Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Best Lap Cat

Paolo, my treasured lap cat had to be put to sleep on Monday September 17th due to ongoing health problems. When I first got him, a friend said he is too feral to become a good house cat. That was many years ago, and he became a wonderful friend and good companion, especially when he was sitting (napping) on my lap. This is an older picture of Paolo (left) and his good friend (and mine too), Lucia. I rescued Lucia from the office parking garage and Paolo showed up a short while later to help her eat her food. The rest is history. He was my good buddy and Lucia and I will both miss him. 

And a special mention is in order to Dr. Simon and the staff at The Cat Doctors in Tampa for their loving care over the years.

May there be an abundance of cat treats in Cat Heaven, Paolo.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Duck Two Ways - Updated

The post on Duck Two Ways from yesterday was missing some important information. First, I couldn't remember how Carol prepared her wonderful pork tenderloin. She has filled in the gap in my memory. Directly from her email... "The pork was coated with fennel seeds and cooked in a sauce of fennel,wine, chicken broth, garlic or whatever spices you might choose that would go with the fennel." Yummy! Thanks again Carol.

Frank also had a couple of good suggestions on the Seared Duck in Fig Sauce. As mentioned in the post you may have to reduce the sauce longer than recommended in the recipe to get the right consistency. You could also achieve the consistency you want by using less liquid such as the chicken broth - less liquid to reduce and less time to do so.

His second suggestion is to put the finished duck in a low (200 degree) oven to keep it warm while the sauce is reducing, but don't let it over cook. The duck is best served medium rare - in our opinion.

Quack I Say

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Duck Two Ways

Quack Quack !! Over the last couple of weeks I have enjoyed roast duck breast twice. The first at K Restaurant in the quaint  College Park section of Orlando, followed by an "At Home" preparation last Friday. Both were wonderful. 

Labor Day weekend found us a our good friend Carol's home in Mount Dora. Carol is a foodie and a very good cook in her own right. We have dined at most of the good restaurants in Mount Dora in the past so this trip we decided to branch out to Orlando. We made reservations at K Restaurant and Wine Bar which is located in an old house in this old neighborhood. The service was good and the food was even better. 

I opted for the Duck l'orange served with a side salad, and duck fat roasted cubed potatoes, it doesn't get any better than that. The duck was a perfect medium rare with crispy skin, and the l'orange sauce was superb. There were even bits of candied orange peel in the sauce.

Carol enjoyed the Mussels in a Tomato Broth with an Arugula Salad with sun-dried cranberries, candied pecans, blue cheese and a wonderful house-made grain mustard dressing. Very good!

Frank selected the Penne a la Vodka which he gave a double thumbs up. I was "allowed" to try a bite of Frank's and Carol's selections and would gladly order either on another visit.  The menu changes daily so you never know what might be offered next time, but I would like to return. Highly recommended. 

On Sunday, Carol prepared a sumptuous Pork Tenderloin cooked to a perfect degree of doneness. Maybe Carol would be so kind to remind me what the sauce was on the pork - I only remember how much I enjoyed the meal. Thank you Carol.

About a week later, this past Friday, we decided to fix our own Ducky-Duck dish at my place. We were inspired by a segment from the Kelsey Nelson series on the cooking channel - Kelsey's Essentials. She prepared a Seared Duck Breast with Fig Sauce. (The recipe will follow at the end of the post). 

A touch of sweetness in a duck sauce is aways a good addition, and the fig sauce was a perfect accompaniment.  Frank ended up doing most of the cooking as I wasn't up to 100%. He did a wonderful job of preparing the duck to a delicious medium rare. (Notice a trend here on how we like our duck prepared). He served it with Haricot Verts Almondine with lemon and shallots. We will prepare the duck recipe again - it is a keeper. If you are not a friend of the duck, I would suggest the sauce on a pork tenderloin - it should work great.

What can I say, we enjoy good food whether prepared in a restaurant or at home. All of these meals exceeded our expectations.

That's all I'm Saying 

Seared Duck Breast with Fig Sauce

45 min
10 min
Inactive Prep:
5 min
30 min

4 servings

                Four 6-ounce boneless duck breasts, skin scored in crosshatches, at room temperature
                Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
                1 teaspoon vegetable oil


                1 shallot, minced
                3/4 cup dry sherry
                1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
                1/4 cup fig jam
                1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
                Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
                2 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
                Fresh chives, chopped, for garnish

For the duck breasts: Sprinkle each duck breast liberally with salt and pepper. Heat the vegetable oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat. Add the duck skin-side down and reduce the heat to low, cooking as the fat slowly renders and the skin becomes crispy, 8 to 10 minutes.

Once the skin is crispy and golden brown, flip and continue cooking until a thermometer reads 128 to 130 degrees F when inserted into the thickest part of the breast (for medium-rare doneness), 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate or cutting board and allow to rest about 5 minutes. It will carryover cook to about 135 degrees F. Don't tent with foil in order to ensure the duck skin will stay crispy.

For the fig sauce: Pour off all but 1 or 2 tablespoons of fat from the skillet, reserving the excess for another use. Over medium heat, add the shallots and cook until softened. Add the sherry and reduce by half. Next, add the chicken broth, fig jam and balsamic vinegar, and continue simmering until the sauce has thickened and is syrupy, another 5 to 7 minutes. (It took more time to reduce the sauce - more like 10 minutes – just watch it until it reached the right consistence. My comment) Remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper and whisk in the butter. Garnish with chopped chives.

Serve the sauce alongside thinly sliced duck breast.

Haricots Verts Almondine

25 min
10 min
Inactive Prep:
15 min

6 servings
                Kosher salt
                1/4 cup almonds
                1 1/2 pounds haricots verts (French string beans), root ends removed
                3 tablespoons unsalted butter
                1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
                2 shallots, minced
                Freshly cracked black pepper
                1/2 lemon, zested and juiced

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, toast the almonds over medium-high heat until golden brown and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the pan, finely chop and set aside.
Blanch the string beans in salted boiling water until crisp but tender, 2 to 3 minutes. The salt will impart flavor as well as help keep the string beans crisp. Immediately drain and run cold water over the beans or plunge into an ice bath to cool and stop the cooking process, then remove and completely dry.
Return the saute pan to the burner over medium heat and melt the butter with the olive oil. Add the shallots, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook until starting to brown, stirring occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes. Toss the drained beans with the shallots and add the lemon zest and juice. Cook to heat the beans completely through, 1 to 2 minutes.
Remove from the heat and season with additional salt and pepper if needed. Toss with the toasted chopped almonds and transfer to a serving dish.