Poultry


from Momofuku, pp. 40-41.

An eight- or nine-hour ramen broth is as likely strike you as excessive and obsessive as it did me when I first read the recipe. But I do love a good ramen broth. This looked promising. Not only did I want to make a bowl of ramen that stood a chance of comparing favorably with broth in a ramen shop, I also recognized that it was a necessary component of David Chang’s absolutely scrumptious Shrimp & Grits recipe (to follow).  This recipe’s essential virtue is umami, which, to the degree that I can describe it, is Japanese for “pretty frickin’ delicious,” as distinct from “salty,” “sweet,” or “sour.” Chang builds the broth in layers of flavor: first the konbu, then the mushrooms, followed by the chicken and then the pork bones. The result is a deep, complex broth whose flavor turned out to be less fragile and more stable than I anticipated it would be. Following Change’s advice, I reduced the final broth by half to save space in my freezer. If you boil it down, you can reconstitute it with an equal amount of water.

However, I’m going to provide here an adulterated version that no doubt you will still find excessive in the amount of time it takes. If you want the complete recipe, buy the book. It’s worth it. Here, you get a second-rate broth that is not such a big production as the full version. Smaller amount and a bit less work may lead you to make it more often. David Chang would probably spit on my efforts, but that’s ok. We need purists like him against which we measure what we do.

So, I’ll begin by cutting the quantities in half:

1 piece of konbu (the thick square seaweed that is the basis of the Japanese broth, dashi)

3 quarts water

1 cup dried shiitakes, rinsed

2 pounds chicken (bone-in breast, leg and thigh, back or rib cage with meat still attached)

3 pounds meaty pork bones

Shadowcook: If you can’t find organic pork bones, try using smoked ham hocks and skip the smoked bacon. It would be a good idea to have a butcher cut the hocks in two or three pieces, depending on their size, since you’ll be roasting them.

1/2 pound smoked bacon

Shadowcook: Towards the end of making the full version, as I tasted the broth and adjusted the seasoning, I thought the smoky flavor dominated the other subtler ingredients. I still do, although the smokiness calmed down by the time I got to straining the broth. So, be aware of how strong the smoky flavor of the bacon is.

3 or 4 scallions

half a medium onion

1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

1 tablespoon dark soy sauce

1 tablespoon mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)

kosher salt

1. Rinse the konbu under running water, then combine it with the water in a stockpot. Bring the water to a simmer over high heat and turn off the heat. Let steep for 10 minutes.

2. Remove the konbu from the pot and add the shiitakes. Turn the heat back up to high and bring the water to a boil, then turn the heat down so the liquid simmers gently. Simmer for 30 minutes, until the mushrooms are plumped and rehydrated and have lent the broth their color and aroma.

3. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Put the pork bones or ham hocks on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan and roast for an hour. Turn them over after 30 minutes.

4. Right after putting the pork bones in the oven, remove the mushrooms from the pot with a spider or slotted spoon. Add the chicken pieces to the pot. Keep the liquid at a gentle simmer. Skim and discard any froth, foam, or fat that rises to the surface of the broth. Replenish the water as necessary to keep the chicken covered. After about 1 hour, test the chicken: the meat should pull away from the bones easily. If it doesn’t, simmer until it does. Then remove it from the pot.

5. Remove the chicken from the pot and add the pork bones or hocks to the broth, along with the bacon (if you’re using pork bones). Adjust the heat as necessary to keep the broth at a steady simmer; skim the scum and replenish the water as needed. After 45 minutes, scoop out the bacon and discard it. Then gently simmer the pork bones for 6 to 7 hours. Stop adding water to replenish the pot after hour 5 or so.

Shadowcook: Does it need that long? I’m skeptical. But I went whole hog anyway. When I made the abbreviated version, however, I stopped after four hours. The broth was fine. Follow your tastes buds and please yourself.

6. Add the scallions, onion, and carrots to the pot and simmer for the final 45 minutes.

7. Remove the bones and vegetables. Strain the broth through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. At this point, either use the broth or reduce it by half to freeze. Reconstitute with equal amounts of water.

Shadowcook: At this point, Chang instructs you to finish the sauce with a bit of taré, a concentrate of salt, soy sauce, mirin and the gook that accumulates around roasted chicken backs. Sorry, I own up to not having made this sauce, which is its own recipe. Finding chicken backs — much less organic ones — is tough even in our Asian markets. So, to finish the broth, I seasoned it with the tablespoons of dark soy sauce and mirin and adjusted the salt. I was happy.

Chang concludes this recipe with a sentiment in which I heartily concur: Underseasoned broth is a crime.

Adapted from The Kitchen Diaries, pp. 345-47 and David Chang’s Momofuku, p. 49.

