Posts Tagged ‘potatoes’

Seeing as I am now between seasons eight and nine of Good Eats, I figured this was a good time to do one of the special episodes. It’s hard to believe that I last did a special episode over two years ago! This special was fun for me to do because it was an episode I had never seen before and all four of the recipes were super intriguing. I can say that I have definitely left this episode with some recipes that I will be bookmarking for long-term use/memory, so read on if you want to discover some great food.

Salt Roasted Shrimp

Shrimp are not my favorite protein, but I was still excited about trying this cooking method. The recipe begins with placing two pounds of rock salt in a 9×13″ metal pan. Place two more pounds of rock salt in a metal bowl.

IMG_2830

Four pounds of rock salt split between two vessels.

Place the two vessels of salt in a cold oven and set the oven to preheat to 400 degrees. When the oven hits 400, let it continue to heat for an additional 15 minutes.

IMG_2831

Four pounds of rock salt split between two vessels, and stuck in a cold oven to preheat to 400.

Once the 15 minutes are up, place a pound of jumbo shrimp on the surface of the salt in the 9×13″ pan and pour the hot salt from the bowl over the top of the shrimp. Smooth the salt over the top of the shrimp and place them back in the oven for 7-8 minutes, or until pink and opaque.

IMG_2837

Alton’s salt roasted shrimp.

To rinse off the salt, you can dip the shrimp quickly in white wine. First off, this is about the easiest method of cooking shrimp I’ve ever tried, and I thought the flavor of the shrimp was very positively accentuated by the salt. These shrimp had a sweetness that reminded me more of crab than shrimp, and I really liked it. For whatever reason, my shrimp were extremely difficult to peel, and I don’t know why that was. I really do want to try this method again because these were some of my favorite shrimp I have had, as far as flavor is concerned. The salt did season the shrimp, but not overly so, and I did not even try Alton’s wine rinse step post-cooking. If anyone has a theory as to why my shrimp were so difficult to peel, I’d love to hear it. Aside from the peeling difficulty, this was a fantastic recipe!

Perfect Fingerling Potatoes

I think we have all had potatoes cooked in myriad ways, but I have to say that Alton’s recipe here was a new one for me. For this recipe, place 1 1/4 pounds of Kosher or rock salt in a large pot with two quarts of water and two pounds of fingerling potatoes.

Bring the whole pot to a boil and cook the potatoes until they are tender enough to pierce with the tip of a sharp paring knife, which took about 20 minutes for my potatoes. Be aware that smaller potatoes will cook faster.

IMG_2488

Potatoes, brought to a boil and cooked until tender.

Transfer the cooked potatoes to a rack over a sheet pan. Once all of the potatoes have cooked, serve them with butter and chives.

IMG_2490

Cooked potatoes cooling on a rack and forming a salty crust.

IMG_2494

Alton’s fingerling potatoes with chives, pepper, and butter.

These potatoes are like a fun science experiment because they transform during cooking, and form a sparkly salt crust as they cool. The insides of the potatoes are perfectly cooked, while the outsides provide the perfect amount of salty seasoning. These are fun, easy, and delicious!

Sauerkraut

I find fermented food fascinating, and the idea of making my own sauerkraut was super exciting to me. Keep in mind that this recipe takes a full month, including the fermentation time. This starts with chopping five pounds of green cabbage and placing the cabbage in a large bowl.

IMG_2509

Ready to chop 5 pounds of cabbage.

Add 3 T pickling salt to the cabbage, along with 1 T juniper berries and 2 t caraway seeds. Toss everything together with clean hands. Let the cabbage sit for 10 minutes.

Pack the cabbage and any accumulating liquid into a tall plastic container, packing it down.

IMG_2519

Cabbage packed into a plastic container.

Alton likes to use a tall plastic container designed for holding a loaf of bread. You want to keep the cabbage free from air, so place some type of lid on the surface of the cabbage. Next, place a weight on top of the lid (Alton uses a mason jar full of water). I read some of the online reviews of this recipe and used ziplock bags full of water, as they also help to form an airtight seal. A layer of plastic wrap also seems to help to keep air out.

