Duck, Brussels, Apples, Pumpkin, Cranberry, Fennel Feast

I went all out yesterday. It's rare for me to spend 3 1/2 hours making dinner but when I have the time and the right ingredients, I find it incredibly rewarding relaxing and fun. This Sunday I skipped the Packer game and prepared a feast for Dave, Stanley, and myself. Roast duck with apples, Brussels sprouts with cranberries and bacon, an apple fennel salad, and flan de calabaza. A perfect celebration of mid-November!

I'm going to describe it all as I made it rather that documenting one dish at a time. I'll put recipes at the end to clear up any confusion. I find it fun to put a dinner like this together - it's never just make one thing and then make the next - it's more like making everything at once, interweaving the steps..... you'll see what I mean.

It all started with this Moscovy duck. Unfortunately it's not local - I think it's from the east coast somewhere. We rarely have duck at the Co-op, and I've never cooked one, so I decided to go for it when we got these in. It wasn't too expensive: $22.00 seemed like a bargain.

I dried it off and rubbed it inside and out with some fresh sage from my sage plant, a crushed garlic clove, and salt, and let it sit for about an hour to warm up to room temperature.

In the meantime I started work on this puppy. It's a winter luxury pumpkin from the garden - a small one that never developed the same webbing on the skin as the rest. It was beginning to get soft in the middle, so I knew it was time to use it. The recipe I used was for "flan de calabaza" a calabaza is basically a Mexican pumpkin......

Beautiful! It was light, not as dense as it could be, but still very compact and a beautiful bright color. It's so rewarding to cook a pumpkin like this that I grew from seeds given to me by a friend who got their seeds from a friend. I'll have to save some seeds to grow again next year and maybe pass them on to keep the chain going.

I peeled it and chopped it into cubes. The color and texture reminded me of a very unripe ataulfo mango.... I might not known if it was pumpkin had I not known it was a pumpkin! I put the chunks in boiling water to cook.

Meanwhile, I halved a bunch of cranberries. My camera has a facial recognition feature and I was amused to notice that it kept wanting to make each little cranberry half a face..... a crowd of cranberries.

The cranberries got mixed with sugar and put over low heat to melt the sugar. The recipe I used didn't call for cranberries, but I thought they might make a really nice flavor addition.

Melting sugar is an arduous task. You have to use very low heat and stir it constantly so it doesn't burn. At first it seems like nothing is going to happen, and then suddenly it all melts and looks like this. Once it was melted I poured it into the bottom of a glass pie plate.

The pumpkin was nice and tender by the time the sugar had melted. I strained it and let it cool. An hour had almost past and it was time to prepare the stuffing for the duck.

Here's what I came up with: apples (I used some really soft jonagolds for Door Creek Orchard), fresh sage, dried cranberries (fruit juice sweetened), and onion. I tossed it with a little bit of brown sugar.

And into the duck it went! This went into the oven at 450 degrees for 10 minutes and then 350 for about 2 hours.

Back to the pumpkin. I love these winter luxury pumpkins for their incredibly smooth creamy delicious puree..... this is just those boiled chucks of pumpkin pureed for just a few minutes in the food processor. You can't get this in a can!!

To the puree I added sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, cinnamon, some guanabana liquor (a memento from a trip to Mexico), a little salt, and....

....eggs! I now officially have 5 chickens laying!! The most beautiful by far are the eggs of the feather footed wheaton maran. They're really big, speckled, and a gorgeous deep terracotta color. They remind me of the book How Fletcher Hatched, one of my favorites when I was a little girl.

All that got mixed in with the pumpkin, making a foamy delicious substance that could easily double as pumpkin egg nog.

I poured the pumpkin mixture on top of the cranberry sugar in the pie plate. You're supposed to put the flan pan in a larger pan filled with boiling water. I discovered (too late) that I didn't have any large pans that fit the pie plate, so I had to use a pan that was a little too small. The pie dish balanced on the edges of the pan very precariously... but it worked.

Whew! Now that the duck and the flan were in the oven, I started work on the Brussels sprouts.

These are from Jen Ehr Farm, where I worked briefly this spring.

Gotta have bacon! I'm seriously in love with this local bacon from Willow Creek Farm.

I briefly cooked the rest of my halved cranberries in the bacon grease and threw in a little brown sugar.