If you knew that I had recently bought two Asian cookbooks at full price, you might expect this post to be about something I had cooked from one of them instead of a good ol’ rock-solid stand-by from Nigel Slater’s cookbook. I will indeed make a couple of recipes from Momofuku and Beyond the Great Wall. For the moment, I had to do something with the organic duck I had in the freezer and the new books had nothing that would help. Although Nigel’s recipe appears in the December chapter, the weather at the moment is cool enough to justify making this out of its proper season.

I learned two key point from the meal I prepared.

  • David Chang’s method of roasting a slab of pork belly at 450 degrees for almost an hour and then reducing the temperature to 250 for another hour or hour and a half works better than any other pork belly recipe I’ve tried. The onus is on you to make sure it doesn’t char too much in the first hour.
  • You can never degrease a duck dish too much because there’s always more fat than you think.

A description of how I plated the dish will give you a sense of its virtues. In a shallow pasta bowl, I placed a little mound of blanched kale/swiss chard greens and drizzled over it just a tiny bit of sesame oil. Beside the greens, I put a 1.5-inch by 1.5-inch square of roasted pork belly. A half-cup scoop of sticky rice next to the greens and pork. On top of the rice I placed a portion of duck — a half breast, a leg and thigh — over which I ladled some braising liquid. (I’ll reserve the salads for a subsequent post.) This was enough: a wonderful plate of food. The following recipe will serve four.

So, here’s how I fiddled with Nigel’s basic recipe and David Chang’s pork belly:

2 tablespoons grapeseed or another neutral oil

1 duck, preferably organic, at the very least free range, cut into pieces

2 small or 1 large onion, roughly chopped

6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 scant teaspoon high-quality Chinese Five-Spice powder (don’t overdo it)

Shadowcook: Whole Spice in Petaluma, California makes two kinds. Chinese Five-Spice contains cinnamon, fennel, ginger, star anise, and cloves. Chinese Five-Spice North Style has star anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel, and Szechuan pepper. I used the North Style this time.

8 rounds of sliced, peeled ginger, sliced into matchsticks

1/2 cup Chinese rice wine

2 cups chicken stock

4-6 green onions, cut into 1-inch long pieces

For the roast pork belly:

1 lb pork belly, with or without rind

1 teaspoon Chinese Five-Spice Powder (see above note)

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Shadowcook: I made the duck the day before my little dinner party.

Set the oven at 350. On the stovetop, warm the oil in a heavy, oven-proof casserole with a lid, then lightly brown the duck pieces in it. Peel and roughly chop the onions. Lift the browned duck out on to a plate. Add the onions to the pan, turn the heat down a little and let them cook, with only the occasional stir, until they are soft and sweet.

Peel the garlic and slice each clove thinly, then stir it into the onion as it cooks. Cut the ginger into matchsticks, stir them in, then cut the spring onions into short lengths and add them to the pot. Leave everything to soften for a few minutes, then stir in the sugar, 1 scant teaspoon Chinese Five-Spice powder, chicken stock, and rice wine. Season with black pepper and salt and bring to the boil. Let the mixture boil for a good minute, then return the meat to the pot, together with any juices that may have escaped. Cover with a lid and transfer to the oven, setting the timer for an hour and fifteen minutes.

Check the duck for tenderness. It should be soft but far from fall off the bone. Season the stew with a little salt. Scoop off as much of the liquid fat from the top as you can — there will be lots — then either lift the pieces of duck on to shallow bowls of rice and spoon over the juices, or let everything cool, then refrigerate overnight. If you take the latter option, the next day scrape off the white fat that has settled on top, reheat the stew and serve with rice.

Shadowcook: I separated the duck pieces from the braising liquid. After both duck and liquid cooled completely, I stored them in plastic containers and put them in the fridge. Next day, about 2 hours before I served the meal, I roasted the pork belly according to David Chang’s simple directions.

Several hours before dinner, combine the teaspoon of Chinese Five-Spice powder with the brown sugar and salt. Score the fat or rind surface of the pork belly. Rub the mixture on the pork, making sure it reaches the crevices of the surface scoring. Put the pork belly a container and marinate for a few hours at room temperature (or overnight in the refrigerator). Two hours before dinner, preheat the oven to 450. David Chang recommends putting the pork belly in a snug roasting pan. Stick the pan in the oven and roast the pork for 40 minutes. From that point on, keep an eye on it. The surface of the meat should be caramelized but should not be charred black. Let it roast at this temperature as long as possible. Then reduce the heat to 250. Roast for another hour or hour and a half, depending on how big a piece of pork belly you have.

While the pork is roasting, about 45 minutes before eating, I scraped off the thick layer of fat from the cold braising liquid and saved it in another container. It will make a good base for sauteing.  Then I put the degreased liquid in a braising pan, brought it to a simmer over medium heat, and let it reduce by almost half. I added the duck pieces, reduced the heat, and warmed the duck pieces. Transfer the duck pieces to a platter. Before you serve, I’ll bet you any amount of money you’ll see another thick film of duck fat on the surface of the braising. I used a metal spoon to skim the fat off and added it to the copious amount of fat I  removed the day before and stored in the fridge.