IMG_2520

Weighing the sauerkraut down with bags of water.

Store the sauerkraut at 65-70 degrees for four weeks. Be sure to check the sauerkraut every couple days and discard any scum from the surface. Alton says you really only need to be concerned about dark-colored mold, and ammonia-like smell, or lots of active bubbling; if you see any of these things, it’s time to start over. Otherwise, your sauerkraut will gradually secrete more liquid, turn yellow, and start to smell sour.

IMG_2608

Sauerkraut gradually fermenting over time.

I was out of town for part of my sauerkraut’s fermentation, so I arrived home to sauerkraut that was ready to eat.

IMG_2766

Sauerkraut after four weeks of fermentation.

We opted to eat our sauerkraut on bratwursts with mustard, and I was highly impressed.

IMG_2768

Sauerkraut served on brats with mustard.

This homemade sauerkraut has much more texture than any you can buy in the store, which I really appreciate. I also really like the pops of spice you get from the caraway seeds and juniper berries, and it has just the right amount of tang. We still have some sauerkraut in our refrigerator right now, as this recipe makes a pretty large amount. Add this one to the list of fun things to try in your spare time, as it really requires almost no effort!

Beef Tenderloin in Salt Crust

Since it’s Father’s Day, it only seems appropriate that this next recipe is one I would love to be able to share with my dad. I’m pretty sure my dad never saw this Good Eats salt episode because he would have jumped all over trying Alton’s beef tenderloin recipe. My dad was always one to test a recipe before trying it for a holiday or occasion, and he likely would have invited me to his house for his test run. Beef tenderloin is always a special occasion meal for us, as it is a pricey cut of meat, but last week we had a delicious tenderloin simply for the sake of this project. For Alton’s tenderloin, you first need to make a salt-based dough. To do this, place 5 C flour, 3 C Kosher salt, 3 T pepper, 1/4 C chopped fresh parsley/thyme/sage, and a mixture of 5 egg whites with 1 1/2 C water in a bowl.

IMG_2784

Flour, Kosher salt, pepper, and fresh herbs.

IMG_2785

Flour, Kosher salt, pepper, fresh herbs, and a mixture of egg whites and water.

IMG_2786

Egg whites and water added to flour/salt mixture.

Use a potato masher to loosely combine the dough, and then mix the dough with your hands until it is smooth and uniform. Place the dough in a plastic bag and let it sit at room temperature for 4-24 hours; according to Alton, if you try to use the dough immediately, it will be a crumbly mess. I opted to make my dough a full 24 hours ahead of time.

After your dough has rested, roll the dough to a large rectangle that is 3/16″ thick. You can trim the edges with a pizza cutter to make the dough into a nice rectangle.

IMG_2799

Dough after 24 hours.

Next, coat a 6-7 pound beef tenderloin (my tenderloin was in the 3-4 pound range) with ~1 T olive oil and sear the meat until it is browned on all sides; Alton likes to use an electric griddle to sear, but I just used a large skillet.

Let the tenderloin rest until it is cool to the touch, which took about 20 minutes for my beef.

IMG_2797

Letting the seared meat rest until cool to the touch.

Sprinkle the center of your salt dough rectangle with an additional 1/4 C of chopped fresh parsley, thyme, and/or sage, and place your cooled tenderloin on top of the herbs.

Fold the dough up over the tenderloin crimping the edges together to create a sealed package. You do not want the dough to be super tight on the meat. Trim the ends of the dough and crimp them up also, and seal any holes with extra dough. Transfer the wrapped tenderloin to a sheet pan and insert a probe thermometer into the center of the beef. My dough stuck to my countertop a bit, so I had to do some mending.

IMG_2807

Wrapping the tenderloin in the salt dough.

IMG_2808

My wrapped beef tenderloin.

IMG_2810

Tenderloin in the oven until it reaches 125 degrees.

Put the beef in a 400 degree oven, letting it cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 125 degrees. Once at 125 degrees, remove the beef from the oven and let it rest for 30-60 minutes.

