Inspiration abounds at the farmer's market, where I inhale just about every petal, root, leaf and fruit it has to offer.
Going from stall to stall, shaking hands with the farmers and talking with them about their growing practices, production and philosophy, I feel one step closer to knowing where my food comes from, which brings me yet another degree closer to becoming an informed consumer.
In my recent visit to the Union Square Greenmarket, I returned home with a fresh whole duck from Quattro Farms, in addition to a wide array of eggs from pheasant, chicken, and wild turkey. If you've never tasted an egg from a wild turkey, it tastes somewhere between a chicken and a duck egg, rich and yolky, with a much thicker consistency than chicken eggs.
As for the duck, it will be used across three meals: the duck quarters will be made into duck confit, where the rendered fat will be used to flavor the bed of lentils with which the duck confit will be served. Extra duck fat will be reserved to fry potatoes, which is heavenly. The duck breasts will be seared and served medium rare with a red wine mushroom sauce for another meal. The remaining bones will be frozen to make a rich duck stock to create duck noodle soup and flavor dishes of infinite possibilities at a future date. Because nothing is wasted, the duck is given the utmost respect by allowing its life has be extracted to its fullest potential.
With every farmer that I meet, I ask to see if it is possible to visit their farm. While it can sometimes be quite a trek from Manhattan's urban jungle, I've learned so much from each of these farms that there really is not a price that I can put on the experience, knowledge and respect fostered.
Out of curiosity, do try to develop a relationship with your farmers? And if so, have you visited their farms?
Easy Duck Confit Recipe
(from Simply Recipes)
Duck confit is a very simple recipe that yields tender succulent meat underneath a golden crust that strongly resembles bacon. It is no wonder that people go crazy for it, and that restaurants serve it with such reverence. You will need 15 minutes of preparation time, and roughly 2-3 hours of inactive roasting. Steps 1-6 can be made ahead of time, saved up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator, and recrisped when you're ready to eat it.
- Duck legs (at least one per person)
- Pat the duck legs dry with paper towels. With the tip of a very pointy knife or kitchen needle, prick the skin of the duck all over, focus particularly on the fattiest part of the skin. take care to avoid piercing the meat itself by pricking the skin at an angle over the drumstick and the center of the thigh. This process enables the fat that lies under the skin a place to render and seep out of the piercings and produce a crispy skin.
- Salt your duck legs well. Let them rest at room temperature for at least 20 minutes and up to an hour, this will allow the duck to cook more evenly.
- Place the duck legs in a small casserole, skin side up. How small? You want it just big enough to hold the legs snuggly. Elise from Simply Recipes suggests to put a a thin sheen of oil or melted duck fat on the bottom of the casserole, but I've not found there to be a difference. Place the duck legs in close together but not overlapping.
- Place the casserole in the oven and turn it to 300 degrees. Do not preheat the oven as you'll want to bring the temperature up and cook the duck as gently as possible.
- Walk away and watch baseball, go shopping, read a book or something. How long? Every duck has different levels of fat, so the time is not exact, but at least 90 minutes, and two hours may be better. After 90 minutes, check the duck: It should be partly submerged in melted fat and the skin should be getting crispy.
- When the skin is starting to look crispy, turn up the heat to 375 degrees. Check after 15 minutes. You’re looking for a light golden brown. If you missed some spots with the needle and there are places where the skin won’t crisp that’s OK – better that than burnt skin elsewhere.
- Remove from the oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes before eating. Save the accumulated fat for cooking vegetables, such as fried potatoes. Strained fat will keep for 6 months tightly covered in the fridge. Well wrapped, the duck meat itself will last up to 2 weeks in the fridge.
- 1 cup dry French lentils
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons duck fat or olive oil
- 2 shallots, finely diced
- 1 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 3/4 cup carrots, quartered lengthwise, and sliced thinly
- 1 cup cabbage, finely diced
- 1/2 cup parsley, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons sherry wine or balsamic vinegar
- salt and black pepper, to taste
- Sort and rinse the lentils. Cover with water by 3 inches, add salt and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook until tender all the way through (adding more water if necessary), about 20-25 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- In a large saute pan, heat the duck fat or olive oil on medium high, and stir in the garlic and shallot, saute for 5 minutes or until the onions are soft. Incorporate carrots and cabbage, continue sauteing for another 5-8 minutes, or until the cabbage is tender. Add the lentils, and continue sauteing for two minutes. Turn off the heat, stir in the chopped parsley and sherry or balsamic vinegar. Salt and pepper, to taste.
Serve duck confit over a generous helping of lentils.