Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Roast Duck

Here in the Ozarks, the late Fall grocery store stock up includes frozen ducks. When they arrive, I usually buy two or three to go in my freezer. Nancy and I absolutely love duck. While we lived in London we bought a Gressingham duck from a meat monger at Borough market, a twice weekly outdoor market at the Borough underground stop. That duck became our gold standard - free ranged, fresh slaughtered, never frozen, and a good two pounds heavier than what we can get here. If we could find something similar here, we would have duck at least once a month.

For this article I thought I would give you a photo essay on spatchcocking a duck and roasting it.

Roast Duck Preparation

Thaw your duck on a plate in the refrigerator for three days. The plate will catch juices if they leak from the plastic bag.

Remove the duck and remove the neck and organs from the cavity. While you are doing so, remove and throw away the disgusting orange sauce packet.

Dry the bird and grab a small sharp knife and your poultry shears. Relatively easy dissection awaits.

The first step is to remove the wishbone. On a duck the shape is slightly different from a chicken or turkey and the bone itself is larger and stronger. Use the small knife to cut the flesh from the wishbone, both inside and outside the inverted V. On ducks I find it easiest the free the point of the V and pull it down to lever the tips out. This is the exact reverse of what works best on a chicken.

Once the wishbone is out, use the shears to remove the wing tips, the tail, and the huge amount of fat and skin around the cavity opening by the tail. During processing, the processors may have left a long tail of neck skin. That goes too. Everything you remove goes into a stock pot with a large onion, a stalk of celery, a carrot, a bay leaf, and some parsley. The duck stock and duck fat are worth their weight in gold later.

Turn the duck over and use the shears to cut the spine from the carcass.

Open the bird and begin to remove any bits left during the original processing.

Using the small sharp knife, split the keel bone cartilage down the middle lengthwise.

Generously salt and pepper the now flat cavity and invert the bird onto a wire rack over a sheet pan.

When I can, I do these preparation steps in advance and put the pan with rack, uncovered, in the refrigerator for several hours to air dry.

When the time comes for roasting, set the oven shelf to the middle and preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Pierce the duck skin, but not the meat, many times to aid in reducing the fat and browning the skin. [If you are lazy like I am, you can use a sharp knife to slash the skin instead.] Spray the bird surface with spray olive oil to help the browning. Season the top of the bird as you desire (I usually use salt and pepper only). Roast for 10 minutes at the scorching temperature and then reduce to oven to 375 degrees. Roast an additional 30 to 40 minutes. You want the legs and thigh meat to reach 155 degrees. The breast, which is thicker when you spatchcock, will be a lesser temperature. Tent with foil and rest 10 to 20 minutes. The temperature will rise to the 160 degrees recommended by the FDA.

[Do NOT Try This At Home Note: I do not target the FDA recommended temperature. Duck does not carry as high a risk for salmonella as chicken. I risk a slightly lower temperature to have some pink left in the breast.]

Sunday, December 11, 2016

A Spot of Breakfast

Eggs in Salsa for Two

I absolutely love biscuits with sausage gravy or several pieces of bacon with eggs fried over easy in the bacon fat, especially with buttered toast to sop up the runny yolks. However, just admitting this means another lecture from Dr. Kresse.

The picture above features eggs, yes, but with less fat and a ton of flavor.


4 large or extra large eggs
1 and 1/2 cups chunky salsa (your choice of heat level)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar jack
minced cilantro for garnish
salt and pepper to taste


Pour the salsa into a 10 inch non-stick skillet. Place over medium heat.

As the salsa heats to a boil, carefully crack the eggs and put one egg each in four coffee cups or mise en place bowls. Salt and pepper each egg.

When the salsa is boiling and half of the runny liquid has evaporated,  use a wooden spatula and push the salsa away from an edge of the pan. Slide one egg into the temporary empty place.  Repeat at the other compass points for the remaining eggs.

Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cover the skillet for 4 minutes.

Sprinkle shredded cheese over each egg and replace the lid. Cook an additional three minutes. On my stove top, that formula results in melted cheese, cooked whites, and a runny yolk. You may have to adjust the timing to your stove and your preference of done yolks.

Serve with the hot salsa and garnished with minced cilantro.

Have a great morning.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Cold Comfort, Really

Hot Dog Casserole

When the weather turns cold, everybody thinks in terms of a hot meal featuring some favorite comfort food. At our house in the Ozarks, that means I trot out an old favorite, hot dog casserole.


1 package hot dogs, sliced in 1 inch lengths (Nueskes, Nathans, Hebrew National)
4 to 5 cups sliced russet potatoes
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
6 ounces shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 to 2 cups drained sauerkraut
1 Tablespoon caraway seed
salt and pepper

Optional: 6 white mushrooms, sliced and sauteed


Preheat the oven to 350degrees.

