Curing duck legs for Confit

I have a confession to make: I have never made Duck Confit. Some of you will throw rotten tomatoes at me for that statement; others will wonder what Duck Confit is.

Duck Confit is duck to the nth degree. An age-old curing method for storing perishable meat through the winter, confit means to salt “cure” the duck pieces,  then poach them completely covered in duck fat for several hours until the meat is ready to fall off the bones. Left to cool, the meat is completely encased in fat, protecting it from the air which could bring in bacteria and render the meat inedible. Settled in its creamy cocoon of fat, the duck stays delicious for many months.

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Smoked Kipper Pate

I love smoked fish and seafood. Salmon, mackerel, kippers, scallops, prawns, mussels, oysters – they’re all wonderful. I don’t know when my crush started, but smoked seafood is an anytime food for me: a comfort food, a celebratory food, and a delicious snack on a rainy day with a book and a glass of wine.

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Cucumber and Red Pepper Salad

   
Cucumber and red pepper salad. Looks delightful, doesn’t it? Crisp, refreshing and simple to make. I should know, I made it. But it made me sick because I forgot that I’m allergic to peppers.

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 I posted this piece last fall, when I was enjoying my homemade Meyer Lemon Limoncello. My friends debated me at the time, saying I should wait until spring, when it’s time to actually make the Limoncello. Since it’s now Meyer Lemon season, I’m posting this recipe to hopefully inspire you to make this wonderful liquor for yourselves. It’s so easy, and so rewarding with a drink that carries that bright lemon flavor throughout the year.

Meyer Lemon Limoncello:

Meyer Lemon Limoncello steeping

Meyer Lemon Limoncello is surprising. Just like the Meyer lemon itself, the love child of a lemon and mandarin orange, it has a round, perfumed aroma and a complex flavor. It’s not as tart as a regular lemon, the taste is gentler and sweeter, a soft kiss of flavor instead of a punch.

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Dark Chocolate Strawberry Truffles

A card game was on the schedule a few weeks ago, and I had to come up with something good. I wanted some food fun, and I miss making desserts, so I just had to make chocolate truffles. I don’t make sweets very often because they’re too tempting to have around the house. But with willing eaters, I could play in the kitchen and make people happy with soft, sweet chocolate treats.

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Perfect Deviled Eggs

Poor Sharon. Whenever we play cards, we bring food. We all bring different foods each time, but we always demand, er, ask Sharon to bring her Deviled Eggs. That’s because Sharon makes perfect Deviled Eggs.

I’m sure she’d love to make something else, and of course she’s welcome to. As long as she brings the Deviled Eggs.

From start to finish, these eggs are excellent. Perfectly cooked, the whites are firm yet tender to the bite. The yolk filling is creamy, almost silky, with a little heat that kicks in on the back of the palate. And she fills the eggs with a special spritzing tube that creates a lovely swirl on top. They’re the ultimate finger food, a neat little package designed to be downed  in one bite.

And I’m a happy girl because Sharon gave me her recipe on Saturday.

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Butternut Squash Lasagna

It’s the time of year for squash. I never think to cook with it, which limits me. Squash are proudly displayed at eye level in the produce department in early fall, but by now, they’re relegated to bins at foot-level. When I remember, I will roast up an acorn squash with a little maple syrup and cinnamon. I really enjoy that, but then I forget about squash again for a while until I see it on a menu somewhere.

The last few years, however, butternut squash lasagna has been really popular, so I bought a butternut squash on sale a few weeks ago, with the idea of making lasagna. I just got around to it today. I have avoided making this lasagna because it’s an all-day process, but I’ve been thinking about this dish for too long. It had become like one of those songs that get stuck in your head. I had a lasagna stuck in my head, and the only way to get it out was to make it.

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Onion Soup

“Food is love,” was my mom’s mantra. She taught me the connections between the earth, food, and seasonality. We grew many of our own herbs, vegetables, and fruits wherever we lived.

Joanne, my mom, was a small-town Minnesotan farmer’s daughter with a Ph.D. in art history. My dad, Jim, is a small-town Minnesotan trucker’s son with a Ph.D. in accounting. Due to my parents’ studies, we lived in England when I was four and eight. On school holidays, we explored Europe and ate many foods that were new to us.

At home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, starting at the age of 10, I watched Julia Child on Saturday mornings instead of cartoons. She was just as funny as a cartoon, but real. She taught that while technique was serious, cooking and eating were fun. Mom shared my enthusiasm for food, fun, and Julia. Our bible was “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” co–authored by Julia and Simone Beck with Louisette Bertholle. Our favorite dish was her famous French Onion Soup, which became the centerpiece of our New Year’s Eve dinners.

We never made recipes as written. Co-conspirators, our love of flavor lead us to add an extra pinch of this, an extra spoonful of that. If a recipe called for one clove of garlic, Mom added three. If it called for two, she added five. Most nights, we left the table with garlic breath.

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What comes to mind when you think of comfort food? Gooey chocolate cake, crispy French fries, buttery mashed potatoes, fragrant chicken soup? Yeah, me too. I’ve been thinking about comfort food a lot lately.

If ever there’s a time for comfort food, it’s when you’re hurt. After being rear-ended in early October, I was in serious pain. For two weeks, I could barely function, and eating was not about comfort, but sheer sustenance. But as time went on, I began to get cravings. I wanted comfort food to help stop the pain and frustration of my injuries.

I wanted chocolate cake warmed just slightly so that the frosting melted into the cake, becoming its own fudge sauce. I craved bowls of creamy lattes accompanied by crispy baguettes with fresh butter and apricot jam. Pasta with drifts of parmesan and black pepper appealed to me.

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Roasted Potatoes and Salmon

I had a real treat for Christmas: an invitation from my friend Nancy for dinner. She said she was making salmon, which is a Northwest Icon, and she’s an excellent cook, so I knew it would be good. All I had to do was show up, and then lounge around nibbling on cheese and olives while others cooked. Not a bad deal, eh?

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