Monday, November 10, 2008

Painting the Plate Red; Roasted Duck, Beets, and Pomegranites

When it comes to cooking, I am a fiddler. Even if held at gunpoint, I'm not sure I'd be able to follow a recipe without adding a little of this or a little of that, or adjusting what's on the page by instinct. Perhaps this is due to my right brain being the alpha of my pea sized cranium, or maybe it's because I'm not really an adventurist (not into surfing or any extreme sports) and therefore get my kicks where I can in the safety and warmth of my kitchen.

Anyway, while I have posted many tweaked recipes here, I haven't included many that are completely mine. So this week, we're going buck wild with original recipes (insert KFC original recipe jingle HERE.)

The first is a duck breast served with roasted beets tossed with a confetti of chopped mint, cilantro, and pomegranate seeds with an orange scented rice pilaf on the side. Sounds fancy, huh? Well it's not. You're basically putting the beats and duck on cooking sheets, sticking them in the oven, and at some point, chopping up the mint and cilantro. (Oh and the rice is stovetop which cooks at the same time - just mix in toasted pine nuts and orange zest at the end.) The hardest thing is getting the pomegranate seeds out of the pomegranate, although I found it quite entertaining. It was like a little fruit massacre in my own kitchen.

Anyway, this is actually a light and refreshing fall meal, if you like duck. I first had duck in high school on a prom date at Vargo's in Houston. It was prepared the traditional way, with a rich cherry compote, and it was delicious. But today's duck is simply a duck breast, seasoned well with salt and pepper, roasted in a hot oven (400 degrees for 15 minutes), then topped with a fresh herb mixture (or as the Italians say, grimolata) - or put more simply - a handful each of chopped fresh mint and cilantro. Sprinkle over a handful of pomegranate seeds, and you're done.

Now onto the beets. I admit, I may be a little spastic about food and cooking, but I freaking love cooking beets. Just peeling off the wrinkled, ugly skin to reveal their whore-ish, velvety red interiors makes me happy. The color is unreal. And the smell is enough to make you run out and hug a tree. Earthy and sweet and cleansing.

But loving beets comes with a price, as you'll have stained red hands for a few hours, and possibly red colored pee. Quite worth it, in my opinion. It should also be noted that the key to delicious beets versus not so delicious is dousing them with olive oil, salt and pepper, then roasting low and slow (350 for 20 minutes, toss, then roast another 20.) You can also enhance their sweetness with a little drizzle of balsamic vinegar (just add and toss before you add the oil) or even sugar.

Since this particular post features two polarizing dishes that many people may prefer to look at a picture of rather than eat (beets and duck), I've chosen to provide the recipe free-style... If you want more explicit cooking details, just let me know.

Until next time;)

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