Duck Day 2014 Menu: what we cooked for Thanksgiving this year

If you’re new to following me and my partner corwin, our Thanksgiving meal is a Big Deal. corwin has been cooking duck for “Duck Day” ever since he got to college in 1986 and cooked Thanksgiving dinner for himself for the first time. He and I got together in November 1991 and I joined the tradition right away.

In recent years we’ve gotten into “molecular gastronomy” and have experimented with various cuisines. Our style tends to be postmodern, we’re not above puns whether verbal or visual in our dishes, and we tend toward Asian fusion, which makes tackling a theme like this years–Traditional French!–a very interesting challenge indeed.

Full menu under the cut. I have links to many recipes and variations.

Edit: Next day, I’ve added the intended recipes and photos and links.

I photographed and video’d much of the cooking and the finished dishes on Instagram:

Likewise on Twitter (use hashtag #duckday): https://twitter.com/hashtag/duckday?src=hash

After the French revolution, restaurants sprang up all around Paris as out-of-work chefs opened eateries to support themselves. In the early days, chaos reigned in these establishments until Auguste Escoffier imposed the order we know today as the “classic” 17-course French meal. Play along and match which of the 17 courses listed below match up to the 14 we are serving tonight! (Some count as more than one!)

1. Hors d’oeuvre (appetizer) • 2. Potage (soup) • 3. Oeufs (eggs) • 4. Farineaux (rice & pasta) • 5. Poisson (fish) • 6. Entrée (entry of 1st meat course) • 7. Sorbet (flavoured water) • 8. Reléve (meat course) • 9. Rôti (roast) • 10. Légumes (vegetables) • 11. Salades (salad) • 12. Buffet Froid (cold meats) • 13. Entremet de sûcre (sweets) • 14. Savoureaux (savory) • 15. Fromage (cheese) • 16. Desserts (self-explanatory) • 17. Cafe (coffee)

Duck Day 2014 Menu

“Bouillabaisse” (1)
—Oyster in saffron-tomato-lobster broth
Recipe: Made this one up from scratch. Bought the oysters fresh at New Deal Seafood in Cambridge, MA, one of our fair city’s oldest family-owned businesses. Served them raw with a dash of the broth in the shell, with a little teacup of hot broth on the side. For the broth, corwin made lobster stock. Then I made a mirepoix of fine-diced carrot-celery-onion, sauteed it until nearly colorless and translucent, then activated saffron threads & a dash of smoked paprika in the oil. Added our home-made smoked tomato water (corwin cans all our tomato product) and the lobster stock and reduced it down until it was so delicious we could barely stand to save it for guests.

We like to deconstruct traditional dishes. Hence "bouillabaisse" #duckday

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“French Quarter” (cocktail course, not in Escoffier)
—A Vieux Carré cocktail scientifique!
This was actually a Sazerac slush served with a sphere of vermouth, bitters, & grenadine.
The sphere was made via the frozen spherification technique, borrowing a mold from a foodie friend and using the alginate and gluco we already had on hand, because we’re mad science like that.

corwin making the cocktail with LN2

(Thanks, Alex, for the photo.)

“Orange à la Duck”
—honey & thyme-oil roasted orange slice, brulee, with ras el hanout orange sphere, and “duck sauce”
Recipes: Thyme oil–put fresh thyme leaves into good olive oil, let sit for a couple of days. Brush on the orange slice. Brush on some honey. Let sit in the hot oven for a bit. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Then apply the Searzall. (It might work in the broiler but we did it with the Searzall.) The orange sphere was also made by the frozen reverse spherification technique. The liquid was made by boiling whole spices found in ras el hanout (mace, cloves, cinnamon stick, peppercorn, ginger, star anise, coriander seed, etc…) in Cointreau, adding to sugar syrup, then a dash of fresh orange juice. And the “duck sauce” was made with shallots, the duck stock corwin had made previously, and… I don’t know what else he put in it. Magic. Reduce reduce reduce. (Update: he says he sauteed shallots in butter, made that into a white roux, added red wine and my homemade ras al hanout.) It was so good everybody licked the plates.

If I was going to do one thing to improve this dish it would be to make the duck sauce a prettier color. It was a bit mauve-grey.

Many of the spices found in Ras el Hanout, simmering in Cointreau.

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Orange a la duck. Roasted orange with a duck sauce & spherified ras el hanout Cointreau. #duckday

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Reverse spherification, frozen technique 3:25 am #duckday

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Corn Velouté with crème fraîche, cubed potatoes, and house-cured duck bacon(2) (and a sprig of fresh chervil)

Recipes: You make duck bacon the way you make pork bacon, except you start with duck and it helps to have a smoker in the back yard and a nut like corwin who likes to tend the fire outdoors on a cold day. corwin used a maple bacon cure and then chopped the result into lardons and fried them crisp to add to the soup. The velouté came from a recipe in Joel Robuchon’s big cookbook, I believe. We had saved kernels from the excess of summer sweet corn we got from our farm share, and then also bought some frozen corn on the cob from Whole Foods so we could make corn stock from the cobs. I fried the potatoes by making a very very tiny dice and frying half of a potato’s worth at a time in a large skillet. Time-consuming but delicious. The crème fraîche we made by putting some buttermilk in some cream a couple of days beforehand and letting it sit out for a while. (Yes, crème fraîche is that easy.)