Assemble the plates as I describe at the beginning of this post. Slice or cut into a squares the pork belly with a very sharp knife (so that it doesn’t fall apart). My guests relished the unctuous combination of pork and duck — but they would not have if I hadn’t take care to remove as much fat as possible.

Partially inspired by an old Saveur recipe.

Patricia Wells’s recipe for Penne ‘Risotto’ taught me how to make a rich pasta sauce with little effort by treating the dried pasta like arborio rice. It’s a trick well worth adding to your bag of techniques. Last night, I surveyed the contents of my fridge: half a duck-and-cherry sausage, some homemade chicken broth, and carrots. I put them all together as if I were making risotto.

Et voilà…

around 2 cups chicken broth (you may have some left over)

a little bit of olive oil or a teaspoon or two of duck fat

2 1/2 – 3 oz duck sausage (failing that, use Italian sausage), casing removed

1/2 small onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

3 1/2 oz gemelli pasta

kosher salt

Parmesano reggiano, grated

Warm a pasta bowl in the oven while you prepare the pasta. Bring the chicken broth to a simmer in a saucepan.

Put the oil or fat in a small or medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, one in which you might make a small amount of risotto. When the oil is hot, break up the sausage as you put the pieces in the fat. Sauté until it starts to brown. Add the onion and stirring to prevent sticking to the bottom. If you see there is more than a tablespoon or so fat, pour off excess fat and return to the burner. Add the uncooked pasta and the diced carrots, stirring to coat them in the fat. Sauté until the color of the pasta has deepened as if it has been toasted, 3-4 minutes over a medium-low flame.

When the pasta has thoroughly absorbed the fat, pour in a half cup of the broth, reduce the heat to a simmer, and stir occasionally until the liquid has mostly evaoporated. Think of each additional half cup of broth as adding a layer of flavor. Wwait until each  layer has been absorbed into the pasta before adding more broth. You will probably add 1 1/2 to 2 cups of broth, depending on how quickly the broth evaporates. It will take a bit longer for the pasta to soften than it would if you were boiling it furiously in water. Cook until the sauce is reduced to the consistency you prefer.

When the pasta is nearly ready — firm to the bite, without crunch — add salt and pepper. If you need more moisture, add broth very sparingly. Take your warmed pasta bowl out of the oven and tip the pasta into it. Grate the parmesan and go eat.

Next time:

  • I’ll try it with Italian sausage.
  • I’ll pour in some white wine when I’ve added the pasta and carrots, although it’s liable to slow down the cooking process, but that’s ok. The additional flavor would be worth it.
  • And chopped parsley.

from Fiesta at Rick’s: Fabulous Food for Great Times with Friends, pp. 276-280.

I’ve been home from New Orleans for a month now. What with the rich food I ate there and the hot weather here, I haven’t much been in the mood to cook. Last night, I made up for it. Rick Bayless’s new book has a recipe for paella cooked over a wood-fire. My pyromaniac nerve twitched the moment I saw the photos in his book. I summoned six of my friends together on a weekend night and we had a feast.

However, Rick let me down a bit. I should have known better. The cooking times don’t work. Plus, I overestimated the number of mussels.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. His recipe is intended to feed 30 heartily and 120 stingily. I am going to adapt his recipe to feed 8 people with leftovers. As usual, you will benefit from my mistakes.

The paella pan: I bought an enamel-coated paella pan for 10 servings at The Spanish Table in Berkeley for a comfortable $34. A well-informed employee explained to me the differences between the various kinds of pan. The one I bought was a good quality low-maintenance pan. The enamel does not require seasoning like the carbon steel one does. I thought it worked very well. Now that I’ve used it, I am interested in finding other things to cook in it.

The rice: The man at the store said to calculate 1/3 – 1/2 cup short-grain white rice (like arborio or better yet Catalan rice) per person. I think 1/3 cup of rice per person is ample.

The plan: Organize, prep, organize. Set up a table by the fire. Carry out to it aluminum foil, a timer, tongs, a long grill spatula, salt, trivets. Prepare all the ingredients, except for the chicken, immediately after lighting the fire. I put everything in separate storage containers until I was ready to work at the fire.

The fire: You need a base on which to place the paella pan. If you don’t have a base like this, go buy a bunch of fire bricks — enough to stack them in a circle four or five bricks high with airholes between them. You’ll build your fire within the circle. I know, I know: this is a commitment.