Steam the potatoes until not quite done and remove from the heat to cool. Mix the other ingredients with two thirds of the cheese in a large bowl to combine. Salt and pepper the cooled potatoes heavily and add them to the mixture. Toss the potatoes with the mixture and turn the result out into a 9 X 13 casserole dish.

Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the casserole and bake on the middle shelf, uncovered, for 45 minutes. The cheese should be beginning to brown and the dish should be bubbling.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Shrimp and Grits

One lesson in cooking school was focaccia. As the demonstration proceeded, one student, from Italy, said aloud, "That's not focaccia; that's not how my mother makes it."

Shrimp and grits is another dish for which multiple "right ways" exist. I have eaten versions with only shrimp and andouille. Other versions had gravy and bacon as well. I have read recipes that include the cajun trinity of onion, celery, and sweet pepper.

The version I will feature here is a "wrong" version. I like to make shrimp and grits with polenta as it has even more flavor.


1 cup dry polenta
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock, divided
1 cup half and half
additional water as needed
16 31-40 count peeled shrimp 
2/3 cup shredded cheese (gruyere, cheddar, asiago)
1 link andouille sausage, sliced in 1/4 inch rings
2 slices bacon, cross sliced in 1/4 inch strips
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
large pinch salt plus pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
2 tablespoons flour
chives, minced

Method - Meats and Gravy

Put 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a cold non-stick medium skillet. Add the bacon pieces in a single layer and cook the bacon slowly over a medium low heat. When crispy and brown, remove to a paper towel covered plate and put in a low warming drawer.

Pour some of the fat out of the skillet and add the andouille. Fry to brown on both sides of the sausage rings. Put them on a separate paper towel covered plate and place in the warming drawer.

Pour off most of the fat, leaving about a Tablespoon. Saute the shrimp until barely opaque (about three minutes, and place on a third small plate for the warming drawer.

Add enough olive oil to bring what is in the pan to about 2 Tablespoons. Add 2 Tablespoons of flour and slowly cook the roux to light pecan color. Add a splash of dry white wine and 1 cup of stock and bring to a boil. Your goal should be a light, silky gravy. If necessary add additional water.

Method - Polenta

Bring 2 cups of stock and 1 cup of half and half just to a boil in a 5 or 6 quart sauce pan. Use a spoon to start the liquid swirling around the pan and keep it going. Slowly add the polenta and salt. After the polenta is incorporated, reduce the heat and simmer 25 to 35 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon every 2 or 3 minutes. Be sure you use the spoon to clean the bottom of the pan, even in the corners. 
After 10 minutes, add the sausage. If the polenta becomes thick, thin with added water to a loose porridge stage. Taste to assure the polenta has reached a creamy soft stage. 

Add the cheese and continue to stir to melt the cheese. Taste and adjust the salt. pepper, and thickness.

Serve the polenta with sausage and cheese to bowls. Divide the shrimp among the bowls. Top with the bacon pieces. Layer the shrimp on top of the polenta mixture. Pour the gravy over the bowl contents and garnish with snipped chives.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Accidental Chicken Cacciatore Diablo

Sometimes I make mistakes. Sometimes I have accidents. When I do, just like all of you, I have to bear the consequences. Every once in a while, those consequences are not so bad - in fact, they work out really well. This dish is one of those mistakes gone good.

My intention was to make a rather traditional chicken cacciatore. To augment the minced rosemary, I intended to add a small amount of the Cento Italian seasoning. The lid fell off in the pan, spilling a large amount of the seasoning into the mix. I used a spoon to remove all I could, but the crushed red pepper and  seeds in the seasoning stayed. In one moment my cacciatore became Diablo! And served over flat noodles, it was really good! The following recipe is a common sense way to recreate my end result without having a spill.


2 chicken leg quarters
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup sweet bell pepper, chopped
1 cup chopped mushroom
1 can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon sun dried tomato paste
1 rounded Tablespoon flour
1 Tablespoon minced rosemary leaves
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning without crushed red pepper
1 large pinch crushed red pepper.
salt and pepper
olive oil


Pat the leg quarters dry and salt and pepper them. Heat about 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a saute pan over high heat until smoking. Add the leg quarters and brown them on both sides.

Remove the chicken to a plate and pour the fat from the pan, but do not wipe it out. Lower the heat to medium and add the onion, bell pepper, and mushrooms.

Saute the vegetables until soft and beginning to brown. Add the garlic, a pinch of salt, the tomato paste, and the flour. Stir and mix until the vegetables are rust colored.