IMG_2817

Tenderloin removed from the oven at 125 degrees.

After resting, slice the meat with a serrated knife and pull the tenderloin out of the salt dough, discarding the dough. Serve the meat immediately.

IMG_2819

Tenderloin after resting for 15 minutes.

IMG_2821

Alton’s beef tenderloin.

In the episode, Alton appeared to let his tenderloin rest for a full hour, which will result in over-cooked meat. Since the meat is still in its dough envelope, its temperature continues to rise quite quickly after removal from the oven, so I cut my meat after a mere 15 minute rest, and it honestly would have been better a few minutes earlier. Next time, I will probably pull the meat from the oven at 120 degrees, and let it rest until its temperature hits 135-140. I did use a smaller tenderloin than what Alton used and my tenderloin was done after 45 minutes in the oven, so this is a pretty fast cooking method. Aside from those notes, this recipe is awesome. There is a reason Alton stated at the end of this episode that this was his favorite Good Eats beef recipe. I already hope/plan to make this for the next holiday we host, as it is easy, quick, and delicious. The meat comes out of the dough perfectly tender and seasoned to perfection. Seriously, if you want a special beef recipe, make this one. I only wish I could make this for my dad.

I am taking some liberties here and doing this special out of order, as this special episode was really the 7th one to air, but I’m writing it up as my third special. We wound up hosting Thanksgiving at our house this year, and the recipes from this episode composed a large portion of our Thanksgiving menu. Yes, I know Thanksgiving was quite a while ago, but it seems we’ve had non-stop things going on for the last several weeks. The premise of this special is that Alton intends to give you a solid, stress-free Thanksgiving menu, much of which can be prepared in advance. In the episode, he breaks down exactly when you need to complete each step of each recipe, so everything winds up on the table at the same time. I was slightly skeptical as to how well his schedule would actually work when put to the test. Without further ado, here are the recipes from Alton’s second Thanksgiving-specific special, along with his Thanksgiving schedule.

Butterflied, Dry Brined Roasted Turkey 

In the online recipe, the turkey and panzanella are written as one, but really you will begin prepping the turkey and two other menu items before you begin the panzanella, which I will write up separately below. Note that, for this recipe, you will need to have your bird thawed four days in advance. The ideal bird for this recipe is a 14-pound frozen turkey, which you can thaw, wrapped, in the refrigerator; allow one day for every four pounds.

img_5514

My 14-ish pound bird.

If you really want to get fast/fancy, you can purchase a pump and thaw your turkey in a cooler next to your sink, placing the pump in the sink and covering it with cold water. Run the pump tube up into the cooler with the bird. Meanwhile, open the drain spout on the cooler, allowing it to drain into the sink. Make sure you reach equilibrium if you try this method, or you could end up with water all over the floor. If the cooler is draining too quickly, you can partially plug the hole with some foil. I opted for a third method and thawed my bird in a bucket of cold water, changing the water every couple hours, which took about eight hours. Four days prior to serving, make a dry brine by grinding 3 1/2 T Kosher salt, 1 1/2 t dry thyme, 1 1/2 t rubbed sage, 1 1/4 t black peppercorns, and 1 1/2 t allspice berries in a spice grinder.

Remove the neck and giblets from the bird, reserving them if you plan to make Alton’s gravy. Placing your turkey breast side down, use kitchen shears to cut up one side of the turkey’s backbone. Flip the bird 180-degrees and cut up the other side of the backbone, holding onto the neck. Save the bones for Alton’s gravy.

Flip your bird over, so it is breast side up and press the keel bone with the heels of your hands until it cracks and the bird flattens.

Sprinkle half of the dry brine on each side of the bird, patting it into the turkey. I know this sounds odd, but place your flattened bird, breast side up, on a parchment-lined sheet pan and let it age in your refrigerator for four days, uncovered.

