encouraging the impractical and impossible

valentine’s day dinner

hoping to do something a bit different… i decided to make a pleasant elegant meal for valentines day — that we might eat in the dining room, instead of the couch!

after a bit of thinking about what might brighten an otherwise dreary february — i settled on duck breast with candied orange peels and a roasted mushroom risotto (and a de(re?)constructed caesar salad on the side…).

this is a pretty simple meal… with a few simple underlying techniques.

my overall plan was to get home from work and start a stock for the risotto. in a 3qt saucepan, i tossed a quartered onion, handful of celery tops/leaves, handful of baby carrots and 2 large cloves of garlic (smashed) into a bit of duck fat (you don’t have duck fat??? shame.).  Salt and pepper to taste and allow the vegetables to sweat (but not carmelize).  Add 2.5 qts of water, a tsp thyme and tossed in four uncooked, frozen chicken wings that i had saved from another venture… skim periodically.
while i was thinking about it, i grabbed 4 small portabella mushrooms, brushed them off, tossed them with some olive oil, salt and pepper — then threw them into the oven on a bit of aluminum foil at 400F.  while i was at it, i grabbed an orange out of the fridge, and placed several slices of orange peel into a small cereal bowl — and covered them with granulated sugar.

within an hour, the house smelled great — and i was ready to start my risotto.
(don’t forget to take the now-roasted mushrooms out of the oven.)

risotto is a pretty easy technique.  saute 1/2 cup finely diced onion and a clove of garlic (if you had shallots — i’d say to use them.  we didn’t have any… hence, my onion/garlic compromise…) in more duck fat.  add a bit of salt and white pepper.  (aside:  the foodtv network is wrong.  pork fat does not rule — DUCK FAT RULES!!)  add 1/2 lb of short grain, arborio rice and gently mix until the rice is coated in the fat mixture.  as the rice heats, add a few ladles of the hot stock and stir.  keep the heat on med-low and keep stirring; adding stock as necessary.  it takes about 20-30 minutes to get the rice tender and creamy.  at the end, i add approx 1/4 cup of half-and-half and 1/2 cup freshly grated romano cheese.  dice the roasted mushrooms, add to rice and take the pot off of the heat and cover.

next up are the duck breasts.  i am lucky enough to do some work for a company that produces some of the most beautiful (and tasty) ducks you have ever seen.  i had a few boneless duck breasts, and prepped them by trimming, seasoning and scoring the skin with a 1/2″ diamond pattern.  15 min before you’re ready to eat — place the duck breasts onto a just warm non-stick pan skin-side down and turn the heat to med to med-high.  by using this technique the duck skin will render its fat and become crispy  without burning within 10 min.  turn the breasts, and move them to the side of the pan.  spoon off all but 1 tbsp of the duck fat, add the juice from the orange and bring to a boil.  add 2 tbsp of orange marmalade and stir… allow the liquid to reduce and thicken with 1 tbsp butter.

assemble your plates with a nice scoop of risotto, slice the duck breasts on a bias and lay on the risotto.  spoon the orange flavored sauce over the duck breast. garnish with the candied orange peels.

serve the salad on the side;  just a quick vinaigrette made with a bit of orange juice and rind over some romaine lettuce.  top with a bit of  thick bacon (leftover from breakfast) and some shavings of parmesan cheese.  tasty.

i really should take some pictures of these plates….

2008.02.15 - Posted by | what's for dinner?

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