So my lady and I are going up to camp for a little break and when deciding what to cook while we’re up there, I decided duck was the way to go. Duck and ribs. (Ribs come later, don’t worry). Duck is woodsy, little bit gamey and it has a deep flavor to it. Duck’s also got that thick bit of fat over the breast, which in case you don’t know, I love me some fat on some meat.
I glazed the breasts before I grilled it, but first I scored it. This is important. I scored the fat because if you don’t, the heat will never get to the top of the breast. See, the problem with something like duck is the same problem you get with salmon when, for example, you try to put a crab cake on top and bake it like that. When you’ve got a thick something (be it fat or crab cake) on top, the rest of the meat cooks through long before the heat reaches the top. I grilled the duck over an open flame of hot coals. Grilled and kept basting. You don’t wanna do real hot, real fast or else that fat will burn. I burned a few, I’ll admit. You want to do it over a medium to low heat and keep rotating. Rotate, rotate, rotate. Baste, flip, baste, flip. I know some people like to serve their duck rare to medium rare but you know what? I don’t really eat anything that rare. Sushi, and that’s it. I cooked our duck medium to medium well.
To prepare the glaze:
1 pint of cherries
3 tablespoons sugar
1 mango, diced
4 cups of water
Dash of kosher salt and pepper
Simmer all ingredients for about 30 minutes and then strain. Reduce by half and thicken with cornstarch and water (slurry).
I made a nice, fresh little eggplant, cucumber, green tomato and corn ragout. The best way to explain a ragout is to say it’s a sauce, but not a sauce. It’s a salsa, but not a salsa. It’s a nice, chunky vegetable side dish. What makes it a ragout is how the vegetables are cut and the fact that they are cooked. For this, I grilled all of the vegetables off first. Then I did a true small dice, mixed them together and tossed it all with a tomato watermelon vinaigrette that turned out real nice.
To prepare the corn-eggplant ragout, combine:
3 ears of corn, cut off the cob
1 small eggplant, grilled and diced
1 small cucumber , grilled and diced
2 small green tomatoes, grilled and diced
To prepare the vinaigrette:
2 cups of watermelon
1 cup of olive oil
1/8 cup rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons of honey
3 tablespoons of tomato paste
Salt and pepper to taste
Puree all ingredients and strain. Pour over corn-eggplant ragout and serve at room temperature.
Let’s talk potatoes. I used a Yukon gold. I dig on the Yukon because they’re a little bit sweet and they’re not overly starchy. As a side note, I really like to use them for whipped potatoes because they get this creamy, sweet hue about them. Delicious. Anyway, I grilled these potatoes. Got a nice brown mark to them and then threw them in the cast iron. I had boiled some ribs the day before so I saved the au jus, strained it and added to the potatoes. It gave the potatoes a little pork flavor that brought it up to a whole new level. I believe there’s no substitute for real stock. You can put that little salty powder pack or cube in your soups and sauces, but it’s only satisfying your salt craving. I don’t care for a lot of those base products because I don’t think they work well. I think they just mask. You can easily achieve what you want to achieve (which is a rich, deep, natural flavor) from a stock that is properly salted with kosher or sea salt. Your flavor is just better. You can’t convince me otherwise.
To prepare the potatoes:
6 Yukon Gold new potatoes
6 garlic scapes, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, minced
½ red onion, minced
¼ cup olive oil
4 cups reserved pork rib stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut potatoes in half and toss with half of the oil and salt and pepper. Grill on one side until lightly browned. Heat cast iron skillet with the other half of the olive oil while waiting. Add the garlic scapes, red pepper, and onion to the skillet along with potatoes. Sautee, add stock and boil. When potatoes are fully cooked, remove and keep warm. Reduce liquid by ½ to ¾ to intensify flavor. Re-toss potatoes in liquid and serve.
With the cast iron, I like to throw it in the oven or on the grill first because you want to heat it up. It’s the same thing as a sauté pan. You need to heat it up first, add a little bit of oil, and then you can add your food. I threw some minced onions, minced pepper and very thinly sliced garlic scapes. Most people don’t know what a garlic scape is but I’m about to tell you. Think of a garlic bulb. The garlic is the bulb and the scape is the stem extending up to the flower. You don’t eat the flower; you eat the stem and the stem has that garlic flavor. It’s not as harsh or pungent, but it is pretty nice. It adds a different dimension of garlic to your dish.
I found them for the first time down South doing a farm to table menu. I was at a store here in PA and I saw garlic scapes in their local produce section. I was surprised to see them in a store, honestly. When I started checking them out, this lady came up to me out of nowhere. She was an employee and she started asking me about them. She said she had seen the garlic scapes when they came into the store but she didn’t know what to do to them. So I explained what it was, how to use them, what I’d do with them. It was a very pleasant encounter and she seemed really excited, as she should. Garlic scapes are a really nice product. I don’t know why people don’t use them more. I really think you should use both, especially since it gets you way more use out of your bulb. I’d encourage anyone to let them grow, cut them, and use them often.
I used a little julienned cucumber in the presentation. I like separation. I also think it works with the dish and here’s why. It worked with the dish because herbs and vegetables like julienned cucumber, julienned green tomato, fresh mint, maybe a little dill all freshen up the dish. Think about it this way: people use cucumber in smoothies to lighten and freshen the dish, right? Well that’s what I did with this dish. You can take a little bite and almost cleanse your palette. It enhances the dish without changing the flavor too much.