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Category Archives: Main Dish

Duck, Duck, Tacos.

Looking to change up your taco meat selection?  Try duck!  Everyone else is doing it. Ok, well maybe not everyone, but it seems like duck tacos and nachos have become more common on restaurant menus and it was about time I tried this at home.  While this is really a simple recipe, it does require 2 hours of braising in the oven.  The weight of my meat was 1.1 pounds and generously served 2 people for dinner.

My Beer Braised Duck (for tacos, nachos, burritos, and more!)

  • 2 duck leg quarters (*skin removed)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 large white onion, sliced
  • 1/3 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 chopped chipotle pepper from a can of chipotle peppers in adobo (do not rinse)
  • 2 chopped garlic cloves
  • 1/3 cup packed cilantro (do not need to chop or remove from stem)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 bottle of Mexican lager
  • juice from one lime

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.  Heat a medium-sized, oven-safe saucepan with tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat.  Add olive oil to pan.  Generously season duck with salt and pepper.  Sear meat for about 2 minutes on each side.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium and cook onions until slightly browned.  Add in carrot, chipotle pepper, garlic, cilantro, and salt.  Let cook for about 2 minutes while stirring.  Add duck back into pan and pour beer over duck.  The duck does not need to be completely submerged, but it should be about 3/4 covered or you may want to use a smaller pan.

Transfer pan to oven and cook for one hour.  Flip legs and return to oven for another hour. Remove from oven and transfer duck to a cutting board.  Using a fork, shred meat.

Strain the braising liquid, pressing on the solids to release flavors.  Return strained liquid to saucepan and add the juice of one lime. Add meat back to pan and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  The meat will absorb flavor from the liquid.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with your favorite Mexican specialty!

*Note on the duck skin.  You may want to render fat from the skin for future use.  The technique I use is to chop the skin into pieces and put in a small pan with about 2 inches of water.  I cook this over medium-low heat while doing the braise, adding more water as it evaporates & pressing down on the skin on occasion.  Once it is clear all fat has been rendered and the water has evaporated, I strain the fat and keep this in the freezer.  Duck fat is great for roasted potatoes!

One Hip Hen

While delicious, the Cornish Hen’s reputation has gotten a bit stodgy. Its small size makes the birds supposedly perfect for a single serving, but it’s more than we’d personally eat if accompanied by side dishes. What makes this recipe hip is not only does it involve preparing the cornish hen as I’ve never done before, it involved my first experience with sumac. The verdict? Wonderful. Moist and flavorful, this will likely be my go to grilled poultry recipe. The recipe as originally written was for 5 hens, but I’ve reduced it down to work for 2. This recipe does involve brining the birds, so you’ll need to plan to start this 6 to 24 hours before grilling.

Grilled Cornish Game Hen with Lemon and Sumac (Adapted from Bon Appetit 8/08)

  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, divided in half
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 2 Cornish Hens split with backbone removed 
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon ground sumac
  • 2 garlic gloves, minced
  • 4 thin slices of lemon 

Make Brine: In a large bowl, combine salt, water and 1/4 cup of lemon juice. Stir until combined. Place hens in container so they snugly fit or in a ziploc bag. Pour the brine over the hens and place in refrigerator for 6 to 24 hours. (I let mine soak for 8 hours.)

Prepare your grill for medium-high heat.

In small bowl, combine olive oil, garlic, remaining lemon juice, and sumac. Stir. (The recipe states to let this sit for about 15 minutes so it thickens, which I did, but I do not know that it is really necessary.)

Remove birds from refrigerator and pat dry. Loosen the skin on the hens at the breast and season meat with pepper. Pour mixture over hens and massage into the meat, making sure to get the mixture under the skin. Place a slice of lemon under the breast skin.

Start the hens skin side up. Cover and grill for about 8 minutes. Flip them and continue cooking over an open grill for another 6 minutes or so. Continue grilling while occasionally flipping pieces for about another 10 minutes, or until meat is cooked through.


I found my sumac at Williams Sonoma.  I think you’ll find it is worth the small investment ($6-ish).  I was skeptical when purchasing it that I may not get much use out of it, but I do plan to use this trifecta of lemon, garlic, and sumac as a grilled poultry staple.  I am looking forward to trying this with regular chicken!

