Our platter consisted of: cooked crab claws and lobster, tiger prawns and langoustines. The tiger prawns and langoustines needed to be cooked so we very gently poached them in some salted water. They cook very quickly and if you over do it they go rubbery. Overall it made for a nice combination of warm and chilled seafood. We ate it with alumettes [very thin french fries] and a sauce made from mayonaise, garlic, creme fraiche, lemon juice and tarragon.
Unsurprsingly we had a very attentive audience of cats who watched our every move. They were doomed to be disappointed and anyway they had their own 'treat' of luxury cat food - a fishy flavor of course!
To prepare the duck you do the usual--wash it, pat it dry and then score the skin. After you've done that you rub in the spices and olive oil. The spice mix we used followed the Oprah recipe.
6 star anise ground fine;
4 or 5 cloves also ground to powder
1 tsp of powderd cinnamon
The mix gave a really subtle flavour and the skin was nice and crispy.
In the Oprah recipe it says roast a 1.8 - 2kg [4 - 5lbs] duck for almost 4 1/2 hrs at 180C. We had a 1.6kg [3.5 lbs] caneton and decided to roast it as follows: 20 mins at 200C [conventional oven setting] and then at 180C for about 1.5 hrs. This more or less follows the roast times on the BBC Good Food website. Once roasted we let the bird rest for about 20 mins covered with foil.
|Christmas dinner: roast duck with spiced cherries|
250 ml of red wine
200ml of port
+/- 400g of defrosted & de-stoned cherries we'd frozen in the summer
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 soup spoon of sugar
The spices were wrapped in a little muslin sachet so they were easy to remove at the end. We let the cherries simmer until the liquid was so reduced it was a syrup -- about 40 mins on a very low heat.
With the duck we had green beans, honey glazed parsnips with thyme and rosemary roast potatoes. To glaze the raw parsnips we simply tossed them in a mix of olive oil, runny honey [orange flower as that was what was to hand] and thyme. You just need to make sure they are well coated. As parsnips are already a sweetish vegetable it is up to your personal taste how much honey you want to use. We used a fairly high olive oil to honey ratio. The roast potatoes were parboiled for 5 mins then fluffed by tossing them in a sieve -- it roughens the surface so that they are crispy when cooked. We sprinked them in rosemary and coated them in melted duck fat before putting them in the roasting tin.
We used one roasting pan which had been divided into two using aluninum foil to make two 'trays' which fit into the pan. This way the parsnips and potatoes could roast together without mixing the flavors. They went into the oven on the lower shelf when the duck was turned down to 180C . When we took the duck out to rest we turned up the oven to 200C to allow the veg a final 'roast'.
As the food we cooked on Christmas Day provided 4 portions we had the same meal again for lunch on Boxing day and it was just as nice! And yes, the cats did get the odd tidbit of duck!