Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Winter is a tough time for this food blogger for two reasons:
1) We're tucking into more meaty meals, which for me are more difficult to photograph than, say, a colorful corn and tomato salad, and
2) We are in the depths of winter darkness in the Northern Plains right now, meaning no natural light at the dinner hour.
I'm a real person who happens to blog. I don't cook just so I can blog about it. I don't style my food. I don't really set up my shots. I don't own Photoshop. Maybe I should consider some of these things (fame and fortune would surely come as a result, right? ...right?), but this is just real life for me and my family, our cozy little home in the middle of North Dakota, a weedy garden in the back, and a deep freeze in the basement filled with curious meats that we call dinner. I'm tickled to think that anyone would be generous enough to spend a few precious moments stopping by this little blog and checking into my kitchen and our humble life. It's been five years, almost 500 posts, and the journey has been a true joy. So thank you. Really. I love that you've even read this far...
But that's a long-winded way of saying November is not prime photo-time for this blogger. Plus, we have plenty of warm yellow lights in our new home that do nothing to enhance the beauty of this pot of roasted duck. Nothing at all.
Despite my winter lighting situation, I hope you trust me when I say that this meal was, in a word, spectacular. Two mallard ducks, stuffed with chopped oranges and apples, roasted in a Dutch oven, served with a cranberry Cabernet sauce. The fruit stuffed in the ducks, especially the orange, delicately infused the meat and the layers of flavor in the sauce brought the whole dish together. The meat stays moist because, well, ducks happen to have that gorgeous layer of fatty skin protecting the meat, but just in case, we're roasting them in a covered Dutch oven to keep some of that moisture. Served with some Minnesota wild rice, that's what I call a lovely meal.
The ducks have migrated out of North Dakota by now - at least the smart ones have. I have specifically asked my hunter husband to go duck hunting more often next year. With a wide smile, he sounds happy to oblige. Not only is the meat tasty - red and slightly beefy, but not heavy like goose meat - but I can't wait to render me some duck fat. Homemade duck fat French fries, anyone?
Roasted Duck with Cranberry Cabernet Sauce
Adapted from Wild Feasts, a cookbook from Ducks Unlimited (of course)
2 medium ducks
Salt and pepper to taste
1 orange, cut into small pieces (yes, keep the peel on)
1 apple, chopped
1/4 c. dried cranberries
1/2 c. water
1 small red onion, minced
2 Tbls. butter
1/2 c. Cabernet or other dry red wine
1 c. broth (chicken, pheasant, or turkey broth, take your pick)
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
Big pinch of dried thyme
Rinse ducks and pat them dry. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and fill cavities with orange and apple. Roast in a covered Dutch oven at 350 degrees until medium well, testing with a meat thermometer in the thigh or breast until the meat registers at 165 degrees. This will take 1-2 hours, depending on the size of the ducks.
Meanwhile, bring cranberries and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and let soften 10 mins. Drain cranberries, reserving liquid in one bowl, and removing softened cranberries to another bowl. Set aside.
In the saucepan, melt butter and saute the onion over medium heat until softened and just starting to caramelize. Add Cabernet, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 10 mins or until reduced by half. Add broth and cranberry liquid, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until reduced by half. Add vinegar, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste; bring to a boil, reduce heat, simmer until reduced by half. Remove from heat and set aside until duck is done.
When ready to serve the duck, add cranberries to sauce, warm the sauce, and serve with the duck.