Considering I was spending Christmas at someone else’s house, cooking for myself did not need to be an all-out feast of eight courses. But! No one said it wasn’t going to be delicious and in keeping with the Christmas traditions and what is required at the table over the season. So early Christmas for one – finger/plate licking success!
For my appetizer, I had a bit of foie gras with a crusty baguette, the caramelized onions and some arugula. Oh, and wine bien sûr! I am sorry for anyone reading this in the States and other places where foie gras is banned and you can’t find it. There is nothing like it. I can’t describe it and I can’t tell you how to make it. Maybe I can tell you how to cook the raw one, but again, no one will be feeding the bird in their back yard…. Some of my favourite cheeses I can find somewhere, maybe with a bit of difficulty, but they are out there. Foie gras on the other hand….. (to put it in perspective how much I will miss it, there was a bit of a kerfuffle at the checkout counter with the little container of foie gras I was buying, that I had to pay for my groceries, then go out, and go back in the supermarket and find someone to help me actually buy it. Nothing was going to stand between me and the fat liver!)
What is nice with foie gras is pain d’épices, spice cake, with Christmas spices. I believe what comes close to this is gingerbread. But made like a coffee cake, not crunchy cookie. So, since I didn’t want to pay a lot of money (seriously, fits in the palm of your hand, costs as much as the foie gras I bought!) and didn’t have the time to make it, so I decided to get inspired by it. Also, I wanted some sauce (think chutneys in India) to go with the foie gras, and I thought of onion confit (onion marmalade). I don’t know if that is what I made. Simply, let’s call it caramelized onions with pain d’épices spices. Kill two birds with one stone! I win! 🙂
I have wanted to cook duck breast for so long. Oh, and what I also want to make is duck confit. From start to finish. Today’s dinner would’ve been so awesome done with some duck fat instead of olive oil…. Day dreams, eh… So, on my small budget what I could afford was aiguillette de canard, duck fillet. I don’t have pictures of the process of cooking it, cause they looked a bit suggestive, the pieces, (ahem)…. (Remember how Julie Powell made fun of Julia Child’s writing and how things sounded like soft porn?! Yeah, well I am not posting suggestive pictures LOL I don’t feel that comfortable yet!)
Ok, lastly, the lentils. This is the bare bones of a lentil salad by David Lebovitz. I have never eaten lentils in my entire life, only because I grew up with only one kind I hate to this day. But as I moved out of home and discovered other kinds, I am now in love with lentils and if I can, I will (I am!) have it every day. I think I am now swearing till my death by David’s salad. I urge you to go find it. It will change your life. Also, an important note: we’re talking about lentils de Puy here, the special French green lentils. They taste a bit different and hold their shape when they’re cooked. You can use other green lentils but it won’t be quite the same.
Ingredients for the caramelized onions:
3 smallish onions (or 2 large ones) chopped in thin rings
1 tbsp olive oil
2 mm slice of butter
salt & pepper
sprinkling of sugar, teaspoon (?)
¼ – ½ tsp honey
1/8 tsp 4 spice mix (think gingerbread spices, if this is too much spices, use less, you really need very little)
1 tsp Maille’s Vinaigre Balsamique de Modene (I guess use any balsamic vinegar, but believe me, there is nothing like Maille’s, you can drink it straight from the bottle!)
½ tsp herbes de Provence (or just a bit of thyme)
1. Warm up the olive oil and butter.
2. Throw in the onions, salt and pepper. Give them a stir to coat them with the oil. Lower the heat and give them the occasional stir until they start softening up. Keep it on medium to medium low, you don’t want them to start burning.
3. Sprinkle with the sugar. Stir. After 1 minute, add the honey, stir. Add the 4 spice mix and herbes de Provence. Keep stirring for maybe 10 minutes (probably the longest you’ll work for this entire recipe)
4. When they start getting the caramelization, wait until they’re all a nice golden-ish colour, (but watch, we’re not at the burning, stick-to-the pan point! ) add the vinegar to scrape up the bits off the bottom. It is still too little vinegar to scrape up everything (feel free to add more if you like), so it will evaporate pretty quickly and be ready to remove from the heat, cause it might burn, depending how high you have it (watch out when you add the vinegar, because the acid will be the first to escape and it’s not pleasant to inhale it) Reserve at room temperature till ready to serve. (don’t wash the pan you used, maybe give it a wipe, you can use it for the duck; I think I deliberately did this, hoping some of the spices left in the pan won’t hurt the duck, don’t know if it makes a difference)
Ingredients for the lentils:
1 cup of lentils de Puy
2 sprigs of thyme (or 1 tsp herbes de Provence (I had no thyme, so I experimented, not bad)
salt & pepper
1 tsp Dijon mustard à l’ancienne
1 tsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp Maille’s Vinaigre Balsamique de Modene
½ tsp herbes de Provence
1. Rinse the lentils under cold water. Put them in a large sauce pan and cover with an inch or two of water. (They need to have more water to swim in, but you’re still not making pasta, so don’t go water-crazy (who has the time to wait for that to come to a boil?!)) Add the thyme (or the herbes de Provence).
2. Once they’re boiling, lower the heat to medium and add the salt. Leave them with the lid open a crack and they should be done within 25 mins. Check them, they should have a bit of a bite, but not falling apart. Strain and let them cool.
3. Make the vinaigrette by mixing in the salt, pepper, mustard, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and ½ tsp herbes de Provence in a large bowl. Add the drained lentils and stir. Taste. You might like to have more vinegar, I sometimes do. This salad is awesome cold too, or heated up. But then I feel it dries out (maybe they soak up all the juice hahah) so I always add more vinegar. The salad can handle it, trust me. Reserve at room temperature till ready to serve.
Ingredients for the duck fillet:
4 small duck fillets
salt and peper
1 tbsp olive oil
drizzle of honey
1. Rinse and dry the fillets and sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides.
2. Warm the olive oil and add the fillets. They need maybe 2 minutes per side.
3. When you flip the over the other side to continue cooking, drizzle the honey.
4. Flip them around twice more so that all sides kind of get covered with the juices and the honey.
Serve yourself, sit down, you deserved it. I had with this a glass of 2011 Merlot-Grenache from Cellier des Dauphins. I liked the wine, but it may have been a bit too sweet-on-sweet with the onions, but I didn’t mind. Considering the gingerbread spices I was thinking of Riesling or Gewürztramminer, but I didn’t feel like white wine because of the duck. This may not have been the perfect wine pairing, but still, go with what you like.