I love to cook for my friends, sometimes it’s a casual affair, a Sunday night ‘family meal’, and at other times it’s a planned event which is more involved, when the table is set just so and a special bottle or two are retrieved from the cellar. I like to plan my meals in the knowledge of what my friends will enjoy, whether that is vegetarian, seafood or as it was this time, duck. I can’t go past duck when it’s on a menu, so it was a great opportunity to cook it when A-L and I finally aligned our calendars for a mid-winter meal at our place, as she and her lovely husband also have a taste for this delicious bird.
A-L and DBN are real gourmands and excellent hosts. Over the many years of our friendship I have enjoyed some wonderful meals at their home, always matched with superb wines and lots of laughter. Having these two special friends over always makes me want to extend myself, and as we are always so relaxed together, I can do so knowing any minor food faux pas (‘False step’ in French) will be forgiven. There were a few ‘false steps’ and they were forgiven!
The first glitch came with the entrée. I decided upon a version of pea and ham soup with parmesan foam served with hot home- made crescent rolls. You see I had recently purchased a foam gun and was itching to glam up my dishes with an artistic squirt! For the soup, I adapted a Damien Pignolet recipe & even if I say so myself, the taste and the texture was sensational, a tried and true marriage of peas, lettuce, leek and herbs….yum! For the ‘ham’ I pan crisped thin slices of pancetta and positioned them atop of the soup…so far so good. What was to be my ‘wow factor’ became a real talking point…still edible and tasty but not quite the effect (or texture) I was looking for. The recipe asked for cream and parmesan to be set with gelatine, chilled and then squirted out of a foam gun…simple enough. Aron was suspect from the start, asking if it was set how would it foam? None the less, I pushed on as per the recipe & suffice it to say I had to dig out the ‘parmesan custard’ and float it in the sea of green soup…still it tasted pretty good even if the original concept was a dim memory. And yes DBN…I think a letter to the chef of the ‘parmesan foam’ is definitely in order…
The main event was planned way back when we first set the date, duck confit, prepared several weeks earlier and resting in its bed of solidified duck fat for the night of our dinner. I served the duck with the classical pairing of braised puy lentils, French beans with garlic and carrots with cream and herbs. I also added a tiny amount of parsley puree sauce. All sounds pretty good, and it was, but the glitch was the duck, was unfortunately not crisp….faux pas!!. Next time I won’t rely on the oven to do the crisping magic, it will be straight into a hot fry pan, skin side down, using some of the fat the duck rested in to do its work.
Continuing on with the French theme …yes I know…predictable….desert was crème brulee, berry compote, home-made vanilla bean ice cream and madeleines (faux pas free).
It was a fun evening with wonderful friends & some good lessons were learned.
Berry compote (Kathryninthekitchen original recipe)
1 punnet of raspberries
1 punnet of strawberries – halved if large
1 tablespoon of caster sugar
1 tablespoon of good balsamic vinegar
50 mls water
Place half the strawberries and raspberries in a pot and add the sugar, water and balsamic vinegar and cook over a low heat until syrupy and the fruit is softened but not totally collapsed.
Once cooled add to the reserved uncooked fruit.