(The original recipe has this being served with a date relish, but I didn’t have all the ingredients required to make it as directed.  I am sure it would be delicious with it, but I don’t think a relish is really a necessity.)

Whole Grain Pancakes with Fresh “Marmalade” Syrup

Pancakes…yum!  I had been looking for a great whole grain pancake recipe and decided to work up my own…and I’m glad that I did.  The cakes have a nice texture which is often my hangup with the whole grain variety.  The secret?  Run the dry ingredients through a food processor.  I should have thought of this sooner!  I threw together a simple orange syrup to give these a little something extra.

Whole Grain Pancakes (serves 2 as main dish)

  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup oatmeal 
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup wheat bran
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2/3 cup milk 
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 large egg, beaten

In food processor, combine all dry ingredients.  Process for one minute.  In separate bowl, whisk together milk, sour cream, and vanilla until well combined.  Add in melted butter, then gently stir in egg.  Add dry ingredients into wet until just combined.  This will make a thicker pancake, so add more milk if you prefer those of the thin variety.

As far as cooking the pancakes, I have the most success cooking these patiently over a medium-low heat, gently flipping them when the edges are set.  I find smaller pancakes are easier to work with, so I use a 1/4 c. measuring cup.  I also used cooking spray today, but of course they would be extra delicious when using butter to grease the pan.


Orange Marmalade Syrup

  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 navel orange, pureed
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup

Place all ingredients in small sauce pan.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Cook for about ten minutes.  Sauce should thicken and become golden in color.

Barbecuing With Gwyneth

If you didn’t know, the latest issue of Bon Appetit ditched food for its cover shot in favor of a big picture of Gwyneth Paltrow.  A controversial move that has apparently ticked off many readers from what I’ve seen online.  Personally, I wasn’t all that surprised since I knew that BA had a new editor and was clearly looking to move in a different direction, but I can’t say I was exactly excited either.  I was curious though and happened to have all the ingredients on hand to try out one of her recipes, with some modifications of course.

The verdict.  Pretty tasty, but definitely not mind blowing.  I would definitely make this again, as it is perfect for summer patio dining and my husband loved it.

Grilled Chicken with Peach Barbecue Sauce Adapted from June 2011 Bon Appetit (Serves 3-4)

  • 2 peaches *peeled and chopped (1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (fresh)
  • 2 medium garlic gloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons adobo sauce from canned chipotles in adobo (or she alternately recommends 1 teaspoon of soy sauce)
  • Chicken–Gwyneth used 4 boneless, skinless, organic breasts, but it was boneless, skinless thighs for us seasoned with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (My package of thighs turned out to be more of a bunch of thigh tenders in odd shapes, so this wasn’t the prettiest presentation…)
Combine the peaches, ketchup, lemon juice, garlic, and adobo sauce in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let this simmer for about ten minutes while stirring regularly.  Remove from heat.  Gwyneth pureed her sauce, but I decided to keep mine chunky. I lightly seasoned the sauce with salt and pepper, but it really didn’t need much.
Once the sauce has cooled, she suggests using half of it for marinating the chicken for 20 minutes at room temperature or for up to 8 hours in the refrigerator.  I did mine for about 30 minutes in the fridge and then let it sit out for another 30 minutes at room temperature.  (If I made this again, I’d definitely make the sauce the night before to reduce my time in the kitchen the day of grilling.)
I grilled the chicken on medium-high heat, brushing with a bit of the sauce during cooking and then served a dollop of sauce over the chicken.
The sweetness of the peaches melded beautifully with the smokiness of the chipotle, so I don’t think the soy sauce alternate is in my future.
Thanks for recipe Gwyneth.  I’m still not sure how I feel about the new direction of Bon Appetit, but as a fellow home cook, I am not going to bash your culinary chops.  In fact, hey, I wouldn’t mind being on the cover of BA either!
*You can easily peel peaches by making a few cuts into the skin and blanching them in boiling water for 30-40 seconds.  Despite knowing this, I did a rough peeling job so I could snack on the fleshy, skin.

