Sunday, June 11, 2006

From all over

I can get as excited about eating local as the next guy. Much more, probably, though I don't like to make of it an advertisement for virtue. Regardless of the political, social, economic, environmental, moral, or culinary benefit of eating the meat, dairy, and produce of nearby farms, I'm also a bit chauvinistic about Wisconsin. I feel warm and fuzzy about my adoptive state and am pleased when it makes good things.

My duck breast salad was the beneficiary this weekend of some locally-grown greens, red leaf lettuce from the organic produce vendor at the Public Market. The rest of it came from farther afield. The duck was from Indiana (another Market purchase); the Montmorency cherries, Yukon Gold potatoes, cream cheese (more on that in a moment), and salt were from elsewhere in the U.S.; and the port in which the cherries macerated was from Portugal. As for the vinaigrette, we had mustard from France, vinegar from Spain, oil from Italy, and black pepper from India. I cannot state the provenance of our shallots. If I were competing in the eat local challenge I would probably lose badly; all that was local was the lettuce. But what a lettuce, let me tell you. Crisp, a bit sweet, a hint of bitter, bursting with moisture. And I'm not one to get off on lettuce.

The cream cheese was a late replacement for the chèvre that had gone off. I needed something cool, dairy, tart, and rich. So I made little pebbles of Philly and froze them for about twenty minutes. They held their shape, didn't melt into the dressing or get smeared all over the greens or anything. On a similar topic: the other day I wanted to make beurre blanc to go with some fish and had to choose between room temperature and frozen butter. So here's my kitchen eureka of the year: you can make a perfect beurre blanc using small cubes of frozen butter. Indeed, I believe using frozen better increases your margin of error, but I haven't tested this with any kind of rigor. Maybe every chef knows this secret, but I am not a chef.

Cooking duck breasts is ridiculously easy. I score the skin in a diagonal cross-hatch pattern, careful not to cut into the meat, salt liberally, and cook in cast iron over very high heat (skin-side first) about four minutes a side for med rare. The pan needs no fat because so much renders from the skin. I used to think of duck breast as one of those foods you eat only in restaurants but after making this dish a couple of times I have scratched it from that list. Now it will be a food I never order in restaurants because I can make it just as well myself and for a whole lot cheaper. (The Market price here is $10.99/lb., which would be enough to feed three or four in this kind of preparation.)

It's good to dress the salad with all of the ingredients in it except the duck, then to lay thin slices of it over the top, and then to drizzle on some more vinaigrette.

***

Can anyone explain what this list of food blogs is and why mine appears in it twice?

3 Comments:

Anonymous Doug Barber said...

That mystery list of food blogs was apparently put together by Dave Winer,who has developed an open source, XML-based "Outline Processor Markup Language" that "allows exchange of outline-structured information between applications running on different operating systems and environments." Your double inclusion, I'm venturing to guess, indicates either a bug in his program, or enthusiasm. Please pass the salad.

4:05 AM  
Anonymous lindy said...

I would also like some salad, please.

3:03 PM  
Anonymous Silverbrow said...

The list is basically the output from a RSS feed. So, say you use a RSS aggregator like Rojo and you input the RSS feeds of all those blogs you like to read, if you then wanted to extract the list in full, you would do so into an OPML file.

What you have is a list of foodblogs that someone has subscribed to by RSS.

3:32 AM  

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