Here we go…

8 chicken thighs

3 – 4 cups chicken broth

1/2 tsp saffron threads, crumbled

Salt

1 – 2 lbs ripe tomatoes or 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes with their juice (preferably fire-roasted)

1 large fresh poblano

1 large red bell pepper

1 large white onion, chopped

4 large cloves of garlic, chopped

1 pound fresh chorizo sausage, casings removed

1/2 cup olive oil

2 cups short-grain white rice

1 pound fresh shrimp, peeled (leaving the tail and final joint intact, if you wish) and deveined

2 pounds mussels, scrubbed, any “beards” pulled off

2 cups peas, fresh or frozen

1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/2 cup silver tequila (optional)

Heat the oven to 375. Put the chicken thighs on a baking sheet and roast until mostly cooked through, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven, cover with foil, and put on the prep table outside by the fire.

At the end of the 30 mins, go out and start the fire. Make it a good one. Then go inside immediately and get the following chopping done as soon as you can.

Put the broth with crumbled saffron threads in a saucepan and heat until warm. Turn the heat off or keep on lowest flame. You’ll bring this outside to the prep table when the other ingredients have been cleaned and chopped.

Set oven rack 6 inches from the broiler flame. Heat the broiler. Put the tomatoes, poblano chile, and red bell pepper on the baking sheet and broil, turning once, until they are charred on all sides. Remove from oven, put the peppers in a bag while you peel and chop the tomatoes. When you’ve chopped the tomatoes and put them in a container that you’ll take outside, peel and cut up the peppers. Add the cut-up peppers to the tomatoes.

Chop the onion and garlic and place in container that you’ll take out to the fire. Chop parsley and store separately.

Either sausages into 1/2-inch discs or break up into pieces. Put in a container to take outside.

Measure out the olive oil and the rice.

Clean the mussels, ripping or snipping off the gross little bits that hang outside the shell. Store in container with the shrimp, which should be peeled and deveined already.

Now you’re ready to put it all together. Get everything outside on a table within easy reach of the paella pan on the fire. Make sure the fire is hot and that you’ve got wood nearby to keep it hot. The way to adjust the heat is to use a poker to remove a log out from under the pan.

Place the pan on the fire and pour in olive oil. Tilt pan to let the oil cover the entire surface of the pan. Place the chicken thighs in the pan, skin-side down, salt the chicken, and let saute for about 10 mins each side. Remove and put back in the container they were in.

If there is still sufficient oil, don’t bother adding more. Add onions, garlic, and chorizo to the pan. Stir to make sure all of it will cook. In about 10 minutes, add the tomatoes and the peppers. Stir and cook until the oil separates from the tomatoes, about 7-8 minutes.

Pour in the rice, stir up, and keep stirring so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom. When the rice has absorbed the oil and has become translucent, add most of the broth. Save some just in case it needs more moisture as it cooks. Stir thoroughly, assess the fire under the pan. And then don’t touch the rice for about 15 minutes. Adjust the fire, if need be. When the rice is almost soft, with still a little bite, quickly put the chicken, mussels, shrimp and peas in the rice. Bury the shrimp and mussels in the rice as close to the bottom as possible. If they sit on top, they won’t cook.

Cover the pan with foil to trap the steam. Remove the big logs underneath, but leave small pieces and embers. Push the burning pieces of wood and embers together so they form a hill. You want the pan to feel the heat but not enough to burn the rice. Let the rice stand covered in foil for 15 minutes. Test the rice and check whether the shrimp are cooked and the mussel shells open. If not, put one of the smoldering logs back under the pan for another few minutes. When the contents of the pan are cooked, you may sprinkle on the tequila.

Get the pan to the table and tell your starving guests sit and eat.

Then again, you could try all this with a small enamel paella pan on a gas grill. I may do that next time.

from The Kitchen Diaries, pp. 372-74.

I had an organic Mary’s duck in my freezer. The temperatures are soaring into the 100s. That frozen bird, I knew, would not last until fall. I had to roast it no matter how hot it made the house. Not only is roast duck out of season, but the recipe I chose to make — because it’s the most straightforward — is Nigel’s early Christmas lunch. You can’t get much less seasonal than that at the end of June. Oh, well. In for a penny, in for a pound.

But I also decided to eke as many meals out of that one duck as I could. I’ve managed four: roast duck and potatoes; pasta with duck; another pasta with duck; and duck broth for soup. Plus, I saved all the fat (you can strain it, if you’re fussy about the clarity of your duck fat).

