Friday, November 07, 2008

Weekend dinners: duck and bean soup, seared duck breasts

It’s been raining hard for two days straight and while we might get a break later this afternoon it will start again tonight. Time to pull down the soup pot and clean out the supplies of stock in the freezer.

Today Dave is picking up a duck for me at an Asian supermarket. I’ve put small white beans on to cook with savory, thyme, and garlic and pulled out a quart of double-strength duck stock. This will be the start of a duck and bean soup that takes its source flavors from French cassoulet. I love cassoulet but don’t keep all the bits on hand that go in for a really authentic one. I'll add some onions cooked with homemade pancetta to the pot when the beans are tender. The cooked beans will rest until Sunday. In the meantime, tonight I will cut up the fresh duck. I will put a curing rub (salt, sugar, pink salt, lavender) on the legs and season the breasts, and refrigerate both.

Tomorrow afternoon I will poach the duck legs in duck fat for about four hours, making duck confit. The duck breasts we will have for dinner on Saturday night, with blue cheese polenta, carrots, and a green salad. I’ve been poaching some pears in a red wine syrup with vanilla and star anise, and I suspect we’ll have those for dessert if we don’t gobble them all down tonight.

On Sunday morning I will add some tomato paste and the duck confit to the beans I cooked today. I also have a chicken breast and thighs that I poached in duck fat that I will pull out of the freezer and add to the pot. I will slow cook this in the oven for several hours, and then add a breadcrumb crust to the top of it and cook it some more. After the crust gets really crisp, I will stir it into the rest of the beans. This is a pretty classic part of a cassoulet recipe. By dinner time on Sunday, it should be ready to eat. Some crusty bread and a green salad with some cheese, and we’re good to go.

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