Saturday, January 10, 2009

Talking Smackdown

I started reading the very entertaining Thursday Night Smackdown blog a while ago, and somehow I did not notice the “First Thursdays” portion of the blog until recently. The first Thursday of each month, a theme is chosen and participants cook a recipe from a cookbook or magazine in their collection. I adore food events, either real or virtual, and I have stacks of cookbooks and magazines, so I figured this would be right up my alley. The theme for January was to challenge yourself.

It didn’t take me long to decide that I would attempt cooking duck. Mr. Penpen enjoys ordering duck in restaurants and has asked why I never make it. There really wasn’t any excuse for why not; I just assumed it was more difficult to deal with than other types of poultry, not to mention higher in fat. Oh, and the expense: when I saw the price of Muscovy duck breasts, I was grateful this recipe called for legs. I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of The Zuni Café Cookbook for Christmas (this gift is fortunate for the rest of my town as well, since now I won’t keep checking it out of the library), where I found a recipe titled Duck Braised with Red Wine and Prunes.

As instructed, the duck browned up quickly, and then went in the oven, along with the aromatics, wine reduction (I wish I had noticed that the recipe called for reducing the four cups of wine to one before I started making it), and broth. One of the great things about braising is that once the initial prep is done, you can basically leave the kitchen for a couple hours.

The book suggested serving the duck with roasted polenta, which I never make but thought sounded delicious. I did notice this suggestion ahead of time, so I was able to cook the polenta the night before and roast it on Thursday. The light, fluffy polenta was an excellent complement to the rich duck. I did not pair it with the fancy-sounding French wine suggested, but a nice glass of Pinot Noir did fine. I give this recipe a 10 for D and a 5 for E, giving it an EDR of 2. Duck was a little bit of a challenge, but no longer intimidating. Mr. Penpen thought it was one of the best things ever to come out of our kitchen, particularly on a weeknight.

There will be a round-up of all the recipes contributed to January’s First Thursday posted on the Thursday Night Smackdown site on Monday, so you can see how other people challenged themselves. And if you would like to participate next month, you can find the rules here.

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