Seldom do I have the opportunity to take a break from cooking, writing, media dinners and traveling. No, I’m not complaining, I’m just sayin’. I even get the most of random text messages asking me for tips on making certain dishes. Most recently, an acquaintance text to ask how long fruit needs to marinate in red wine before a really good sangria is made (this is when Wikipedia or Food Lover’s Companion would be really, really appropriate!). My simple answer should have ended the conversation, but a subsequent text asked for a wine recommendation. You won’t believe me if I tell you a 3rd text dinged my phone asking for an alternative drink option for dinner that night since said person was unable to let the fruit marinate.
I need to start charging for text consultations. I think I’d be on to something if I did that. Hell, I’d be able to purchase a new pair of Gwen Stefani L.A.M.B every 10th text or so… not a bad idea, right!
Notwithstanding the sometimes inopportune timed texts, it’s even more rare for an invitation to find its way to my email or voice mail, asking me to join a girls night in dinner or a sexy summer evening patio soiree.
When I get them, I drop everything I’m doing, because in my heart of hearts, I know it’ll be a much deserved break; and who knows when the invite will come again! Even if I’m on deadline, I’ll make it a point to go.
Plus, it’s an opportunity to wear some new pumps.
Sometime last year (not by any stretch of the imagination suggesting I’ve not received one since), Don over at Mr. Orph’s Kitchen invited me and my part-time lover to a quiet and intimate dinner to celebrate a huge audition I had successfully completed. I was game and so was my friend. I’ve spoiled him with my food, but even he recognizes I need a break some times.
I was going to chill, relax, take a sip, and let someone else cook for me. The evening was not going to be an exchange of culinary ideas, rather focused pontification on how Obama was going to win and he was going to bring a basketball court to 1600 Penn Ave. I wanted to talk about the development of my cookbook and was fishing for compliments on my hat.
I was not supposed to ever be called into the kitchen. Not even to smell anything being seared. But I was. And when I found out what Don was making for dinner, all curiosity kicked the chill mode to the curb. I blink my eye and see my part-time lover whisking; surely I was not going to leave. I can’t get the guy to steam my milk in the morning. Something special had to be happening for him to be all in this All Clad saucier and intensely whisking his wrist away.
When I look closely, he’s making saffron risotto! I don’t know how Don conned him, but he seemed excitedly challenged. I offered to step in and assist in achieving the perfect yellow color, but he bumped me off and told me to step! I insist because I like my risotto a certain way. It must be creamy, smooth and not grit-like. Don interjects and badly wants to school me on how to make risotto. Right. Kind of like Emeril teaching me how to make rice! The convo goes no where so he proceeds to tell stories of growing up in Philly. He did sneak in his explanation on how he was going to make his glaze for the duck breast. I wasn’t very interested in his process, as I had confidence in him. Although the notion of pomegranate juice all over my plate, seeping its way to the risotto was making me giddy. I was really more anxious to see how A was going to finish off the risotto. You all know its a task of slow process and proportionate additions, right?!
So, I finally gave myself a job: to reduce the sauce since Don needed to finish the duck breasts and to look over the asparagus in the oven. How boring. So I ran my index finger in the baking sheet to taste some olive oil and cheese.
After 45 minutes of anxious anticipation over what I was afraid could have been a disaster, we plated our dinner and sighed with relief. The saffron was perfect in color, texture and it had a great level of creaminess. The shallot red wine and pomegranate sauce was sweet and the duck, while a bit on the low salt side, was juicy to point!
The night was far from an evening of relaxation and breaks from the kitchen. But it was well worth it, cuz had I stayed in my lazy element, I simply would have made about 3 visits to serve myself again (something about cooking suppresses my appetite). And quite, frankly, that’s greedy especially since I came empty-handed! LOL!
Enjoy Don’s duck breast recipe below! It was great and A and I can’t wait to go back for another task-less dinner date!! I’ve made a few changes to suit my palate, mainly salt and I don’t discard the bay leaf! Visit him if you’d like his risotto recipe, too. I’m sure A doesn’t remember two things he put in there!
Oh yeah, doesn’t MY asparagus look good??!
- 3 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 4 minced shallots
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/4 cups dry white wine, divided
- 3/4 cup dry red wine
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 3/4 cup pomegranate juice
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate vinegar
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh marjoram, divided
- 1 fresh bay leaf
- 1 tsp. salt
- pepper to taste, about 1 tsp.
- 4 duck breasts
- 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots; sauté until golden brown, about 18 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 3 minutes. Add 1 cup white wine and 3/4 cup red wine. Boil until most of liquid evaporates, about 10 minutes. Add broth, juice, pomegranate vinegar, 1 teaspoon marjoram, and bay leaf; boil until mixture is reduced to about 2 cups, about 20 minutes.
2. Preheat to 450°F. Rub meat side of duck breasts with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 teaspoons marjoram and salt. Sprinkle with pepper. Working in batches, sear breasts, skin side down, in heavy large skillet over high heat until skin browns and fat is rendered, about 8 minutes.
3. Transfer duck breasts, skin side down, to rimmed baking sheet. Drain all but 1 1/2 tablespoons fat from skillet; reserve skillet. Roast duck until thermometer inserted into thickest part registers 145°F for medium-rare, about 15-20 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, bring sauce to simmer. Rewarm duck fat in reserved skillet over medium heat. Add flour; stir 1 minute. Gradually whisk in sauce.
5. Transfer duck breasts to cutting board. Pour off all fat from baking sheet. Add 1/4 cup white wine to sheet and scrape up browned bits; add to sauce. Simmer sauce 3 minutes to blend flavors. Season with salt and pepper. Thinly slice duck breasts and divide among plates.
6. Drizzle with sauce.
Eat well, love unapologetically, pray with true intention, and take care of yourself.