Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Supporting local food production, getting high quality ingredients, being challenged with new and unusual foodstuffs, learning what happens to the things you eventually put in your body... there are so many reasons to love farmer's markets, I don't think I could list them all if I tried. My local market just reopened from the winter hiatus. It's a little thing, hosting no more than a handful of stalls any given week, but compared to the goods at the grocery store ("America's Most European Supermarket!" - gag me) it's well worth the weekly pilgrimages to quality food. But since I would do my little market a great injustice by singing its praises insufficiently, I think I'm going to stop while I'm ahead. Instead, I'm going to talk about one thing about it that has me jumping up and down. And that thing is...


Since moving to Chicago, I have encountered many interesting diets. Some are borne out of necessity (allergies, diabetes), and some of personal choice. With the exception of Zuckerberg's new diet, I can't think of any that are so overtly bizarre as to throw me for a loop. A little odd, sure. But friends who are vegetarian, vegan, kosher, allergic, or adherents to a particular culinary denomination are all welcome in my kitchen. In the meantime, however, I will remain happily omnivorous; I'll eat anything. Except licorice. Y'all can keep that shit to yourselves.

Moxie, on the other hand, is a locavore when it comes to meat. Make no mistake: she loves the stuff, but doesn't want to eat faceless-industry-processed muck. A fair opinion to have for an old farmhand. The issue is, what is local (and accessible) during a Chicago winter, when we live down in the south side? The answer: not much. Stray cat, maybe. Or the odd fattened rodent, if you care to catch it yourself (Zuckerberg?)

The result is that we've been eating mostly vegetarian during cold months. It hasn't been an issue: I have the odd meat dish when she's not around, and it's not difficult for either of us to get enough protein. But occasionally, that's not enough. There's a craving that arises. And sometimes, we heathen flesh-eaters - must - have - MEAT.

And now we can! Hallelujah and bless the farmer's market! To celebrate its reopening, we probably bought enough meat to last us a month, plus some other goodies (because, y'know, why not?). And to further mark the occasion, we planned to make a dish that I've been eyeing for a long time now -- to be precise, since I first got a copy of The Silver Palate, when Neen marked "Duck with Forty Cloves of Garlic" with 4.5 stars and the comment "use chicken!" Ultimately, we used two Cornish hens. Then joined forces with another apartment couple to have a spontaneous dinner party feast.

You may still be reeling from the title of this dish, in which case, further mention will probably throw you back into a frenzy. Yes, it actually does use 40 cloves of garlic. And it's delicious.

I'll wait for you to recover. Better? Good. 40 cloves of garlic! Blücher!

In all seriousness (hah), this dish deserves every bit of those 4.5 stars. Don't worry - since you roast the fowl with the cloves still in their skins, you won't be overwhelming the meat with a super-intense astringency. Instead, you enrich the moist bird with a faint je-ne-sais-quoi, giving it depth and flavour. The garlic is then added to the vinegary gravy, whose creaminess (coming from a stick of butter) is enough to tame it. As a whole, this recipe is a study in how to take disparate and pucker-worthy tastes and combine them to form a rich and satisfying meal. Definitely a celebratory meal.

"Duck" with Forty Cloves of Garlic
  • 1 duck, 4.5-5 lbs, fresh or thoroughly defrosted // or equivalent in other fowl
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onions
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
  • 1,1/2 cups chicken stock or canned chicken broth
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 3 parsley sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 40 large garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbs sherry vinegar
  • 1 Tbs Crème de Cassis (black currant liqueur) // I skipped this
  • 8 Tbs (1 stick) sweet butter, chilled
  • chopped parsley (garnish)
Remove neck and giblets from the duck; save the liver for another use. Chop neck, heart, and gizzard. Cut off wing tips. Remove all possible fat from the duck's cavity and prick the skin all over with a fork. Salt the inside and outside of the duck and set it in a shallow baking pan just large enough to hold it comfortably. Set aside.

Heat the vegetable oil in a small saucepan, add chopped giblets and wing tips, and brown over high heat. Season with salt and pepper, reduce heat, and add the onions and carrots. Cover and cook until vegetables are tender and lightly colored, about 20min.

Add the chicken stock, thyme, parsley and bay leaf, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, partially cover, and simmer while the duck roasts.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Separate the heads of garlic into cloves, discarding the papery skin from the heads; do not peel the cloves. Select about 6 of the largest cloves and stuff them into the duck. Arrange the rest of the garlic around the duck.

Set the pan on the middle level of the oven. After 15min turn the temperature down to 375 degrees and roast the bird for another 35min for medium; 5 to 10 for juicy and still slightly pink. Transfer duck to a platter, cover with foil, and keep warm.

Strain the broth, discard the solids (aside: don't you dare. Keep them to make the gravy chunky later, or eat them as is), and measure the broth. You should have 1/2 cup. If you have less, don't worry. If you have more, return it to the saucepan and cook briskly for 5min or so to reduce it.

Lift the garlic cloves from the cooking fat with a slotted spoon and force them through the medium disc of a food mill. Reserve the puréed garlic and discard the skins.

When the broth is properly reduced, add the vinegar and Cassis, bring to a boil, and reduce the mixture by one third. Whisk in the garlic purée and remove the pan from the heat.

Cut the chilled butter into 10 pieces and whisk the butter, piece by piece, into the hot sauce, always adding another piece of butter before the previous one is entirely absorbed. The sauce will begin to look creamy and thicken slightly. Cover the saucepan and set it in a warm (not hot) place.

Carve the duck and divide the serving pieces among multiple plates. Spoon some sauce over the duck and transfer the rest to a sauceboat. Retrieve the garlic cloves remaining inside the carcass and use them to garnish the sauced duck. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

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