Add the red wine, rosemary, seasoning, and crushed red pepper. Stir and cook the mixture until the liquid evaporates. Add the tomatoes with juice and the chicken stock. Stir and add the chicken quarters with juices back to the pan. Reduce the heat to medium low and cover the pan. Simmer for 25 minutes.

Remove the lid form the pan and continue to simmer until the sauce thickens a bit. 

Serve over egg noodles with a dry red wine such as Goats Do Roam.

Monday, October 31, 2016


We had a guest from Oklahoma City this weekend. She has been a good friend since 1972 and has visited here several times. She brought Halibut with her and we enjoyed a meal with that on Friday. On Saturday I served tamales made by the mothers of my students over a queso I made, and I topped that with a fresh salsa.

For tonight we needed something simple.

Old school tomato soup from the can. Very much a comfort food for we 50's children.

With it, I put together a home made variation on an 80's phenomenon, Schlotsky's, a quasi muffuletta for the masses.

First I made an olive and pickled pepper salad with Inglehoffer stone ground mustard.

Then I shredded fresh Romaine leaves and added those to the mustard and olive blend.

Then I made sandwich stacks of salami, honey ham, and turkey breast and heated them, wrapped in foil, in a low oven.

I toasted some decent bread, and, while it was still hot, stacked it with cheddar jack. The hot meat went on the cheese to encourage it to melt. Then I spread a layer of the olive sald before I placed the other piece of toast on top.


Saturday, October 1, 2016

Not Your Mother's Meatloaf

I miss my mother. I do not miss her cooking.

Sure, I remember dishes she made well, and even make some of those to this day. One example would be the dish of okra, tomatoes and hominy baked with a layer of bacon. We kids called it the "Someone's Dead" casserole as she only made them to take to grieving families. Another would be the avocado and citrus fruit salad with sweet and sour onion dressing she made at Thanksgiving.

In all honesty, however, she didn't like to cook and the results showed that. Her meatloaf was an excellent example. She combined ground beef with a pouch of Lipton onion soup mix, made a loaf and painted it with ketchup. Then she cooked the life out of it. We always cut the leftover loaf in slices before we refrigerated it because otherwise it would have taken a chain saw to cut it.

This blog post is not her recipe. The recipe is my own, and the result of years trying different recipes from various sources and then changing things.


4 pounds Boston Blend  ground meat (60 percent beef, 40 percent pork)
1 large yellow onion, diced very small
1 carrot, diced very small
1 stalk celery, diced very small
1 small bell pepper, diced very small
6 golf ball size baby Portabella mushrooms, diced very small
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup sour cream
1 egg, beaten
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
6 or 7 slices thick sliced bacon
seasoned salt and pepper

1 cup barbecue sauce*


Set the oven to 375 degrees and place the rack on the low middle level.

Heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan over medium low heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, carrot, celery, mushroom, and garlic. Lightly salt the mixture to encourage the juices to exude. Saute the mixture slowly until the vegetables are well cooked and beginning to dry out. Take the saute pan from the heat but leave the vegetables in the pan and allow them to continue steaming as they cool.

Combine the meat, panko, sour cream, egg, and Worcestershire sauce in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper. I use around a Tablespoon of seasoned salt and two teaspoons of ground pepper. Mix well with your hands until well blended. Add the vegetables while still warm but no longer hot. Mix them into the mixture by hand. Try not to compact the loaf too tightly. Form a long loaf and place it in a foil lined roasting pan.

Paint the loaf with the barbecue sauce. Use the bacon strips to cover the loaf from end to end.

Roast the loaf to an internal temperature of 150 degrees. The  cook time will be around 80 minutes. By then the bacon will be dark brown and cooked, although not necessarily crisp since it sits on the sauce.

Allow the roast to rest for 15 minutes while plating the remainder of the meal.

May I suggest twice baked mashed potatoes and mushroom cream gravy?

*Easy homemade Barbecue Sauce

1 small can tomato sauce
1/4 cup yellow mustard
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup industrial grade maple syrup
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Adjust the maple syrup vinegar amounts to suit your sweet and sour prefernces then add
salt and pepper and sriracha to taste.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Very Best Brussels Sprouts

Fairly regularly, my students will ask what is in the lunch I brought that day. From time to time one or another will say Ewe! It may be mushrooms or mussels or even peas. When I ask, I often find they have never eaten the offending item. If they have eaten the item, my usual response is to tell them that they just haven't had them fixed right.

Brussels Sprouts rank high on the Ewe! list. Why? I do not know. Maybe they ran into soggy, over cooked sprouts at the Golden Corral? Maybe they were brainwashed?