The day you plan to serve your turkey, remove it from the refrigerator 3:40:00 ahead of meal time. Place the turkey in a 425-degree oven 2:05:00 ahead of serving; if you are also making Alton’s panzanella, you will place the bird directly on an upper oven rack without a pan, allowing the turkey’s juices to drip into the panzanella below. Otherwise, yeah, you will probably want to use a pan! When you have 1:35:00 to dinner, decrease the oven temperature to 350. You will want to continue cooking your turkey until it reaches 155-degrees in the deepest part of the breast. I will confess that I cooked my turkey until it was ~160 degrees.

img_5590

My completed turkey, after cooking to ~160 degrees.

Remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest under foil. My bird was done pretty much on schedule, so it had plenty of time to rest while we finished up other things.

img_5591

My completed turkey, after cooking to ~160 degrees… and a desperate dog.

Honestly, this is the easiest turkey you will ever make and it takes so little time. Also, we could not believe how much the spices from the dry brine (isn’t that really a cure?) had permeated the meat – so much flavor! This will be the turkey I make the next time I prep one. Yes, your oven does get slightly messy, but that is worth it. This is my new favorite turkey recipe.

Bourbon Pecan Pie

Okay, so this pecan pie recipe is awesome because you can make it up to two weeks ahead of time. I actually made this for us to eat the week after Thanksgiving, as we already had enough dessert contributions for our Thanksgiving meal (including a pecan pie!). The first step for Alton’s pie is to make his spiced pecans. Oddly, he did not actually demonstrate this recipe in the episode, though he did mention that you need the spiced pecans in your pie. So, I simply followed the online recipe for the spiced pecans, making a half pound of them.

img_5614

Ingredients for spiced pecans: pecan halves, light and dark brown sugar, butter, water, and spice blend.

To make a half pound of spiced pecans, combine in a bowl 1/2 t Kosher salt, 1/4 t cumin, 1/4 t cayenne, 1/4 t cinnamon, and 1/4 t dried orange peel (I didn’t have this, so left it out).

Toast the pecan halves in a pan over medium heat until they smell toasted, and stir in 2 T butter.

Once the butter has melted, stir in the spice mixture.

img_5619

Spice mix added to buttered pecans.

Finally, add 1 T water, 1 T dark brown sugar, and 1/8 C light brown sugar. Stir until the nuts are coated evenly and spread them on a parchment-lined sheet pan to cool, breaking up any clusters.

Once your spiced pecans are complete, you are ready to make the rest of your pie, beginning, of course, with the crust. In a food processor, pulse 3 1/2 ounces plain pecan halves until fine. To your pecans add 6 oz flour, 4 T cold butter, 1/2 t Kosher salt, 2 T ice water, and 2 T bourbon, pulsing after each ingredient is added, and avoiding over-processing.

Flatten the dough into a disc and place it in a ziplock bag, refrigerating for 30 minutes.

img_5639

Dough flattened in a disc, and placed in a ziplock bag to cool.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Make the filling by melting 4 T butter. In a bowl, whisk together 3 eggs, 1/2 C sugar, 1/4 t Kosher salt, 1 t vanilla, 1 T bourbon, the 4 T of butter you melted before, and 6 ounces (by weight) of golden syrup; golden syrup can be tricky to find, so I ordered it online.

When your dough has chilled, cut the two opposing side seams of your ziplock with scissors. Open the bag and sprinkle both sides of the dough disk with flour. Cover the dough with the bag again and roll it into an 11-inch circle.

Alton recommends using a 9.5-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom, as you can simply place your dough circle onto the bottom of the pan, folding up the excess dough. When you place the bottom of the pan into the edges, you can simply unfold the excess dough, pressing it into the flutes. I, however, do not have a tart pan of that size, so I opted for a regular pie plate, transferring my dough circle by rolling it around a rolling pin. This dough is slightly sticky, so you do need to use flour.

img_5652

Crust, transferred to pie plate.

Regardless of which pan you use, press the dough into the pan before adding 6 ounces of your spiced pecans, chopped. Pour the filling mixture over the pecans and jiggle the pan to evenly distribute the nuts.

Bake the pie for 20 minutes. At this time, remove your pie from the oven, placing it on a rack. Decorate the top of your pie by placing spiced pecan halves around the edge of your pie – you will need about two ounces of spiced pecans for this.

