't put the knife all the way to the bottom or it will break when you un-mold it.

Un-mold onto a dish with a rim and remove the excess liquid and pour thick caramel on top of the custard with the caramel sauce that you made. This was gooooood!!!

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