20140324-123202.jpgDuck with blueberry port sauce, Pommes Anna, and buttery Brussels sprouts

Lots of changes for today; original guests and venue couldn’t make it so the venue changed back to our home. Then two more guests were invited–but then had to decline.

Then the extra duck breasts I bought–unusually small. Now, this isn’t really unusual in the grand scheme of things, but usually there would be two big breasts per packet but in this one? Four. Yet…perfectly sized for individual servings, so I’ll simply need to adjust the cooking time on these considerably. Usually six minutes for skin, about the same for the meaty side on the typical magrets I use, even the pekins but…but…adjusting.

Today the ducks will be marinated for a few hours in orange zest, thyme, and a bit of garlic. Oddly, the recipe doesn’t call for salt or pepper seasoning which strikes me as a huge omission/error/whatweretheythinking? kinda deal. In two hours or so I’ll start to cook, making it up as I go along. Actually, its moments like this where I feel like I’m really progressing as a cook, noting inconsistencies in recipes, anticipating flavor combinations, and actually changing recipe instructions. I suppose I’ve always done this to one degree or another, but it hit me today.

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Our guests, B&A are bringing some Argentinian wine (Malbec, no doubt) as well as some lengua which will make my wife tingle. The Filipino in all of them, doubtless. I’ve never been able to…er…wrap my mouth around lengua…tongue, much as I’ve been minimally interested in offal. Bad track record with trotters, tripe, and pig jowls and ears. So while I will no doubt appreciate their salad and wine, I don’t think I will exterminate my prejudice against this part of the noble cow.

Appetizers will be olives, bread, and two French cheeses; Gres d’Alsace and petit Camembert au calvados. These are both washed rind cheeses, one in brine and the latter in apple brandy which will impart some distinct flavor to them both…much to my wife’s dismay, I fear. She doesn’t generally care for food whose smell announces its presence to her from several feet away. The petit Camembert au calvados was ok, though the Gres d’Alsace washed find cheese was delicious.

Along with the cheeses will be thinly cut watermelon radishes with creme fraiche and chives , always a hit.

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The duck breasts were so small, yet as my wife insisted could have been seared even longer to further crisp the skin. It seemed the layer of fat on these breasts was considerable and wifey didn’t care for the fattiness extant.

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And while the breasts cooked, I started on the blueberries in port sauce; a cup of tawny port, blueberries, a tad of red currant jelly, and a soupçon of Dijon mustard, reduced down to a nearly syrupy consistency.

Accompanying the meal were our guests contribution of buttered Brussels sprouts (very tasty) and her long-cooked lengua. I dutifully partook of the lengua which was well done with by everyone (except me) and found the sauce quite amenable and layered. The meat itself was fork tender but alas…the appeal remains lost to me.

Along with the duck and lengua I prepared Mini Pommes Anna, individually prepared in a muffin pan and each cute…and a bother to make. Using tiny fingerling potatoes, I carefully cut them all into tiny disks 1/16th of an inch and proceeded to layer them carefully in the muffin cups. Slow. Time-consuming. Not again. Fortunately I halved the amount of salt the recipe required and increased the thyme as well, and mixed the amounts of butter between two divergent recipes (once again, a combination result from two recipes) to an amount somewhere in the middle. Very tasty, but once on the plate the mounds lost their structural integrity quickly.

20140324-121908.jpgYou can see that the top left potato mound collapsed as I’d reached my patience point after the fifth carefully layered mound and simply dumped all the potatoes in willy nilly.

For starters I threw together four blue agave margaritas which went over well and the Argentinian Las Vertientes Reserva (2011) was pretty decent, a blend of Malbec and other vintages.

While we all sat about having post dinner talk, I put the refrigerated , barely room temperature chocolate souffle into the oven for its 25 minutes. From my vantage point, I could easily see the timer and the souffle itself in the oven, still at 13 minutes to go and still flat. Was it rising? Yes, a little. 7 minutes to go. Had the refrigeration screwed with the chemistry? Yes, it was rising, though the center stayed flat while the sides continued their slow, laborious rise. At 3 minutes to go I could see that we had ‘liftoff’ and that once again the miracle of eggs in cooking had come through.

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Not long later, we each had completely demolished the souffle, with Bruno our male guest jokingly dismayed that there was no dessert left for them to take home (“Astrid rabelfragisk finished it all!” He intoned.

Not to worry, I told him. I have some sesame peanut candy you can take home. We all had a piece first, had some tea, and we saw them off. After we put the dishes away, I felt off and realized that I might be coming down with something. In the middle of the night my throat was raw and hurting so I chose to take the day off and rest.

It’s now the next day and I’m just lounging about the house, mildly fatigued, headachy, and wishing I felt 100%. But the dinner was great.

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