Stick your pie back in the oven and bake it until the internal temperature is 200 degrees, which Alton says should take about 10 more minutes. If your oven is like mine, however, it will take 15-20 minutes of additional baking. Remove your pie from the oven and let it cool.

img_5657

Pie after baking to internal temp of 200.

If you are making it in advance, cover your cooled pie with plastic wrap and place it in the freezer for eight hours to two weeks. When you are approaching your serving time, remove your frozen pie from its pan and slice it; you can place it back in the pan. Refrigerate your pie until ready to serve. Alton guarantees that this pie will not seep or weep, and I can vouch for that. I never froze my pie, as we simply ate it once it had cooled down. Still, unlike many pecan pies, this one had a filling that maintained its shape and form.

img_5660

A slice of Alton’s pecan pie.

To boot, we really liked the bourbon flavor in this pie, which paired well with the spices from the pecans. The golden syrup also seemed to give more of a caramelized flavor versus using corn syrup. The crust in this recipe is crispy, light, and pretty savory, which we thought contrasted greatly with the super sweet filling. I will make this pecan pie again for sure, as it is probably the best pecan pie I have had.

Whipped Potatoes

Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be complete without some form of potato, right? This special episode featured Alton’s recipe for whipped potatoes. Like the other recipes in this episode, this is one for which much of the prep can be completed in advance. A full 24 hours ahead of serving time, you will want to peel four pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes, and slice them as thinly as possible; a mandolin makes this much faster, if you have one.

Place the potato slices in an 8-quart container, covering them with a gallon of cold water. Let the potato slices sit overnight, allowing the water to remove any excess starch.

You will not need to touch your potatoes again until 1:30:00 before serving time, which is when you will place your potatoes into a strainer (resist the urge to dump the potatoes into the strainer, as you want to avoid transferring all of that starchy water). Rinse your potato slices with clean water and spin them in a salad spinner to dry.

Transfer the potatoes to a large pot, covering them with a gallon of whole milk, and placing them on a burner over medium-high heat.

img_5580

Potatoes and a gallon of whole milk, placed on the stove.

Twenty-five minutes before your meal, drain your potatoes, reserving the milk. Press the potatoes through a ricer into your serving bowl, adding 4 ounces butter, 1 C of the reserved milk (you can use the rest of the milk for something like potato soup), and 1 T Kosher salt. Whip the potatoes with a hand mixer for 15 seconds. Yes, seriously, 15 seconds will do it. Resist the urge to blend the potatoes further, as they will become gummy. Sadly, because I was scrambling around on Thanksgiving, I forgot to take photos of my potatoes as I riced/whipped them, so I have no photos of my finished product. These potatoes seemed to be very popular around our Thanksgiving table, and I have to say that this is now my favorite mashed potato recipe. The potatoes were super light and fluffy, and had just the right amounts of butter and salt. Cooking the potatoes in milk gave them a very creamy mouthfeel and flavor. I highly recommend this recipe, and it will be the one I use when I next make mashed potatoes.

Roasted Root Vegetable Panzanella

As I mentioned above, this panzanella is designed to go along with (and cook with) Alton’s dry brined roasted turkey. While you begin prepping the turkey four days in advance, this panzanella only needs to be prepped 24 hours ahead of your dinner, so Alton covered this as the fourth recipe in the episode. So, 24 hours ahead, cut eight ounces of hearty multigrain or sourdough bread into 1/2″ cubes, leaving them on a sheet pan in a cold oven to dry out overnight.

At this time you will also want to mince two cloves of garlic, chop a red onion, and shred eight ounces of Brussels sprouts (this is super fast with the shredding blade in a food processor).

Place these prepped items into separate containers and refrigerate. Finally, peel 1 1/2 pounds each of parsnips and rutabagas, cutting them into chunks. Combine the parsnips and rutabagas in a container and place them in the refrigerator.

