Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The Way to Cook

Remember the movie Julie and Julia about the young woman who decided to cook all the recipes in Julia Childs cookbook and that undertaking was juxtaposed off Meryl Streep's portrayal of the life of Julia Childs? I kept thinking about that movie last night while I prepared dinner for friends because I was using Childs book The Way to Cook.

I had a duck in the freezer that I wanted to cook. I have only cooked duck a couple of times and none of those times are recent....more like 15 or 20 years ago. I don't even remember how I cooked the duck. I have friends who are wonderful cooks and they are always up for an experiment. So I invited them over for the duck cooking experiment.

I could have just stuck the duck in the oven to roast but I wanted to do more than that. I mentioned to my friend that I needed a recipe for the duck and she said to look at The Way to Cook. Sure enough, Childs had several ways to cook a duck. I decided on the "steam/roast" method although I didn't have the big roasting pan with a rack. I really could have used those pieces of equipment but I made do although it was messier than I expected. She suggested separating the leg and wing joints from the body before you cook and then trussing the openings back together. I didn't do that but it became very apparent when we went to carve the duck that those instructions were a good idea.

Julia also recommended garnishing the duck platter with cooked prunes and apples, each cooked with separate recipes. But her recipes called for two pounds of prunes and eight to ten apples. Mmmm...the duck would only, at the most, serve four people. I couldn't see the three of us consuming two pounds of prunes or ten apples. Even my apple pie recipe only uses five or six apples. I cut those recipes in half.

In addition, I prepared wild rice and steamed broccoli. The duck was tender and moist in the legs as well as the breast, the skin was crispy and it really looked beautiful when it came out of the oven. Dessert was a dark chocolate mousse.

This was my first attempt at cooking for friends without Ned. Although he didn't do any of the cooking he was a great errand runner, patio cleaner, last minute dish washer, grill master and bartender. What I learned from this dinner party was to have the bar set up and designate the first guest to arrive as the bartender. Have the maid and maybe even the gardener come the day of the party. Make lists, get organized and get all the shopping done several days ahead of time. Small guest list. Informal party where people can sit at the bar or in the dining room while I finish off dinner or they can help dress the salad and pour water. Since the kitchen is open to the dining room just forget about the way the kitchen looks. It is what it is. The food is more important.

And the other thing I learned is that I still enjoy cooking and I like trying new recipes. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't work as well. Ned was always game to try anything I wanted to cook. So, I'm looking for guests who are willing to be a part of one of my cooking experiments.


Babs said...

As long as its not duck, I'll be there! My "duck" episode ruined me for life!
Sounds like you had a great evening....

Steve Cotton said...

I will eat duck prepared in any fashion. Of course, I will eat next to anything -- in any fashion.

alcuban said...

The few times I've had duck it turned out to be greasy, but I'm sure that between you and Julia you've figured out a better way.


Billie Mercer said...

Al, someone else just told me that when they had duck it was greasy. This wasn't greasy at all. I think it is because you steam it, then braise it and then roast.

Mexico Cooks! said...

Billie! Did you take a picture of the duck? Inquiring minds want to know.

Julia Child always had an important reason for what she wrote in her recipes. She has taught me a LOT over the course of the years.

RIP Julia, RIP Ned. God bless them both for being part of your dinner for friends.