Two words: duck and figs. I was watching Fine Living Network after dinner one night (I know, it’s so embarrassing…), and they were showing a classic Emeril Live! The big guy (who, having done cooking on live-tape TV myself, is incredible in what he pulls off) was gushing over duck, and I think the entire episode may have been about duck. Alton Brown did a duck episode a few years back, but it involves cast iron pans and while we have one, I haven’t cured it in fat yet (still, actually). I have wanted to go for duck for so long, but without direction, these urges have never come to fruition.
I had been more than a little depressed about having to do Thanksgiving at my in-laws, only because I don’t do the holiday cooking when we’re there. So the weekend before, I decided to go for it. Elizabeth found an incredible meat counter at the Citarella’s at 75th St. They stock fresh Long Island Pekin duck, the ancestors of a few ducks brought to the US from China in the 1870’s (more on this later). I needed a simple and traditional preparation that would allow me to focus on the birdie and so, I did what I always do in this situation: I took out the Silver Spoon, tossed it to the wife and asked her to pick us a winner.
I should have guessed what would come of this. Duck and Figs. It’s a simple and delicious as it sounds. The recipe calls for 5 lbs of figs, which at today’s rates would run you just over $50, so we settled on 2 lbs, which was perfect. [Ed.--the figs were also on the large side (definitely not Mission figs), so had we purchased more than we did we would have been overwhelmed.] Essentially, you oven roast the duck at 400 degrees F for and hour or so than make a sauce out of the duck fat, the raw liver and red, red wine. The figs get roasted for a few minutes afterwards and it all gets served family style on one big plate with fried bread crumbs. I loved that while not at all cheap, there were so few ingredients, we could focus on making them great, both in purchasing and preparation.
As alluded to above, I was watching my beloved Good Eats tonight an lo and behold, he roasts a duck for Christmas dinner. What’s more, he employs a battery of tricks to ensure perfect cooking and crisp skin that are brilliantly unorthodox. I guess it’s just inspiration for next time and now that the beast has been demystified, I will go forth without fear. Until then, dear readers, cook on!