One of my favorite things about living in Los Angeles, aside from all of the celebrities (just kidding), is the vast amount of fresh produce available year-round. I grew up in Northern Vermont, where we had very strict seasonal constraints on our diets. The first frost would come sometime in October, snow would come soon after, and we were lucky if we’d see the ground again by April.
My parents had a garden larger than an acre, which they planted with seeds every spring. I loved helping them with this tradition. And I eagerly awaited the harvest that would flourish through the summer and early fall.
In fact, the reason I started cooking in the first place, as a freshman at NYU, was because I had grown horribly homesick for the country, my family, and my mother’s garden-fresh meals I was used to eating.
My mother was, and still is a gifted cook. She’s the kind of person who can take a bunch of ingredients and know exactly what to do with them without having to look at a recipe or consult anyone for help. I aspire to be like her, but instead, I obsess over recipes and call anyone and everyone I think might have advice to help me with whatever it is I’m making. The night before last Thanksgiving, I stayed up till 3 am hysterically searching the internet for clues as to what the hell I was supposed to do with turkey gizzards. It was nerve-racking, I must say.
In Vermont, we would freeze our surplus of tomatoes and zucchini so my mother could makes soups to warm us through the bitter winters. And now, I have access to produce year-round. What is in season may vary throughout the year here, but there’s always a lot to choose from. And some things, like carrots and oranges are always in season.
This menu, inspired by a craving for duck and my obsession with all things French, is surprisingly light, fruity, and refreshing. The Duck a l’Orange recipe is based on a recipe from Bon Appetit September 1999. The kale and carrots are my own creations. I guess we do turn into our mothers after all.
Duck a l’Orange
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
- 1 1/2 cups fresh orange juice
- 2 tablespoons minced shallots
- 1 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
- 4 large Cara-Cara oranges
- 2 1-pound boneless duck breast halved with skin
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons grated orange peel
Stir sugar and water in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil until syrup turns deep amber, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan, 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Mix in vinegar (mixture will bubble vigorously). Add juice and shallots; boil until reduced to 1/2 cup, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes. Add broth; boil until reduced to 3/4 cup, 30 minutes. Set aside.
Using small knife, cut off peel and white pith from 4 oranges. Working over bowl, cut between membranes to release segments. (Sauce and oranges can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Cover separately; chill.)
Using small knife, score duck skin (do not pierce meat) in crosshatch pattern. Sprinkle duck with salt and pepper. Heat heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Place duck breasts skin side down in skillet. Cook until brown and crisp, about 8 minutes. Turn duck and cook to desired doneness, about 10 minutes longer for medium-rare. Transfer to cutting board. Let stand 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring sauce to simmer. Add butter and 1 tablespoon grated orange peel; whisk just until butter melts. Drain orange segments and mix into sauce. Set aside.
Slice duck breasts crosswise on diagonal. Arrange on 4 plates. Spoon orange segments with sauce alongside. Sprinkle with remaining peel.
Red Kale with Garlic and Shallots
- 1 bunch red kale chopped
- 3 garlic gloves minced
- 3 tbsp. shallots thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- ¼ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
In large heavy skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and shallots. Cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add kale and sauté until tender about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp. honey
- ¼ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. pepper
- 1lb. bunch of small carrots or large carrots, trimmed and quartered length-wise
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In small bowl, whisk together first five ingredients. In glass roasting pan, place carrots flat. Pour oil mixture over carrots and toss to cover. Roast carrots for 35 min. or until browned and tender.