The Other Meatball

I like ground beef hamburgers, but that’s pretty much where my love for ground beef stops.  It especially does not appeal to me when it comes to Italian cooking.  I don’t like it in my lasagna and I’d prefer to have a meatball made out of pretty much any other ground meat available. In fact, until I started making meatballs with other meats I would have proclaimed that I didn’t even like them at all.  My husband is a big fan of both lasagna and meatballs, so I’m always looking for ways to satisfy both of our preferences.  These all veal meatballs were easy, delicious, and contain a rather short list of ingredients.  If you’ve never used veal for your meatballs, you should try it. You could also do half veal and half pork to bring the cost down, and the flavor depth up.

This recipe is adapted from Food and Wine Magazine’s “Veal Meatballs with Fried Sage Leaves” by Marco Gallotta.  I only made the meatballs and changed the preparation a bit,  but look forward to trying out the full recipe in the future.

Veal Meatballs

  • 2 oz. day old bread chopped into small cubes with the crusts removed (about 1 cup)
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 lb. ground veal
  • 2 green onions, minced (white and green parts)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • Butter and Olive Oil for searing

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cover bread with milk and let soak for about 10 minutes.  Add the veal, green onion, garlic, salt, and pepper into a separate bowl. Squeeze the milk from the bread and add into the meat mixture.  Combine the mixture with your hands until all ingredients are well distributed.  Shape into meatballs of your desired size.  I went with larger meatballs and was only able to get 6 out of the pound of meat.

Toss the meatballs with flour so they are lightly covered.  Coat a pan with olive oil and a little butter and sear these on all sides on medium heat.  Transfer to oven and bake until cooked through.

Prosciutto and Orange Roast Pork Loin

While thumbing through the May issue of Bon Appetit dubbed “The Italy Issue”, I was inspired by a pasta recipe pairing prosciutto with orange.  I decided to take this combination and turn it into a luscious pork roast.  As is, the presentation is rustic as the prosciutto will shrink and curl and the orange zest is quite prevalent.  As a family supper, it’s fine this way, but of course care could be taken to make this more refined by starting with a finely grated zest.  You could also use more prosciutto to really encase the pork, but I liked the balance as is.  I would also tie the roast after wrapping it if making for company.  But really, the point here was that this experimental dish was excellent.  On a side note, with some added seasoning, the leftovers actually tasted great recreated into burrito bowls the next day.  Start with the mentioned quick brine to ensure success.

Quick & Easy Brined Pork Loin (Will work for 1.5 – 2 lb. loin)

  • Pork Loin Roast
  • 1/3 cup Kosher Salt
  • 2 cups warm water 
  • handful of ice cubes
  • 4 cups cold water

Microwave salt and 2 cups of water for 2 minutes.  Stir water until salt is dissolved and pour into container large enough to fit pork loin.  Stir in ice cubes and cold water until cubes have melted.  Place pork into container and refrigerate for one hour.  (At this salt to water ratio, I would not let this go for much more than an hour.)  Time this so you can remove this from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you’re ready to cook the meat.  Rinse the meat and dry it well.

Prosciutto and Orange Roast Pork Loin

  • Quick Brined Pork Loin (1.5 to 2 lb.)
  • 1 lg. naval orange
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 1 lg. garlic clove
  • l large (or 2 small) sprigs of fresh Rosemary blanched in boiling water for 15 seconds
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 pound prosciutto (sliced thin, but not so thin that the pieces fall apart)
  • 2 tablespoon vodka
  • 1 teaspoon of butter

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut rind off orange and coarsely chop.  Juice the orange and reserve the juice.

In a small food processor, add peppercorns and process until mostly ground.  Add garlic clove and process until clove is well chopped.  Add in orange zest, rosemary leaves, olive oil, and honey.  Process for several minutes scraping sides as needed. Rub paste over pork loin until coated.  (You may not need to use 100% of the mixture depending on the weight of meat.)

Layout pieces of prosciutto onto cutting board and trim as needed.  Place loin onto prosciutto and wrap tightly.

Coat a cast iron skillet with a thin layer of olive oil and place on high heat.  Cook the loin presentation side down for 2 minutes.  Flip meat carefully and cook for another minute.  Transfer meat to oven and roast until meat registers 145-150 degrees (20-30 minutes). Remove from pan and cover with foil.  Let rest for 10-15 minutes before serving. Note: If you’re of the persuasion that pork needs to be well done, you’ll need to let this cook to a higher temperature.

