Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas Smoked Duck

Friday 25 December
Smoked duck has been a Christmas tradition in our house since way back in 2013though it is sometimes stymied by our forgetting some essential ingredient, like charcoal.
This time Santa had brought us plenty of charcoal - or actually, Barbara had stocked us up over the summer.  So we set up the smoker in the lee of the porch on an overcast 63º day, lit the charcoal chimney on the top grate to protect it from breezes, turned the hot coals out into the smoker, and topped them with dry basil and coriander twigs as well as soaked mesquite chips.
This is how it usually goes, and so it went for about 3 hours.  Then we brought the bird inside and up to full temperature with about 15 minutes in the oven.
Served the crisp-skinned duck breasts with the last of our garden carrots, braised with a little candied ginger in the water, and finished with butter.  

Oh, and a very nice bottle of 2011 Château Andron Blanquet Saint-Estèphe, the tail end of which we carried up to bed along with dessert: Holt's fresh-made biscotti di Greve, and the tangerines he de-zested to make them.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night.

Swordfish Souvlaki and Green Salad

Thursday 24 December
On Christmas Eve, we celebrate la Vigilia and eat fish (because, as Holt likes to say, Barbara was raised by wild Neapolitans).  This time, we went Greek (again, like the Neapolitans) and grilled some swordfish souvlaki with red onion and little multicolored peppers.
Normally we marinate the swordfish in just olive oil, lemon juice and zest, and dried oregano, but this time we tried the fish marinade here.  It was indeed more flavorful, but a bit thick and splodgy, and you could definitely taste the Asian flavors.  So next time, we'll use more of the traditional lemon juice and zest, just a dab each of mustard and soy sauce, and cut out the ginger entirely.
As a sauce, we made a winter tzatziki with drained yogurt, lemon zest, garlic, and chopped chives.  
Served with a salad of redleaf lettuce and garden arugula (Barbara picked it without putting on even a jacket - it's over 65º out there), dressed with basil oil and white wine vinegar.

I'm dreaming of a green Christmas.

Gnocchi alla crema di zucca

Wednesday 23 December
Two days ago, we had a lot of leftover buttercup squash, with little idea what to do with it.  

Barbara was seized by the idea of making inside-out ravioli di zucca, by turning the squash into a sauce to serve on gnocchi.
While the gnocchi were boiling, she melted butter in a large skillet and quickly sautéed some chiffonaded fresh sage leaves, then added the mashed-up squash and a touch of cream until it reached the right consistency.  The gnocchi then got tossed in, with a little water from the pot to lighten the sauce.

The result was a mite heavy for a primo, but very filling and tasty as a whole meal.

Hamburgers and Celeriac Slaw

Tuesday 22 December
If you have a yen for some particular food, it's better to make a good version out of high-quality ingredients at home, rather than go out and gobble some commercial crap.  
We love hamburgers, and when we cook them at home we can get them just medium-rare rather than overcooked, and garnish them with our paprika-and-salt-laden caramelized onions.  We're less fussy about the buns, so English muffins work.  Whether out or in, though, the ketchup has to be Heinz.
On the side, a sort of slaw: just the leftover sautéed celeriac from a couple of days ago, dressed with mayonnaise to masquerade as our favorite remoulade.  

Stuffed Buttercup Squash

Monday 21 December

The apple guy at Findlay Market sold Barbara a big squash, saying it was a Kabocha, which is the same thing as a Buttercup.  She looked it up on the internet, and found that they were two completely different squashes (though both Cucurbita maxima).  The Japanese Kabocha is the current vegan favorite, and what we had was a Buttercup.
We went with our favorite Craig Claiborne recipe for sausage-stuffed winter squash. We split the buttercup around the equator, so it would rest flat in the oven, and found that the top (right on the photo) held most of the seed cavity, so had the largest hollow when scooped out, while the bottom (on the left) had most of the orange flesh and only a small cavity.  So we removed the thin top as soon as the squash was tender, and left the thick bottom in for a little while longer.
The stuffing was 10 oz. of Charles Bare sausage, so needed no seasoning beyond lots of chopped fresh sage.  The starch was a couple of slices of stale duck bread.  Since the squash flesh seemed a bit bland and dry, we did what the original recipe suggested and scattered a little of the sweet streusel topping at the bottom of each hollow, before piling the sausage stuffing in.

We split the deep top and ate that first, then also ate the stuffing out of the other half.  But there was plenty of squash left over, and we'll use it in something else soon.

Steak with Sautéed Celeriac

Sunday 20 December
we haven't had any beef for a while, though it's on Holt's recommended diet.  So we threw a couple of little sirloins onto the grill pan, and mashed up a Gorgonzola butter to top them.

On the side, julienned celery root sautéed in butter à la Elizabeth David, using frozen garden tarragon and white wine vinegar.

You could feel us gaining strength and energy with every beefy bite.