Corn velouté with duck lardons, crisp potato cubes, creme fraiche. #duckday

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“Battleship Risotto”
—Onsen (sous vide) duck egg served sushi style on porcini risotto with nori confett and white truffle
Recipes: The idea here was to have an egg course (with truffle) that would resemble the raw quail egg one gets with sushi, but to make it more quintessentially European. So the rice underneath is actually a mushroom and parmesan risotto (cooked in porcini stock), decorated with nori confetti (made by putting sheets of torn nori into the food processor). Unlike a “real” risotto which is supposed to not stick together, of course, we made it glom together on purpose to form the base for each egg. They sell fresh duck eggs at H-Mart, the Korean super-grocery. Put them in the sous vide at 62.5 C for 50 minutes. Sprinkle with flake sea salt and shave a white truffle on the top.

If I was going to change one thing about the dish it would be to come up with either a way to make the confetti look “neater,” or perhaps intersperse it with something of a contrasting color to make it look more festive and less like a pile of newly raked leaves in the yard.

Duck egg sous vide on a "battleship" sushi style on mushroom risotto & nori confetti #duckday

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“French Toast”
—Duck confit croquette on brioche French toast, with toasted cumin beurre blanc and a maple-red-wine-vinegar caramel
Recipes: We couldn’t resist the pun. This is kind of our version of “chicken and waffle.” I made the duck confit croquette by taking the confit duck meat (done 12 hours in the sous vide–our trusty Sansaire, which got use a LOT in this meal–with each leg in a package with 1 TBS duck fat and some cinnamon, herbs, and other spices). I shredded the confit of 8 duck legs, added one finely minced celery stalk, finely minced parsley, the bread crumbs from two slices of recently baked wheat bread toast, and some egg whites, and kneaded it until the proteins developed a little and the meat was glomming together. I rolled them into golf-ball sized oblong croquettes and refrigerated them until later. At service time, I dipped them in egg wash and then panko and fried them in 1/4″ of oil, turning them to get each side. The caramel was based on a recipe from Serious Eats with the addition of half a cup of red wine vinegar to the maple syrup and sugar mixture. I think we could have used even more vinegar, but half a cup is enough to cut the sweetness and give the hint of something savory. When put on the french toast, the caramel melted. Toasted cumin beuree blanc: toast ground cumin in a pan. Make beurre blanc separately and toss the cumin in it. French toast: corwin spent 2 days baking the perfect brioche loaves. After that I think he mostly did traditional egg dip and fry. (I was busy the the croquettes and didn’t see everything he did. Update: he says he added cinnamon and sherry to the batter. Also, kudos to local eatery and live music venue The Sinclair, which was where we got the idea for the duckmeat croquette in this style, which is not as creamy-gushy as, say, the chicken croquettes you get at tapas restaurants.)

corwin baked brioche

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The french toast, croquette, and caramel all worked together beautifully but had the drawback of being a fairly huge and heavy dish for what is a large and long meal. But hey, French is the original go big or go home cuisine, non?

Brioche French toast with duck confit croquettes & red wine vinegar caramels & toasted cumin beurre Blanc #duckday

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Palate cleanser: (Escoffier also doesn’t have an intermezzo.)
Lime-basil sorbet with Prosecco
Recipes: Here’s one corwin used from FineDinings.com. This recipe has the freeze-first, then re-blend and freeze again technique. Since we have liquid nitrogen in our kitchen stock it’s relatively easy for us to whip up sorbet. All I can say about this is DAMN IT WAS GOOD. And highly needed after the sweet, heavy french toast course.

corwin pouring the palate cleanser. #duckday

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Lime basil sorbet in ramekins the size of a quarter. #duckday

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I did not get a photo of the finished intermezzo. I was in the kitchen frying the next course already.

