Thursday, February 20, 2014

smothered duck and cabbage

This is my eighth winter back in New England, unfortunately, and one of the things I always said was that usually the way winter works here is, if it's super-cold, at least you don't get as much snow; if it's super-snowy, at least it's not as cold. I swear it was a good rule of thumb - there's such a thing as too cold to snow, after all, and New Hampshire gets that cold without much work. But this year, this year decided to prove me wrong - the National Weather Service said today that NH had both a snowier winter than average and a colder one.

Welllll fuck that.

I know it's almost the end of February, but there is a mountain of snow outside, we've had four noteworthy storms in the last, what, week and a half, I've been rear-ended by a car that was slipping and sliding on the snow and couldn't stop in time, I've driven through town half-blind because ice was forming on the windshield faster than the wipers could remove it, and those wipers are themselves now shredded to pieces as a result.

So we made some winter food. Some really really wintry food. Stick to your ribs.

Smothered duck and cabbage

The principle of smothering anything is really simple: you cook it with just enough liquid to keep it from sticking, until it's very tender. It's a fine line between smothered X and braised X or X stew, but if I hear "braised," I think more added liquid than "smothered," and if I hear "stew," I think "thickened," whether by a roux, cream, or the starch from added ingredients.

In this case, this is smothered duck and cabbage, which takes a little more doing than usual: I started with a whole duck, cut it into pieces, and because this is a domestic duck, it has a hell of a lot of fat on it. Cutting slits in the skin, sprinkling salt on, patting dry, waiting a couple hours and patting dry again, and then browning every piece resulted in cooking off a full pint of duck fat, before continuing on.

In the meantime, I chopped up a red cabbage, sprinkled it with salt and left it in a colander, and rinsed the salt off after the duck was done. Just helps it cook by getting some of the water out.

Everything else? One bunch of young carrots, the kind sold with tops on. One onion, halved and sliced. A handful of celery leaves, sliced up. Chicken-duck-garlic stock, made with chicken thigh bones, chicken wing tips, garlic cloves, and the duck neck - just stuff I happened to have left over. Some hot sauce. Plenty of salt.

Browning the duck is very important, and then the duck is removed to a platter, the fat is removed, the vegetables are briefly sauteed in the same pan, and the duck and veggies go into a cast iron Dutch oven in layers. Barely fit.

A couple hours in the oven at 350 and boom, all set.

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