This post has been long planned and finally I bore the brunt of racking my brain over what I was going to prepare.
Natasha of 5 Star Foodie, a DC chick and one I’ve yet to meet in person as much as I’m up there, invited me to join a wonderful monthly event of food bloggers cooking up concepts she and her cooking buddy Lazaro from Lazaro Cooks! (and my Cuban compadre) have established. This month’s challenge was a huge conundrum for me. Unless I’m caused to sin, I will eat anything! But this dish involved food I don’t eat: bacon. Notwithstanding a life of never eating it or any parts of the oink, oink, (well except for when Emeril and I make some pork chops on TV–enter *faint*), I accepted the invitation to be part of this talented group of bloggers.
The challenge: Bacon and eggs. Good ol’ crispy and flavorful bacon with eggs. Feel good food. Should be easy enough, right? Well, considering my diet, I woke up this morning a slight bit anxious on how I was going to create a dish that reflected my interpretation of bacon y huevos.
I KNEW from day one I wasn’t going to make bacon. That was an easy decision. The questions then turned to what was I going to use in its place. Duck came to my mind quicker than anything else and faster than I had a chance to even read Natasha’s email with an example of something someone made on TV. So, the duck, although not convinced on how I was going to prepare it, was the basis for my dish and everything else I did depended on it. I was excited. See, I’ve never really played with duck. I seldom order it when I eat out, let alone cook it at home and probably even less for clients. So yeah, I was pretty geek’d about it.
I started my quest yesterday with a visit to my local cheese monger, Tim (@TimtheCheeseman) at Star Provisions, a gourmet market in town. Tim knows cheese. Tim is cheese. So he was in for guiding me in the right direction. For whatever reason, I had this idea that eggs can’t be eaten w/out cheese even though I never add any variety to mine. Ever. I’m a purist when it comes to eating my eggs. A bit of salt and pepper. Maybe some guac, and I’m good. Again, the cheese decision threw me for a loop. We spent over an hour looking, smelling and tasting the different options that would pair well with my duck.
I started with Brun-uusto, a justaleepia bread cheese from Norway. OM! Buttery and fruity but definitely better when grilled or toasted. I knew it’d go well with eggs, but still wasn’t convinced. It was a bit thick and offered a great filling, but I didn’t want my eggs to be heavy, rather fluffy.
On to the next one. And this one is the deal-maker. Right when Tim started wrapping a block, I was attracted by the wax casing and halted him. I asked for a slice and the deed was done! Gasp, swoon and savor! This Cantorel cow’s milk cheese hails from Auvergne, France and claims to be oldest cheese ever made. Nibbling it transported me to a dairy farm I once visited in Lye, France. That’s when you know a cheese is good–when you can see yourself squeezing milk right there in the middle of an overcast day. It was aromatic, a bit woodsy and nutty with buttery notes. Oh, and its ever so slight pungent after-taste caused girly reactions.
Though Cantorel was my choice, I left with both just in case I wavered in my decision once I was home.
And now is when the fun starts. After some minimal debate, I opted for duck confit and the French cheese. Having two French components made it logical to maintain a Franco theme. But I needed to add my Latin flavor and style in there. Somehow.
I seasoned the duck confit with sea salt and dried tarragon which emitted aromas of flowery villas in the Loire Valley.
(L: cottage in Loire Valley; R: structure at dairy farm in Lye, France)
So on to the eggs. Scrambled and all the ordinary, tous le jour styles were unappealing so I went to what I know isn’t seen so often.
The Spanish tortilla! That’s how I’d make my eggs! It’s a delightful breakfast option and even for afternoon lunches. I grew up eating very Spanish-like fritattas, with my fav always being a plantain one I’ve modified over the last few years.
For this take, a bit of garlic, onion, black truffle salt and the Cantorel cheese, and my tortilla was perfectly round and golden!
All this sounds mildly ordinary until I got fancy with a few more flavors and textures. I wanted to do an avocado mouse since I have a serious obsession with guac on my eggs. But I totally forgot to stop at the market and grab some Haas. I still wanted a green element and a smooth texture.
I made a herbes de Provence merengue to top on the confit! Genius if I say so myself. I actually wanted to keep it liquiefied enough to make a bath on which the tortilla could sit on, but that didn’t make much sense. I drew enough energy and beat the hell out of one egg white, added my additional herbs, some sugar and whisked long enough for it to stiffen.
Total magic occurred over here this afternoon! I was happy with the result. Sure, there are some things I’d mix up and even try differently in terms of plating. But for this challenge, my goal was to interpret an American staple into two cuisines which represent and influence my cooking style. The most fun was subsititing the bacon with duck confit. It worked wonderfully for me!
Next time, I might break off pieces of the confit and make a mini omellette sandwich with…. wait for it…. herbes de Provence creme!
Thanks to Natasha and Lazaro for hosting this fabulous and delicious event and for inviting me to be a part of it! You had my kitchen smelling all kinds of yummy today! And to the wonderful Tim for sharing some wonderful cheese with me! If you’re in Atlanta, make sure to visit him. He will school you on all the best cheese there is to know!
Eat well, love unapologetically, pray with true intention, and take care of yourself.
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FRANCO-CUBAN DUCK CONFIT Y TORTILLA w/HERBES de PROVENCE MERINGUE
- 1 duck leg confit ( I bought mine at the market–kinda cheated!)
- 1/2 tsp. dried tarragon
- pinch of sea salt to taste
Remove duck leg from seal. Season on both sides with tarragon and salt. Heat small non-stick skillet. Cook duck leg on both sides until crispy brown and can be lightly flaked off or for about 10 minutes total. Remove from heat and set aside. While duck leg is cooking, make tortilla. See recipe below.
- 2 whole eggs, 1 egg yolk
- Fat from duck
- 1/2 tsp. truffle oil
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 heaping tbsp. minced onion
- 1/4 tsp. black truffle salt
- 1 tbsp. Cantorel cheese
Whisk eggs in medium sized bowl. Add in remaining ingredients and blend well. Heat 8″ non-stick skillet and add duck fat and truffle oil.
Add egg mixture. Cook on on side until top of omelette begings to bubble and dry up and bottom begins to brown. Gently flip and cook on other side until golden brown.
Herbs de Provence Meringue
- 1 egg white
- 2 pinches tarragon, basil, oregano,
- 1 tsp. lavender sugar
Whisk in bowl without breaking form. Or, you can use a hand mixer. Mix until mixture has stiffened but not too hard.
Place confit on top of tortilla and top confit with 1 tbsp. of meringue. Add more if desired.