dinner : duck coma

My sweetie is terrible at dropping hints, and I'm equally terrible at taking them.  So while his birthday was still months away, he clearly and repeatedly stated that his ideal birthday dinner would be Blue Ribbon Brooklyn's duck club sandwich.  The problem?  Blue Ribbon Brooklyn hasn't had that sandwich on their menu for years - he knew that, and I knew that, thus I considered the gauntlet well and truly thrown down!

The good news : The entire recipe for that delicious sandwich is widely available
The bad news : The entire recipe for that delicious sandwich is widely available

Mayonnaise from scratch, yeah I can handle that.  Bread from scratch, are you kidding meeee????

Well, I can't remember the last time I followed a recipe to the letter, and I wasn't about to start now, so let's talk shortcuts and substitutions:

  • I am not a baker, I don't enjoy baking, but I can yank a bag of bread off a market shelf like a pro! So I searched for the best store-bought raisin bread I could find.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find any that included walnuts, so I figured out another way to get them into the sandwich.
  • My very favorite way to prepare duck is this method, so I bought two duck breasts and used Alton's recipe, cutting back significantly on the salt and adjusting the cooking time to allow for the absence of bones (about 30  minutes of steaming, 7 minutes in the skillet.
  • While I was fully prepared to make mayonnaise from scratch, I came across a fancy organic version - on the next shelf over from the duck, no less.  It was meant to be!
  • I used some shredded baby kale instead of lettuce because that's what I had on hand.
  • I made a regular single-decker sandwich rather than the traditional double-decker club sandwich - less messy, and fewer calories without sacrificing taste.
Sandwich assembly - raisin toast, fancy mayonnaise, chopped walnuts (told ya I'd sneak them in somewhere), crumbled bacon, thinly sliced duck breast, shredded kale, tomato, red onion, raisin toast.  Sandwich done!  I served it up with some sauteed spinach, and fries from the burger joint on the corner. Rave reviews from the birthday boy!

Aside from the marinating time for the duck, this entire meal came together in less than 90 minutes - including the run to the burger joint, which in my opinion is a birthday miracle!

Wine note: 
What to drink with all this decadent goodness?  Gilles Chabbert Minervois la Liviniere 2010 (same grape blend and geographic region as Ch√Ęteauneuf-du-Pape at a fraction of the price)


dinner : portuguese-ish fish stew

Our usual M.O. for dinner preparations is to decide on the food first, and then pick a wine to match.  But once in a while, we like to mix things up and go the other way.  Vinho Verde is one of my very favorite wines, and we buy it quite frequently, but we often drink it with whatever food we're having - because it goes with so many things.  As a result, we sometimes miss out on its full potential as a food wine.

But tonight I decided to bring the food to the wine and prepare a hearty Portuguese-style fish stew.  I'm careful to say style because people get all huffy when you suggest that your particular version of an ethnic dish hovers in the vicinity of what is truly authentic, whatever that is.  That said, here's my recipe.  I don't like to specify measurements because I rarely measure, so let your taste and judgement guide you.

Sautee some minced garlic, diced red onion and diced fennel in olive oil. Add some fresh thyme, red pepper flakes, diced chorizo, bite-sized cubes of sweet potato and white potato and equal parts clam juice and water.  Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until potatoes are just tender.  Then add bite-sized chunks of fish (I used basa, but any mild,white-fleshed fish is fine) and a few large handfuls of baby kale.  Stir gently to get the fish and greens down under the vegetables. Cover and cook until the fish is done and the baby kale is wilted.  Serve with bread, for soaking up the juice, and of course a nice glass of Vinho Verde.*

*our selection tonight was Gazela Vinho Verde, which usually runs between $6 and $10 a bottle.


dinner : white bean and tomato stew

This was super easy and very tasty!  I've seen many recipes similar to this, but they usually call for poached eggs, and there was no way I was going to attempt egg poaching in my exhausted state. Here are the basics for about 6 servings:

Sautee a diced onion, some red pepper flakes and minced rosemary in olive oil.  When the onion has softened, add two cans of fire-roasted tomatoes with the juice, and 2 cans of white beans (drained and rinsed).  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer for 15 minutes.  Serve in bowls, topped with one or two fried eggs per serving, grated pecorino and shredded basil.  You might also want to have some crusty bread for soaking up the juices.  

Not the prettiest picture... I had already taken a few bites before I remembered to get  a photo.

I used low-sodium versions of the canned products, but feel free to use the salted versions, or add salt to taste.