—Vietnamese crepe served taco style with refried white beans, duck Toulouse sausage, and duck confit “carnitas,” with optional house-made sambal chili paste
Recipes: So, a few years ago we deconstructed a cassoulet by serving the parts separately on the plate: white beans, sausage, duck confit. This time we took it to another level by making it both Asian fusion and a visual pun on being a taco. The idea for this came from something we had at a Vietnamese restaurant recently that was listed as “Vietnamese crepe.” Crepes are French, I thought. But this is a rice flour crepe. I experimented with several recipes for Bánh Xèo, ranging from vietnamese food blogs to Emeril. The ones that involved coconut milk tasted TOO coconutty for this dish (though they were GREAT with fried shrimp, which we ate the test recipe with a few days before). Ultimately I gave up and made my own recipe, using heavy cream and leaving out the turmeric. (How French?) It was one cup heavy cream, two pinches of salt, 1/3 cup rice flour, 1/3 cup SWEET rice flour, 1/3 cup mung bean flour, plus about a half cup of HOT water. Mix everything but the hot water together, then whisk in the hot water until all the cream lumps have smoothed out. Leave to hydrate the rice flour for one hour. Unlike the other recipes, this one didn’t need to be constantly remixed to keep the rice flour from separating out. Fry on very hot griddle to make lacey crispy crepe. I made them small and folded them over cannoli forms to turn them into “taco shells.” Inside, each was served with refried white cassoulet beans (Rancho Gordo sells THE traditional cassoulet bean), which corwin prepared with garlic and herbs by slow cooking them, then mashing and refrying them. He also made his own Toulouse sausage (to replace the “chorizo” of a taco), and we seared shredded confit to make duck “carnitas.” And I made a red cabbage slaw: shred red cabbage, toss with red wine vinegar, whole mustard seeds, fresh thyme, and minced shallots. Let sit for 1-2 days, shaking the container every so often.

This dish came out perfect.

Cassoulet reimagined (by me) as an Asian fusion taco. Trust me, it worked. #duckday

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“Canard au Sang”
—Roast duck breast served with traditional French “pressed” sauce and burgundy truffle. Served with French bread.

“Canard au Sang, Part Deux—Salades”
—Traditional second portion of Canard au Sang: shredded duck leg tossed with viniagrette and greens

And for the finale, whole roasted ducks done in the traditional style, aka Pressed Duck. This came from Lucky Peach issue #3, where they figured out that you don’t need a thousand dollar duck press, you can do it with am Amish Cheese Press for a couple hundred–or as corwin then thought, with the sausage stuffer we already own! Video:

Pressed duck! Using a sausage stuffer! #duckday

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Cheese Selection:
Boule de Chevre (Belgium, goat)
Tomme de Verbier (Switzerland, cow)
Cabra Raiano (Portugal, goat)
Challerhocker (Switzerland, cow)
Stichelton (U.K., cow)
Comte Extra Gran Cru (aged 36 months, France, cow)

The cheese came from Formaggio. All we did was eat it. Thanks again Alex for the photo:

Missing: Boule de Chevre. It was going around.
Missing: Boule de Chevre. It was going around.

Tarte au citron meringuée (yuzu, orange, lemon)
Moscato-braised Pineapple with French vanilla ice cream

Recipes: I ended up making the eclairs based on the recipe in “Fundamental Techniques of Classic Pastry Arts,” which is a massive book, but excellent. I like a book that helps you get your mise en place AND equipment together, especially when cooking this much in such a short period of time.

Forgot to post a photo of the mini eclairs I made. #duckday

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I also ended up baking the pate sablee for the crust of the Yuzu Tart based on the recipe and instructions in Fundamental Techniques. Except I waited 3 hours for the butter to come to temperature and forgot I only needed 150 grams of it, not the full two sticks (226 grams) I used. Oops. Except it came out GREAT. Pate sablee is like making all butter shortbread, except it’s a pie crust. It’s VERY FRAGILE which meant keeping it in the tart pan, but so what. The recipe for the yuzu curd in the tart came from the Matching Food and Wine blog, except we used the zest of two oranges instead of four lemons. So it was yuzu-lemon-orange tart and it was KICK YOUR FACE OFF CITRUSY. I mean that in a good way. The meringue mellowed it a lot.

Unbaked pate sablee, aka all-butter tart shell. #duckday

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The baked pate sablee, to be cooled and filled. #duckday

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A very wide flat tart on its way to being triple citrus meringue. (yuzu, lemon, orange) #duckday

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A finished slice of the yuzu lemon orange meringue tart. #duckday

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corwin finished the meringue with the Searzall. Because when you have a Searzall you want to Sear All.

Making meringue with the searzall. #duckday

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corwin got the recipe for the Pineapple from Thomas Keller’s UNDER PRESSURE. The pineapple is cooked sous vide and corwin made a French (of course) vanilla ice cream to serve with it.

It appears no one took a photo of the pineapple. When it was still in its bag from the sous vide it looks like a stained glass window: the pineapple gets translucent.

—Truffles of white chocolate (lavender or rose), dark chocolate ginger
I used these recipes, with the following modifications:
White Truffles came from Ina Garten, except I split it into two batches, and instead of Bailey’s Irish Cream in one of them I put a dash of rose water and a single drop of red food coloring. In the other I heated up two lavender Earl Grey tea bags in a quarter cup of heavy cream until the cream had reduced to half. To finish them instead of using nuts (bleah) or dark chocolate I put nitrile gloves on and rolled the hardened but rough looking truffles into smooth spheres between my hot little palms.
Dark truffles I used a Food Network recipe but I added about a third of a cup of King’s Ginger liqueur. Actually I’m not sure on the amount. Maybe it was a quarter cup? Until it looked right. I rolled these once hardened in my palms and then rolled them in cocoa powder.

I handmade these truffles. Rose, chocolate ginger, white chocolate lavender. #duckday

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