The following day, you will begin your panzanella when you pull your turkey out of the refrigerator, which will be 3:40:00 ahead of dinner. At this time, dump your rutabaga/parsnip combo into a large roasting pan, along with 2 t vegetable oil.

img_5570

Rutabagas and parsnips placed in roasting pan with vegetable oil.

When you place your turkey in the 425-degree oven (2:05:00 ahead), also place your roasting pan into the oven, directly beneath your turkey; this will allow the turkey’s juices to drip into the vegetables. Once you have 1:35:00 to your planned dinner time, add the diced red onion to your roasting pan, tossing, and decrease the oven to 350 degrees.

img_5575

Red onion added to roasting pan.

Forty-five minutes ahead, add your bread cubes, shredded Brussels sprouts, and garlic to your panzanella, tossing.

img_5588

Bread, sprouts, and garlic added to panzanella.

Thirty minutes before dinner, remove the roasting pan from the oven and add 1/4 C cider vinegar, 2 t fresh thyme, a pinch of Kosher salt, and some black pepper to the roasting pan.

img_5589

Cider vinegar, fresh thyme, salt, and pepper added to finish panzanella.

Toss everything around and transfer the panzanella to a serving bowl. The flavors in this panzanella were fantastic, but I was highly disappointed in the texture of the bread cubes. To me, a panzanella should have super crunchy bread cubes, but this bread was kind of soggy. I do intend to make this again, but I plan to toast my bread cubes in advance, and I will add them to the salad right before serving. Aside from the bread, the sweetness of the root vegetables was great with the slight tang of vinegar and bite of garlic/onion. I’m sure the turkey juices didn’t hurt the flavor at all either! Again, this is a delicious recipe, but it does need some help in the texture department. Cooking this with the turkey makes everything super easy, which is a huge bonus.

Turkey Giblet Gravy

Last, but not least, Alton had to include a recipe for gravy in his second Thanksgiving special, no? Remember the turkey neck and backbone that we saved from prepping Alton’s turkey four days before Thanksgiving? Well, we’re going to use them here, along with the giblets. Four hours before dinner heat 1 T canola oil in a pot over medium heat, adding the turkey neck and backbone.

img_5560

Turkey neck and backbone, cooking in vegetable oil.

Brown the bones, turning them often for about 5-6 minutes.

img_5561

Turkey neck and backbone, cooking in vegetable oil, turning often.

Once the bones are browned, add the giblets, a small onion, a carrot, a stalk of celery, and a heavy pinch of Kosher salt to the pan.

img_5563

Onion, carrot, giblets, celery, and Kosher salt added to bones.

Cook all of the vegetables until they are tender, which should take about five minutes. Next, add 1 t black peppercorns, 1 bay leaf, 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, and 6 C of water.

img_5565

Peppercorns, bay leaf, fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, and water added to make stock.

Cover the pot, bringing it to a boil. Once boiling, remove the lid and decrease the heat, leaving the pot to simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

img_5566

Stock, after being brought to a boil.

Two hours prior to dinner, strain the stock, saving the giblets. You can discard the rest of the solids.

Once the giblets are cool, chop them finely. When you have 1:30:00 to dinner, pour 2 C of your stock into a saucier over medium heat. At this same time, pour 1/2 C of additional stock into a lidded container, along with 1 T flour, shaking to make a slurry.

Slowly whisk this slurry into the warm stock in the saucier.

Again, in your shaking container, combine another 1/2 C of cooled stock with 1 T potato starch, shaking.

Turn the burner off under your pan and allow your gravy to cool to below 190 degrees. Once below 190 degrees (which should be about 1:20:00 before your meal), turn the heat to low and whisk in the potato slurry. I had some trouble with this, as my slurry appeared to be quite lumpy, so I had to add some additional hot stock and re-shake my slurry. Once your slurry is incorporated, also add 1 t chopped fresh sage, 1 t fresh thyme, 1 t fresh rosemary, 1 t Kosher salt, and 1/4 t pepper.

img_5587

Fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage to finish gravy, along with chopped giblets.