Whatever the reason, this recipe is guaranteed to change anyone's mind about Brussels Sprouts. They don't look like Brussels Sprouts, they do not smell like boiled cabbage, and they have bacon! and pecans!


1 pound Brussels Sprouts, yellow or spotted leaves removed
1 small  leek
1/4 cup pecan bits
2 slices thick bacon, cut in quarter inch pieces
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
salt and pepper


Top and tail the leek and slice it in half lengthwise. Turn the flat side down on the cutting board and slice each half in 1/8th inch rings.

Cut the Brussels Sprouts in half lengthwise and slice each half in 1/8th inch rings.

Roast the pecan pieces in a hot dry skillet until they become fragrant. Remove from the heat and salt them.

Slice the bacon.

Place the bacon in a cold non-stick skillet with 3 Tablespoons of water. Slowly cook the bacon over medium heat until nearly done and the water evaporates. Add the butter to the skillet and melt it. When it bubbles, add the leeks and saute' until they begin to soften. Add the Brussels Sprouts and pecan bits and saute' until the sprouts have wilted but remain dark green. Add 2 Tablespoons of water and cover the skillet to allow the steam to finish the root ends.

Adjust the salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Summer Fruit Dessert

What you see is called an Asian pear. As you might guess it originated in Eastern Asia and is traditional given as a gift or shared with family. It is far more crisp than the European pear and has too much juice to make it a great pie fruit. A local grower was selling his first commercial harvest, after eight years of growing, at the Eureka farmers market last week.  I bought some and decided to poach them in wine with cardamom.

You take 10 to 12 cardamom pods and place them in a sauce pan. Cardamom is typically used as a baking and sweets spice that gives a slightly cinnamon flavor without the bite and a very strong perfume.

I poached the fruit in an inexpensive riesling to which I added two or three teaspoons of sugar.

I peeled and cored the fruit and submerged them in the wine/cardamom blend. That comes to a boil and the you reduce the heat to a slow simmer.  You cook the fruit until you can easily pierce it with a sharp knife, but the fruit has not turned mushy.

Once the fruit is done, you remove it from the liquid and chill the fruit. I cut sticks of sharp cheese and stick them in the hole for service.

Of course a berry reduction smear across the plate would make everything more classy, but I didn't bother. If you do, I recommend currant.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Summer Salads!

After a week of guests, I put together a salad Nancy and I would love.

Farmers market tomato, chopped red lettuce greens. hard salami strips, provolone cheese cuts, blanched green beans, hard boiled egg, small potatoes, cucumber, 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Farmers Market Summer Vegetables Tian

In my last post I referred to the movie Ratatouille. Specifically, I mentioned that the consultant, Thomas Keller, had the rats prepare a much showier dish than a ratatouille. The rodents served a tian.

A tian is a stacked vegetable dish named after the traditional earthenware Provencal casserole used to cook it. has an outstanding modernized version that resembles the movie dish. But I'm going to do something a little different here.

I visited the Thursday farmers market in Eureka Springs. I came away with what they called candy onions, zucchini, eggplant, waxy potatoes, and tomatoes. My lovely wife grows many different herbs for us on our back deck. In this dish I will use lavender, sage, and thyme. The ingredient list also includes one large clove of garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Let's get started.


One and a half large sweet onions, sliced longitudinally in half inch slices
Five 2 to 3 inch diameter tomatoes
Four 2 to 3 inch diameter eggplants
Two zucchinis 
6 to 8 2 to 3 inch diameter waxy potatoes
Two Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
One cup shredded gruyere or other cheese
One large clove garlic, crushed and minced
One teaspoon fresh thyme leaves plus five sprigs
Four sage leaves
One sprig lavender
Salt and pepper to taste


Slice the onions and slowly caramelize them in 1 Tablespoon of the oil in a nonstick skillet. Do not salt or pepper them until nearly done, but be sure they are well seasoned. When they are done, add the garlic and cook another minute until the garlic becomes fragrant.

Remove the onions and garlic to the bottom of a casserole dish.

Using a chef knife, a santoku, a mandoline, or a V-slicer cut the vegetables into nearly equal thickness discs of about 1/8th inch.

Stack the vegetables in rotation and arrange them pleasingly in the casserole dish on top of the onions.  You can stand them on end or lay them over like fanned cards as you see fit.

Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the vegetables and salt and pepper them well.

Place the tied herb budle on the top of the vegetables and cover them.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the cover and bake an additional 20 minutes.

Sprinkle the surface with the cheese and return to the oven until the cheese melts and begins to brown.

Remove from the oven and allow to rest, uncovered for 10 minutes.

Serve with grilled meat and a red wine such as a Cote du Rhone. My personal favorite is a South African blend named Goats Do Roam.