First, Nigel’s basic recipe (bookmark this for the fall holidays):

a large duckling, weighing about 2.5 kg [or 5 1/2 pounds]

potatoes, such as Maris Piper — 6 medium [I used Yukon Gold]

pancetta — 150 g [or about 5 oz; or the same amount in unsmoked bacon]

olive oil, mild, not fruity [this means not extra-virgin]

onions — 2 medium

thyme — 5 or 6 sprigs

bay leaves — a couple

a wine glass of Marsala [Shadowcook: I used Madeira]

Preheat the oven to 200 C [or 400 F]. Remove the giblets from the duck, rinse the bird inside and out and pat it dry with kitchen paper. If you can do this an hour or so before you begin to cook. leaving the duck in a cool place, then all to the good.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into finger-thick slices, dropping them into cold water as you go. Cut the pancetta into cubes, then put it into a large roasting tin [or pan] with a tablespoon of oil. [Shadowcook: Use as little oil as possible; the duck will release rivers of its own.] Warm it over a low heat, letter the pancetta flavour the oil but without letter it colour. Introduce the slices of potato, shaken dry, into the fat and let them cook slowly.

Whilst this is going on, peel and cut the onions first in half, then each half into about six. Add them to the potatoes along with the thyme leaves stripped from their stems.

[Shadowcook: It’s sweet of Nigel to give us the benefit of the doubt and order the steps of this recipe as if we were all flash peelers like he no doubt is. But if I were you, I’d peel and cut up the onions before I started sweating the pancetta and frying the onions. Get all your ducks in a row, as they say, before you begin cooking.]

Turn everything over gently as it cooks, letting the potatoes and onions colour very slightly. Season with salt and pepper and a couple of bay leaves, then remove from heat.

[Shadowcook: Actually, I put the bay leaves into the cavity of the bird.]

Price the skin of the duck all over with a fork, then season it inside and out with salt. Lay the duck on top of the potatoes, then put it in the oven and roast for an hour and a half, until the potatoes are soft and both they and the duck are golden. From time to time, push the spuds, particularly those that are browning too quickly, to one side, and spoon a little of the cooking juices over any that appear dry. During the cooking, carefully tip off most of the fat taht is pour out of the duck and that has not been absorbed by the potatoes.

[Shadowcook: The danger here is that the potatoes will burn, like some of mine did. In addition to keeping a close eye on the roasting pan, pouring off the fat will help avert the danger of burnt potatoes.]

Test to see that the duck is done. there should be no sign of blood in the juices and the skin should be crisp and singing. Remove the potatoes to a warm serving dish.

[Shadowcook: And then again, there’s the meat thermometer. At this step, I’d remove the bird at 165-170 F and proceed.]

Turn the oven up to 220 C [425 F]. Put the duck back in the oven and let it crisp for five minutes or so, then transfer it to a warm dish. Quickly pour the Marsala [or Madeira] into the roasting tin [or pan] and place it over a moderately high heat (you don’t want it to boil away), scraping at any stuck bits in the tin [or pan]. The idea is to get any pan stickings and sediment to dissolve into the gravy. Whilst the sauce is bubbling, carve the duck and serve it with the potatoes. Check the pan juices for seasoning — they may need a little salt — then spoon over the duck.

Enough to serve 2 generously. [Shadowcook: I’ll say! I carved off a leg and saved the rest for the following recipes.]

Now, my turn:

1. Sauteed cherry tomatoes and duck meat over fresh pasta

1 serving

1 – 2 teaspoons duck fat and NO MORE

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 shallot, minced

somewhere between a 1/2 quart to 1 quart cherry tomatoes, as many as you would like, halved

[In the photo above, most of what you see is cherry tomatoes reduced to a sauce]

the meat of one of the breasts from leftover carcass of roasted duck, chopped or sliced into thin strips

salt and pepper

3 oz fresh pasta

flat leaf parsley, chopped fine

1 oz freshly grated parmesan cheese

First, put a big pot of salted water on to boil. Then put a pasta bowl into a warm oven to keep it warm.

Then, in a smallish skillet, heat the 1 or so teaspoon of duck fat over medium low heat. Add the minced garlic and shallot. Sauté until softened. Add the halved cherry tomatoes, turn the heat up a little, and leave to sauté for 3-5 mins. As they soften, mash some of the tomatoes with the back of the wooden spoon, and stir. When the tomatoes have released juices and created a sauce, turn down the heat, and add the chopped duck meat. Season to taste. Simmer on low until the pasta until sauce is reduced to your liking. Keep warm until pasta is ready.

Cook the fresh pasta 4-5 minutes, drain, and without shaking the extra water off immediately transfer the pasta to the skillet. Sprinkle chopped parsley over and stir. Transfer to warmed pasta bowl and grate parmesan over. Eat.

2. Sautéed artichokes, duck, and sorrel over fresh pasta

several small artichokes

quarter of a lemon

1-2 teaspoons duck fat

1 shallot, minced

the meat from one breast of a roasted duck

1/4 to 1/2 cup white white, preferably a sauvignon blanc, not an oaky wine

French sorrel or flat-leaf parsley, chopped

3 oz fresh or dried pasta

Don’t start the water until you’re ready to sauté the artichokes. Put a small bowl of water to the side. You’ll put your artichoke pieces in it to prevent them from turning brown. Squeeze into it the juice of a quarter or half lemon.