When your gravy has reached a simmer, stir in the chopped giblets and turn off the heat. When heated through, you can transfer your gravy to a thermos to keep it warm until you are ready to serve. I failed to get a final photo of my gravy, unfortunately. I am not a huge gravy person, but this one got some rave reviews at our house. The gravy seemed like it was going to be way too thin, but it did thicken up some. Flavor-wise, the gravy fans here really seemed to enjoy it.

So, to sum up Alton’s second Thanksgiving special, I have to say that I was quite pleased with all of the recipes, how they worked together, and his timeline was pretty spot on. If you follow his directions, you can have a pretty stress-free, well-timed Thanksgiving dinner with his five recipes here. While all of the recipes were honestly very good, I would absolutely not skip the turkey, potatoes, or pie. Below is a breakdown of my Thanksgiving Day Alton-based schedule, aiming for a 5:00 pm dinner. Honestly, it worked pretty darn well, and we were seated right around 5 o’clock.

1:00 PM – Start gravy stock.

1:20 PM – 1) Bird out of refrigerator. 2) Rutabagas and parsnips in roasting pan.

2:55 PM – Bird and vegetables in oven at 425 degrees.

3:00 PM – Strain gravy stock and cool giblets.

3:25 PM – 1) Add red onion to vegetables. 2) Decrease oven temp to 350.

3:30 PM – 1) Strain/spin potatoes. 2) Put potatoes in pot with milk. 3) Make gravy and transfer to thermos.

4:15 PM – 1) Add bread, sprouts, and garlic to vegetables. 2) Remove bird when it hits 160.

4:30 PM – 1) Add cider vinegar and seasonings to vegetables. 2) Rice potatoes and whip.

First of all, I am getting pretty excited to see Alton Brown’s live show in less than a week, especially considering that we bought tickets the day they went on sale, which was about eight months ago. We will be going with my parents, and I think we are all highly anticipating the show. My dad, too, was an avid Good Eats watcher in the past.

I have not eaten a lot of duck in my life, but I know some people who have, namely my dad and my husband. There was a stretch of time when Dad and Ted would both order duck when we would all go out to eat, and this went on for months. Seriously, they ate more than their fair share of duck. I feel, therefore, that they can appropriately be deemed Duck Aficionados, or “Quackxperts,” as I prefer to call them.

Mighty Duck

I had some trepidation about preparing duck since I know how critical it is to cook properly, but I hoped Alton wouldn’t let me down. I set out to prepare Alton’s recipe last night, after thawing my duck in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Alternatively, for faster thawing, you could thaw your duck under cold, running water. I had intended to cook my duck on Saturday, which would have necessitated the running water thaw, but the combo of too long of a marathon training run with too little food led to a night on the couch, in lieu of duck prep. On the plus side, my duck (I named him Donald) was perfectly thawed for dinner last night.

To make Alton’s duck, first mix your brine by combining 1/2 C Kosher salt, a pint of pineapple orange juice, at least 15 black peppercorns, a bunch of fresh thyme, and four smashed cloves of garlic in a leak-proof, lidded container; shake to dissolve the salt.

Brine ingredients:  Kosher salt, pineapple orange juice, black peppercorns, fresh thyme, and garlic.

Brine ingredients: Kosher salt, pineapple orange juice, black peppercorns, fresh thyme, and garlic.

Brine mixture.

Brine mixture.

Next it is time to prepare the duck itself. Place your duck on a cutting board and discard all of the innards. With a knife, slice through each wing to the joint, and break each wing off by bending the joint backward. From the base of the neck, cut along one side of the back bone of the bird with kitchen shears.

Dog craving duck, as I cut along the back bone.

Dog craving duck, as I cut along the back bone.

Turn the bird around and cut up the other side of the back bone. It will be tough to cut. Pull the back bone out and discard it. Flatten the duck and flip it over, so the breast is facing up. Again, using the shears, cut down the middle of the breast, splitting the duck into two halves. Using a sharp knife, separate the breast from the leg by making a crescent-shaped cut. The duck is now in quarters, with two breast pieces and two leg pieces. The breast quarters have a fair amount of fat, so you want to score the skin of the breast in a grid pattern (three cuts one way, and three the other way) with a sharp knife, taking care only to score the skin; this will allow much of the fat to cook off.