Mixed it all up, and into the oven it went. Couldn't be easier or tastier.

One more dish to make - a simple apple fennel salad. There's a plethora of beautiful local fennel right now, and I've been eating quite a bit of it - it makes a wonderful crisp salad and I've been trying to avoid winter cabbage salads until I don't have any other local alternative (soon enough).

The fennel stems tend to be woody so I only used the bulb and a few of the frilly tops. The rest went to the chickens.

Local honeycrisp apples from Future Fruit - these are absolutely the best fruit around right now.

A beauty heart (aka watermelon) radish for color.

Chopped walnuts. Oh yeah, and some arugula from the garden that I didn't get a picture of.

Add a little mayo, and it's perfect. Sweet apples, Crisp fennel, spicy arugula, Nutty walnuts, Yum!

We're in the home stretch!

The flan was perfectly done.....

This picture is taken from the bottom with the light shining through. The cranberries added a gorgeous color. I set it aside to let it cool until dessert time.

The perfect duck!

And just as perfect Brussels.

One of the best dinners I've had for a while. I really enjoyed the complex flavors of each dish. They all had a lot going on, but the flavors of each dish blended with the others perfectly. I don't mean to brag, but geeze this was good!

Don't forget the flan! Right before serving you flip it over so the bottom becomes the top. The sweet creamy pumpkin was just perfect with the tart cranberries. I think cranberries are at their best when paired with a desert that would otherwise just be boringly sweet.

OK, here are the recipes.

Apple Stuffed Duck

1 4-5lb duck
Fresh Sage
3 apples (whatever kind are good and local)
1 small onion
Dried fruit-sweetened cranberries
Brown sugar

Wash the duck and pat it dry. Rub inside and out with salt, sage, and 1 clove of mashed garlic. Place in a covered container and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Core and chop apples. Mix with dried cranberries, sage, brown sugar, and chopped onion. Stuff apple mixture into the cavity of the duck. Place duck on a rack in a roasting pan and roast in a 450 degree oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and roast 80 minutes to 2 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees.

Puncture the skin with a fork at intervals during roasting to release fat. Baste occasionally with pan drippings.

Bacon Cranberry Brussels Sprouts

1 lb or so Brussels sprouts
5 strips bacon
1/2 cup cranberries
1/8 cup brown sugar

The amounts listed above are approximate. Add or subtract as you see fit.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the Brussels in half and place in a roasting pan. Cook the bacon crispy. Take bacon out of pan, chop it up, and add it to the Brussels sprouts. Add halved cranberries to the bacon grease and cook for about 2 or 3 minutes. Add brown sugar and stir to dissolve. Pour bacon grease over the Brussels and toss to coat. Roast for about 40 minutes, until Brussels are tender.

Apple Fennel Salad

3 Apples (honeycrisp or something else that is sweet, tangy and crispy)
1 large fennel bulb
1 small beauty heart (aka watermelon) radish
Arugula (about 1 cup)

Chop all the vegetables and mix with mayo and salt to taste. That's it.

Flan de Pumpkin with Cranberries

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup cranberries, cut in half
1 1/2 pounds pumpkin (peeled and cut into chunks)
4 eggs
1 12oz can evaporated milk
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon vanilla (I used guanabana liquor, but I doubt you have any on hand.)
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat overn to 350 degrees. Melt the sugar slowly and carefully in a heavy saucpan over low heat. Stir constantly. Once sugar has started to melt, add cranberries and allow the sugar to melt all the way. Once it has melted, pour the sugar cranberry mixture into the bottom of a pie plate. Set aside.

Place the cut up calabaza in a pot with enough water to cover. Boil until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and mash with a potato masher or (a much better option) in a food processor. Mix eggs, pumpkin puree, and remaining ingredients. Make sure everything is well combined.

Pour the mixture into the pie plate. Don't worry if the sugar has hardened. It will soften when the flan is cooked. Place the glass dish inside a larger baking pan and fill the larger pan with boiling water until the water reaches halfway up the outside of the mold. Place on the center rack of the oven and bake for 1 hour. The center should be set firm.

Allow to cool to room temperature. Flip upside down onto serving platter. Garnish and serve.

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1 comment:

  1. okay, I copied your entire meal this past weekend...just fabulous! Thanks for the recipes.


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