To prepare the artichokes, break off all the leaves until you get close to the center, where the leaves are more yellow than green. Cut off the top part, above the rim of the artichoke heart. With a small paring knife, peel the stem and smooth the underside of the artichoke where you’ve broken off the leaves. Then cut out the center of the choke so that you have a small hollow. Your little artichoke should look like a baseless goblet. Cut it into quarters or eighths, depending on how big it is. Drop into a bowl of lemon water.

Now, put a pot of salted water on to boil. Go on with the recipe, but put the pasta in the water whenever it’s ready. Heat the oven to its lowest setting and put a pasta bowl in to warm it.

Put one teaspoon (or more, depending on how many artichokes you use, but a little goes a long way) in a skillet over a medium low flame. Add the chopped shallot and stir. Watch to make sure it doesn’t brown. When the shallot has softened, drain the artichoke pieces, shake off the excess water, and then add to the skillet. Stir to coat them with the fat. Turn the heat up a little and sauté them for about 5 minutes. When the artichokes have softened a little, add the duck meat. Stir to coat the meat and let cook for a couple of minutes. Then add the wine and adjust heat so that the liquid reduces but only so fast as to keep pace with the cooking pasta. If necessary, add water to keep it all moist.

Drain the pasta. Try not to shake off the excess water, if the artichokes and duck are a little on the dry side. Add the pasta to the skillet, toss, let it heat, and sprinkle the sorrel or parsley over it. Pull the warmed pasta bowl out of the oven and tip the sauce over the pasta. If you want to add parmesan, go ahead, but I prefer it without.

3. Vietnamese Duck Soup with Noodles


The broth:

1 duck carass with lots of shaggy meat on it (although you should cut off chunks or slices to put in the soup at the end)

1 onion sliced up

2 cloves

1 star anise

the seeds of 1 cardomon pod

1/2 teaspoon coriander seed

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon Vietnamese fish sauce

Put all the ingredients in a stock pot. Fill with water to a couple of inches above the carcass. As the liquid heats, skim the scum off the surface of the broth. Bring to a boil. Once it’s at a boil, turn the heat to low and simmer for 2 to 3 hours.

When the broth is ready, strain the broth through a fine-meshed sieve lined with either cheesecloth or a paper towel.

You’ll have more than you’ll need for a big bowl, so pour into a saucepan four cups of the broth. Freeze the rest of keep it in the refrigerator and use it within a few days.

The soup:

4 cups duck broth

1 serving size fresh ramen noodles or any other fresh Asian noodles you like

1 serrano chile, minced

cilantro leaves, whole

green onions, sliced thin

bean sprouts

Bring a medium sized pot of water to a boil. Lightly untease the fresh noodles and drop them into the water. I prefer what Ramen Fanatics (of which I am merely a wannbee) call “less boiled.” Fresh noodles should not take more than 2 minutes. I keep testing the noodles a little before and after four minutes.

[Shadowcook commenting on myself: The James Beard of Japanese Cooking, Shizuo Tsuji, author of Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art, recommends bringing the water back to a boil after you’ve added the ramen, then adding a cup of cold water, and bringing it back to the boil again. After 3 or 4 times of this routine, taste the noodles. Why does he boil them this way? I’m not sure but I think it has something to do with the preference of Japanese cooks to avoid boiling their food. A gentle, rolling simmer to broth and stew preserves the delicate flavors of Japanese soups. Boiling, I gather, leaves bruises. Then again, I could be making that up.]

Drain the noodles quickly and rinse them in cold water. Make sure they are not clumpy. Put the ramen in a big soup bowl.

Meanwhile, heat the 4 cups of broth, adding minced serrano chile to taste. When the broth is not but not boiling, pour it over the noodles in the soup bowl. Add the cilantro leaves, scallions, and any scraps of duck left over from the carcass. Don’t burn yourself carrying it to the table.

[Shadowcook: Next time I make this — I have about 6 more cups of broth, after all — I want to punch up the broth. Maybe some minced ginger. More fish sauce, less salt. It’s a rich soup. so this entire post is worth bookmarking and returning to in the fall.]

from New Food of Life, pp. 170-171.

In the early 80s, I shared a house in San Francisco with friends, two of whom were Iranian. One of those Iranians, a gentle man name Hamid, cooked traditional Persian dishes  most of the time. I count my time in that house as one of the most formative culinary experiences of my life. Persian cooking remains very high on my list of favorite cuisines. From the crunchy rice called tah-dig to gormen sabzi to this dish, I love the fragrant complexity of Persian spicing — cinnamon, cardomon, ginger, cloves, cumin, dried roseflower, mint, and saffron.

