Amuse-Gueules à la Canard

What to do with a bit of leftover duck breast?

Amuse-gueule (amuse-bouche) is a small, one or two-bite creation intended to stimulate one’s taste buds prior to a meal.  Here, I’ve prepared slices of seared duck breast served on garlic croûtons, topped with duck liver mousse and alternately garnished with blackberry chutney & chives, slivered ginger & red onion and fig jam & tarragon.  A bit of herb salad tossed with olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar on the side..

Amuse-Gueules à la Canard

Poached Pear with Dark Chocolate, Creme Anglaise and Balsamic Port Reduction

Organic Starkrimson pear poached in Tawny port wine, vanilla and peppercorns and served with dark chocolate, crème anglaise and a balsamic port reduction..

Poached Pear with Dark Chocolate, Creme Anglaise and Balsamic Port Reduction

For the Crème Anglaise (adapted from a recipe by Michael Ruhlman)

4 oz fresh whole milk
4 oz fresh heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 1/2 teaspoons dark, unrefined sugar
3 pastured egg yolks

Combine milk, cream and vanilla bean in stainless steel or enameled saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.  Remove from heat and allow the vanilla bean to steep for 15-20 minutes before scraping the seeds back into the milk-cream mixture.  Thoroughly whisk the sugar into the eggs yolks.

Return the milk-cream mixture to a bare simmer over medium heat.  Very slowly pour the milk-cream mixture into the beaten eggs with one hand while whisking vigorously with the other.  Pour everything back into the pan and stir continuously until thickened but still pour-able, about 2-4 minutes.

Pour the finished sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl set into an ice bath and stir until the sauce is cold. Refrigerate and use within 2 days.

For the Pears

2 fresh pears, peeled and cored from the bottom
2 cups Tawny port wine
2 cups filtered water, more or less
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
8-10 whole black peppercorns

If necessary, cut a small slice off the bottom of the pears so that they stand upright.  Place pears upright in the smallest pan that will hold them and cover with port and enough water to cover.  Add vanilla and pepper and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently until pears are tender, about 1 1/2 hours.  Refrigerate until ready to use, reserving poaching liquid.

For the Balsamic Port Reduction

1 1/2 cups poaching liquid
1/4 cup Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale
raw wildflower honey

Simmer reserved poaching liquid and balsamic over medium heat until reduced to about 1/2 cup.  Remove from heat and add honey a little at a time, tasting on your fingertip as you go.  The result should be a little more tart than sweet.

To serve, spoon crème anglaise onto a chilled dessert plate and drizzle with balsamic port reduction.  Place the pear on top and serve with a pool of cacao nib-crusted dark chocolate.

Curried Two-Pea Soup with Toasted Garlic and Crème Fraîche

Split green and yellow peas are simmered in vegetable stock with Madras curry and fried onions, then topped with crunchy toasted garlic, Maldon sea salt flakes and a dollop of crème fraîche..

Curried Two-Pea Soup with Toasted Garlic and Crème Fraîche

For the Crème Fraîche

6 oz fresh heavy cream
2 oz cultured buttermilk

Gently heat heavy cream to 105 degrees (use a thermometer), then remove from heat and stir in buttermilk.  Transfer to a glass jar, cover with a napkin and allow to stand at room temperature until thick, about 24-36 hours.  Transfer to the refrigerator and age for 24 hours.  Use within 7-10 days.

For the Toasted Garlic

1 head garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
1 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt

Heat olive oil to 325 degrees (use a thermometer) in a heavy pan over medium heat. Shallow-fry whole garlic cloves, turning frequently, until light golden brown.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the garlic to a napkin to drain.  Sprinkle with sea salt while still hot.  Transfer garlic to a food dehydrator and allow to thoroughly dry.  Store in an airtight container up to 6 months.

For the Vegetable Stock (recipe from Gourmet magazine)

1/2 lb portabella mushrooms, caps and stems cut into 1-inch pieces
1 lb shallots, left unpeeled, quartered
1 lb carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 red bell peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs (including stems)
5 fresh thyme sprigs
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
2 bay leaves (not California)
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
2 qt water

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Toss together mushrooms, shallots, carrots, bell peppers, parsley and thyme sprigs, garlic, and oil in a large flameproof roasting pan. Roast in middle of oven, turning occasionally, until vegetables are golden, 30 to 40 minutes.

Transfer vegetables with slotted spoon to a tall narrow 6-quart stockpot. Set roasting pan across 2 burners, then add wine and deglaze pan by boiling over moderate heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits, 2 minutes. Transfer to stockpot and add bay leaves, tomatoes, and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 45 minutes. Pour through a large fine sieve into a large bowl, pressing on and discarding solids, then season with salt and pepper. Skim off fat.  Use within 1 week or freeze up to 3 months.

For the Soup (adapted from a recipe by Alton Brown)

1/3 cup split yellow peas, rinsed and picked over
1/3 cup split green peas, rinsed and picked over
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cups vegetable stock
1 teaspoon Madras curry powder
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
toasted garlic
crème fraîche
Maldon sea salt flakes

Heat butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add onions and cook until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes.  Add curry powder, stir and cook 1 minute.  Add peas, vegetable stock and bay leaf and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer until peas are tender, about 1 hour.

Use an immersion blender to partially purée the soup, then stir in chopped parsley and season to taste with black pepper.

To serve, ladle soup into bowls and dress with a dollop of crème fraîche, crushed toasted garlic and sea salt flakes.

This post is in support of Meatless Monday, whose goal it is to goal is to help reduce
meat consumption by 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.

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Fig Jam with Vanilla and Brandy

Turkish figs, brandy, vanilla bean, fresh lemon and wildflower honey..

Fig Jam with Vanilla and Brandy

Makes 1 Pint

1 pound figs, stemmed and quartered (mission figs will produce a darker colored jam than Turkish figs)
4 oz brandy
1/4 cup raw wildflower honey
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

Combine all ingredients except honey in a stainless steel pot.  Allow to macerate on the counter for 1 hour, then slowly bring to a boil over medium-low heat.  Partially cover and boil gently, stirring often until figs are tender, about 40 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Add honey and a pinch of salt and mash all together with a flat-bottomed potato masher.  Taste and adjust flavor with lemon and/or honey if you think it needs it  (I prefer mine slightly more tart than sweet).

Allow to cool to room temperature before transferring to the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

To keep for up to 1 year, transfer jam to a glass jar leaving at least 1/2 inch headroom, then seal and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.