Thursday 27 December 2012

Festive food

We've just given ourselves a metaphorical pat on the back as we are not left with lots of left-over food. In fact, barring half a mince pie we have none.
mince pie
Christmas Eve we really enjoyed a seafood platter - we don't buy the ones you can pre-order, but create our own 'mix'. This is mainly because we are no great fans of bulots [whelks] or other sea-snail like beasties.

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!
On Christmas Day we cooked a duckling with spiced cherry sauce. The duck recipe was an adaptation from one found on the Oprah website. We liked the idea of the spices but felt the roasting time was too long. Also, it called for the duck to be roasted on a bed of vegetables which are later mashed and we didn't want to do that.
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.

Spice mix:
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
The sauce for the duck was again adpated from the Oprah recipe:
250 ml of red wine
200ml of port
+/- 400g of defrosted & de-stoned cherries we'd frozen in the summer
2 star anise
3 cloves
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!



MorningAJ said...

That seafood platter looks wonderful! We are both fish/seafood fans (I grew up in Scarborough and K grew up in Hull!) and we eat them as often as possible. (though we're three hours drive from the coast these days and it's not always as easy as we'd like to obtain good stuff.)

With a platter like yours I'd gather the shells and use them to make bisque the following day (Or chowder or similar. Anything based on good seafood stock.)

The duck looks good too. I hope you had a great Christmas and here's wishing 2013 brings joy and contentment.

the fly in the web said...

I see the pie plate had star billing in the top photograph!

I shall certainly try the duck recipe when the latest batch get up to weight...following your cooking times.

Leftovers happily non existent here too.....but we found the youngest dog pushing chairs together in an attempt to reach the cake put on the top of a tall cupboard.
Just trying to help us maintain a clean record for leftovers, of course...

Tim said...

We duck-fatted our roasties too... it don't 'arf do 'em nice!!
We used Remarka [a Dutch variety] potatoes... they make a wonderful mash, too... and a rodent that found it's way into the cellier thought they were good too!!

Niall & Antoinette said...

@AJ - all shells are in the freezer for exactly that purpose: to make a bisque some time. :-)

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Fly - of course :-)

You could cook the duck longer if you wanted it to fall off the bone more but then suggest you cover with foil. Ours was still firm-ish but perfectly cooked and the fat was pretty much rendered.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Tim - we used the 'ordinary' potatoes you buy here in the SuperU and used the sieve as they are not by nature fluffy after par-boiling. It worked well as a 'fluffer-upper' and absolutely, you can't beat duck fat for roasters!!

Jean said...

It all looks wonderful, terribly grown up and sophisticated. Delicious too.

I'm afraid there would be a riot if I fed my mob something like that - but in any case I think one of the best things about Christmas is the leftovers and getting creative with them !! I hope I'm not the only person who enjoys cold sprouts with the turkey salad on Boxing Day !!

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Jean - well there's just us two so a duck or pintade works well --it gives us two meals and nice leftovers for a salad. For me a roast turkey is what you eat at Thanksgiving :-)

Absolutely loathe Brussels but turkey salad is great.