Duck halves, cut into quarters. The breast pieces are scored.

Duck halves, cut into quarters. The breast pieces are scored.

Line a container with a large Ziplock bag, put the duck quarters inside, and pour the brine over the duck, squeezing as much air as possible from the bag.

Duck and brine in a bag.

Duck and brine in a bag.

Removed as much air as possible from the bag.

Removed as much air as possible from the bag.

Let the duck brine in the refrigerator for 2-2.5 hours. When ready to cook your duck, bring some water to a boil in a large pot that can hold a strainer or colander; I used our pasta pot.

Pasta pot to steam the duck.

Pasta pot to steam the duck.

Place the duck quarters around the sides of the colander, avoiding stacking them on each other, as this can cause uneven cooking.

Duck quarters, ready to be steamed.

Duck quarters, ready to be steamed.

Cover the pot, decrease the heat, and steam the duck for 45 minutes. If your dog is anything like mine are, he/she will be sent into a tizzy, and will pace around the kitchen, whimpering and pleading for just a sampling of your duck. Why steam? In the episode, Alton, or rather his plumber, explains that it is a gentler cooking method than water, is more efficient than air, and it does not wash away the seasoning. Toward the end of your steaming, heat your oven to 475 degrees, placing a cast iron skillet inside.

Hot cast iron skillet.

Hot cast iron skillet.

When the steaming is complete, set the steaming water aside, place the duck legs into the skillet, skin side down, and cook them for 10 minutes.

Duck quarters after steaming for 45 minutes.

Duck quarters after steaming for 45 minutes.

Duck legs in hot skillet.

Duck legs in hot skillet.

After 10 minutes, use tongs to move the legs up to the sides of the skillet, and add the breast quarters to the pan, skin side down. Cook the duck for an additional 7 minutes. While the duck cooks, shred some chard and chop a couple of shallots.

Duck breasts added to skillet with legs.

Duck breasts added to skillet with legs.

Shallots and shredded chard.

Shallots and shredded chard.

Chopped shallot.

Chopped shallot.

When the duck is done, let it rest on a plate, covered with foil; a small, upturned bowl in the center of the plate gives the duck something to lean against, keeping it from sitting in its own juices.

Duck quarters, resting.

Duck quarters, resting.

While the duck rests, add a couple handfuls of shredded chard to the hot cast iron skillet, tossing with tongs.

Chard added to hot duck skillet.

Chard added to hot duck skillet.

The skillet will be hot enough that you can do this off of heat. Add some chopped shallots to the chard, toss until wilted, and sprinkle with some balsamic or sherry vinegar.

Chard and shallots in hot skillet.

Chard and shallots in hot skillet.

Remember that cooking liquid that remained after steaming? The water portion of that liquid can be boiled away until all that remains is wonderful duck fat.

Steaming liquid, boiling down to duck fat.

Steaming liquid, boiling down to duck fat.

Alton recommends simmering some cubed red potatoes in salted water before sautéing them in a little duck fat over high heat. I just could not resist that idea, so I heeded his advice and made some duck fat potatoes to go with our duck and chard.

Red potatoes to saute in duck fat.

Red potatoes to saute in duck fat.

Red potatoes, after simmering in salted water.

Red potatoes, after simmering in salted water.

Potatoes cooked in duck fat.

Potatoes cooked in duck fat.

Duck, potatoes cooked in duck fat, and chard.

Duck, potatoes cooked in duck fat, and chard.

Not being a Quakxpert myself, I thought this meal was pretty darn delicious… and sinful. My one complaint was that the duck skin was only super crispy where it had directly contacted the skillet, but that crispy part was really great. I also ended up having very strongly flavored shallots, which overpowered the chard a bit, but that was just the luck of the draw. The duck was very moist and had lots of flavor. Ted agreed, and he had the leftovers for lunch today. I foresee making this again for a special meal, and it could be a different option for a future holiday dinner. As my dad would say, “It’s a life’s work for a duck.”