Imagine my joy when I discovered Mediterranean Market here in Sacramento. Never have I lived in close proximity to this halal store that has yet to let me down when I need an ingredient for the Persian, Greek, and Middle Eastern food I cook. Now I buy tins of Ceylon, Darjeeling, and Early Grey tea there as good as any I can find in London and far cheaper than I pay for tea at Peet’s. This is the only place in town, as far as I know, that sells barberries. They keep them in the refrigerated section.

To feed my friends, I decide to make my favorite Persian dish, Zereshk pollo. The tart red barberries look like rubies cast among the golden saffron rice. Delicious. I also made a Yotam Ottolenghi caponata, which was delicious. You’ll find it here.

I made a significant change in the Barberry rice and chicken recipe. Instead of roasting a whole chicken, I used the Gourmet Cookbook’s excellent Flawless Grill Chicken — essentially, you brine, grill, and then toss chicken thighs with a vinaigrette made with the spice in the rice. I think it worked pretty well.

Timing is everything…

Makes 6 servings; preparation time: 40 minutes; cooking time: 2 hours, 5 mins.

3 cups long-grain basmati rice

1 frying chicken, about 3 pounds, or 2 Cornish game hens

Shadowcook: Or an equal amount of chicken thighs. Make a brine of 8 quarts water, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1/2 cup kosher salt early in the morning; let it cool. Six hours before grilling, brine the chicken pieces. Pat dry before grilling.

2 peeled onions, 1 whole and 1 thinly sliced

Shadowcook: Or just one, if you’re grilling already cut up pieces.

2 cloves of garlic, peeled

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 4 tablespoons water

2 cups dried barberries (zereshhk), cleaned, washed, and drained

2/3 cup clarified butter (ghee) or oil

Shadowcook: Oh, the only way to go is ghee!

4 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons plain yogurt

1 teaspoon Persian spice mix (rice advieh) or 1 tablespoon ground cumin seeds

Shadowcook: I felt sheepish asking for advieh at Mediterranean Market. It turns out that advieh means “spice mix,” so asking for it won’t get you very far. Look for packaged rice seasoning and then look at the ingredients. You want to see a combination of cinnamon, cumin, cardamon, ginger, cloves, and dried rose bud flowers.

2 tablespoons slivered almonds

2 tablespoons slivered pistachios

1. Clean and wash 3 cups of rice 5 times in warm water.

2. Place the whole chicken in a baking dish. Stuff the bird with one of the whole onions, the garlic, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and 1 teaspoon saffron water. Cover and bake in a 350 oven for 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

3. Clean the barberries by removing their stems and placing the berries in a colander. Place colander in a large container full of cold water and allow barberries to soak for 20 minutes. The sand will settle to the bottom. Take the colander out of the container and run cold water over the barberries; drain and set aside.

Shadowcook: Don’t skip this part. Sand does indeed settle to the bottom of the bowl.

4. Sauté 1 sliced onion in 2 tablespoons butter, add barberries and sauté for just 1 minute over low heat because barberries burn very easily. Add 4 tablespoons sugar, mix well, and set aside.

Shadowcook: The above is what I called Under-instruction. Give yourself time to sauté the onion. You are caramelizing the thinly sliced onion, but so to the point of greatly diminishing the amount of onion. The sweeter and more caramelized you get the onion, the best the contrast with the tart barberries.

5. Bring 8 cups water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil in a large, non-stick pot. Pour the washed and drained rice into the pot. Boil briskly for 6 to 10 minutes, gently stirring twice to loosen any grains that may have stuck to the bottom. Bite a few grains; if the rice feels soft, it is ready to be drained. Drain rice in a large, fine-mesh colander and rinse in 2 or 3 cups lukewarm water.

6. In the same pot heat 4 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons water.

7. In a bowl, mix 2 spatulas of rice, the yogurt, and a few drops of saffron water and spread the mixture over the bottom of the pot to form a tender crust (tah-dig).

8. Place 2 spatulas full of rice in the pot, then sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon Persian spice-mix or cumin over the rice. Repeat these steps, arranging the rice in the shape of a pyramid. This shape allows for the rice to expand and enlarge. Cover and cook 10 minutes over medium heat.

9. Mix the remaining melted butter and saffron water with 1/4 cup of water and pour over the pyramid. Place a clean dish towel or paper towel over the pot; cover firmly with the lid to prevent steam from escaping. Cook for 50 minutes longer over low heat.

Shadowcook: You know have 50 minutes to pat dry the chicken pieces and prepare your grill. If you’re using charcoal, as I did, you should already have started a chimney of briquettes. Let the fire die down to medium-hot before putting the pieces on the grill.

10. Remove the pot from heat and allow to cool, covered, for 5 minutes on a damp surface to free crust from the bottom of the pot.

11. Remove lid and take out 2 tablespoons of saffron-flavored rice and set aside for use as a garnish.

12. Then, gently taking 1 spatula full of rice at a time, place rice on a serving platter in alternating layers with the barberry mixture. Mound the rice in the shape of a cone. Arrange the chicken around the platter. Finally, decorate the top of the mound with the saffron-flavored rice, some of the barberry mixture, and almonds and pistachios.