While the meat is resting, deglaze skillet with reserved orange juice and vodka. Cook over low heat until the sauce starts to thicken (about 5 minutes).  Just before serving, pour any juice that has accumulated on the plate where the pork is resting into the pan and stir in the butter. For a richer pan sauce, add more butter of course.  Spoon over meat and enjoy.

Cooking with Abandon–Bouillabaisse or Something Like it

For the sake of full disclosure, I had to stage the above photo with leftovers from our delicious seafood stew.   I had a friend over for a girls night and considering the fun we were having making this combined with a general lack of recipe following or formal documentation of the added ingredients, I wasn’t sure if it would make a good post.  But…this was just so good that I had to give it a nod.

I’ve made Cioppino a few times, loosely following a recipe and found it enjoyable. This time around, I really wanted to explore its French relative, Bouillabaisse. I am in no means an expert on the topic, but my overall findings showed a greater emphasis on fresh herbs over a spiciness factor found in Cioppino.

Here’s what I did for 2 people…there was just a little leftover as shown, but of course the most prized seafood (King Crab/Scallops) is clearly missing from the photo because there were no leftovers of those!  I think the fun of making a seafood stew is using what you have and tasting as you go, so this is more of a guideline than a true recipe.  The one thing I would not skip though is the use of orange.  I normally would have used lemon, but WOW, the flavor from the orange was amazing.

In a large pot, I combined a small pat of butter with a little olive oil.  To this, I added the following:

  • 1 onion sliced (I used red onion)
  • 1 fennel bulb sliced (reserve the fronds)

I sautéed these over low heat for a good 15-20 minutes, being careful to keep them from browning.  Once very soft, I added:

  • 2 finely chopped garlic gloves
  • 1/2 bottle (about 1 1/2 cups) of dry white wine

Bring the mixture to a simmer and let this cook until the wine has reduced by about half. To the wine, I added:

  • about 1 tablespoon each (all chopped & fresh): Fennel Fronds, Thyme, Rosemary, Parsley, Basil
  • scant dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tablespoon saffron threads
  • 1 cup 1/2″ cubed red potatoes (red Fench fingerlings were on sale, so that’s what I used)
  • 3/4 cup peeled and seeded* diced tomatoes
  • juice & peel from one orange (removed most of pith from peel and added in strips to pot)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups of liquid–I used a half and half combination of bottled clam juice** and seafood stock that had been homemade by my friend. (These proportions can be changed or swapped with vegetable or chicken stock, although of course the end flavor will vary depending on the liquids used.)
  • Several generous turns of the pepper mill
  • Sea Salt to taste

This is the time to really taste the broth and season as needed to adjust the flavor as you wish.  When you are happy with the flavor, throw on the lid and simmer for 10 minutes.

Now…the stunning seafood***.  This what I used, but of course this should be a combination of your favorite seafood and/or what’s available.  Once you get to this point, your seafood will cook very quickly, so don’t add it until you’re almost ready to eat.

  • 1/2 pound cod (cut into 1 inch cubes)
  • 1/2 pound mussels (scrubbed and debearded)
  • 1/2 pound shrimp (peeled and cleaned)
  • 1/4 pound King Crab (thawed and cut into 1 to 2 inch lengths)
  • 1/3 pound sea scallops

Start with the fish and let that simmer for about 2 minutes.  Add in the mussels and give it another 2 minutes.  Then add the shrimp and crab and give it another few minutes until the shrimp are done and the mussels are open.  Given the loveliness of a perfectly seared scallop, I seared those over high heat separately and added to the top of the bowl.

I served this with some crusty bread and a crisp, yet rich chardonnay**** courtesy of my sous chef, dining companion, and dear friend. Bon Appetit!

* To easily peel a fresh tomato, make shallow slits into the tomato in an X pattern–plunge it into boiling water for 10-15 seconds and then immediately transfer to a bowl of ice water.  The peel will come right off and you can squeeze/rinse the seeds right out. Of course, you could use some canned tomatoes as well.
** I like Bar Harbor brand clam juice.
***Mitchell’s Fish Market (yes, the chain restaurant) sells retail–this was my first order from them and it won’t be the last!
****We drank Alma Rosa Chardonnay Santa Barbara 2008 and it was delicious.