Note: You may place the barberries in the rice and steam them together but the color of the barberies will not be as red as when you layer them with the rice at the last minute.

Shadowcook: Absolutely right. Visually, the red barberries are very pretty.

from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, p. 126.

As soon as I settled in to my home, after returning from Bordeaux by way of London, I decided to cook from one of the two cookbooks I brought back. I’ve been waiting for Yotam Ottolenghi’s first cookbook, published earlier this year, and so was very pleased that Ann and Jonathan in London gave me a copy for my birthday while I was visiting them. As the post I wrote on his restaurant makes clear, I love his way with food. Reading the cookbook’s introduction made me even more enthusiastically supportive. Until I read it, I had had no idea that Yotam, an Israeli Jew born in Jerusalem and raised in Tel Aviv, only met his business partner, Sami Tamimi, a Palestinian Israeli, born in Jerusalem and raised in Tel Aviv, in London in 1999. They are the same age and both gay. That’s the kind of heartwarming background to a food business that makes people want to be loyal, because the partnership and friendship between Ottolenghi and Tamimi amount to a sum that is bigger and better than its parts.

If only they had found a good editor to work with them. I’ve now made four recipes from the book. Although I still am glad I have the book, the recipes need more interpretation than many other books. The flavors, the ingredients, and the presentations make it worthwhile. I present here the recipe that turned out best. When I have made the other ones I’ve tried again, I’ll rework them into a post.

Ultimately, Ottolenghi and Tamimi tease us with an abundance of appealing recipes. But how bridgeable is the gap between the excellent food I have so much enjoyed at the restaurant and the seemingly delicious food promised by what’s written on the page remains to be seen. I will work hard on it.

So, here is the recipe as it appears in the book:

4 tbsp mint leaves

4 tbsp parsley leaves

4 tbsp coriander leaves [cilanto]

1 garlic clove, peeled

60 ml [about 3 oz] lemon juice

125 ml [about 4 oz] white wine

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 small organic or free-range turkey breast (about 1 kg)

1. Put all the ingredients except the turkey breast in a food processor or blender and process for 1-2 minutes to get a smooth marinade. Put the turkey in a non-metallic container and pour the marinade over it. Massage the marinade into the meat, cover the container and leave in the fridge for 24 hours. Make sure the turkey is immersed in the sauce.

2. Preheat the oven to 220 C [425 F], Gas Mark 7. Remove the turkey from the marinade (keep the marinade for later) and put it on a roasting tray. Place in the oven and roast for 15 minutes, then reduce them temperature to 200 C [400 F], Gas Mark 6. Continue to cook for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature again to 180 C [350 F] Gas Mark 4. Cook until the turkey is done — another 30-45 minutes. To check, stick a small knife all the way into the centre; it should come out hot. If the meat goes dark before it is ready, cover it will foil.

3. To prepare the sauce, heat up the turkey marinade in a small saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes, until reduced by about half. Taste and season with some more salt and pepper.

4. Remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes. Slice it thinly and serve with warm sauce.

5. To serve cold, leave the meat to cool completely and then slice. Adjust the seasonings of the sauce once it is cold and serve on the side.

I translated the above instructions to really mean:

First of all, I first wondered what 4 tbsp of the herbs meant. 4 tbsp before or after mincing. I decided that the list of ingredients really should have read, “4 tbsp finely chopped mint leaves,” and so on.

I used half a turkey breast and thought it more than sufficient for the amount of marinade.

The next bit that struck me as odd was the amount of liquid in proportion to the chopped herbs. Put together, it made for a very liquidy marinade. For this reason, I decided not to pour it over the turkey in a pyrex baking dish, because the turkey breast would have simply sat in a puddle of wine and lemon juice. I put the meat in a gallon-sized plastic zip-lock bag and poured the marinade in after it. I sat the bag as upright as I could keep it propped in the fridge so that the turkey was immersed.

Another note: double the cumin. Half a teaspoon vanished into the thicket of sharper flavors.

I roasted the turkey in a pyrex baking dish. It didn’t brown as well as I would have liked. And I decided that the suggested method of checking for doneness was a bit dumb. A meat thermometer told all I needed to know. I took it out when it reached 150.

The sauce needed something else to make it more interesting. I threw in a pat of butter at the end, in the hope that it would make it richer, but it didn’t.

If I make this dish again, I would:

  • increase the cumin
  • would cook it for half an hour at the starting temperature of 425, skipping the reduction to 400 F. This might help with the browning.
  • cook the meat until the thermometer ran 140 and then let it rise on the counter another ten degrees.
  • reduce the sauce and consider adding additional ingredients: shallots, a dab of mustard?