My first cookbook editor, and now, himself an author, old friend, Roy Finamore came to Hudson last weekend to visit, and be the featured author at the Hudson Farmers' Market's Book Tent. I prepared for the arrival by filling my house with brightly colored zinnias purchased from Eger Bros. Farm Stand at the junction of routes 9 and 23, Hudson. I'm also addicted to Eger's white donut peaches. The skin slips off with a tug and the super sweet flesh can be consumed in two bites. Right now the stand is loaded with all sorts of fruits; peaches, several varieties of plums, early apples, blueberries, strawberries, cantaloupes - and SEEDLESS watermelon with which I made the endlessly refreshing and thirst-quenching juice - which just involves processing chunks in a blender (Roy makes it in a food processor then strains it). Think about freezing some of the orchard fruit or berries to have a for tasty treat when the ground is covered in snow next January or February.
Roy and our mutual friend, Marian, arrived from NYC on Friday afternoon when the temperature and humidity were on the rise. Actually, the humidity was impossible. Only one solution for dinner -
The Red Barn. Their grill was fired up - why turn on any cooking appliance at home?
A few months ago I had purchased a large, very large Muscovy duck from Turkana Farms which Roy and I had been discussing, on and off, what to do with it ever since. The 9 pound bird needed to start thawing in the refrigerator 4 days before we started to work with it.
Friday afternoon, shortly after his arrival, Roy butchered the duck. The breasts were refrigerated. I made a rub for the legs, thighs and rather hefty wing joints by pounding cloves of garlic, black peppercorns and coarse salt in a mortar with a pestle. I rubbed it on the meat and set the pieces in a shallow receptacle in a way that they all would be exposed to the air. This would become a confit - preseerved duck. The dish was put, uncovered, into the refrigerator to dry out a bit and allow the rub to do its job. Roy made a stock with the duck carcass, wing tips, onions, celery, carrots, and bay leaf. The stock cooked - on very low heat, "with an occasional lazy bubble " for 18 hours! Yes, it cooked while we slept. Imagine the heat. And, then again imagine the delicious risotto or soup that I'll make with it next fall.
On Saturday Roy bravely sat in Book Tent - a veritable Turkish bath - and signed copies of his books for all the stalwart shoppers who came by the Book Tent. Thank you. We cooled off by going to Grazin' Diner for a long, slow lunch. And no, none of us ordered their famous burgers. I had a melted cheese sandwich on Hawthorne Valley's rye bread toasted to a crunch, every bite oozing Consider Bardwell's Rupert cheese. There was an egg sandwich and one with liverwurst at the same table as well. It took all our strength to get up and leave the air conditioned diner. There was work to be done.
I melted about a pint and a half of duck fat, then transferred the pieces of refrigerator-exposed duck to another saucepan and poured the liquid fat over it - Roy said as I poured, "You'd better hope that it covers it". It did. Whew. I let the duck simmer, again, you want just an occasional bubble to appear, in the fat for a little over an hour, then placed them back into their dish, let it cool down then sealed it closed, first with plastic wrap then with tin foil. When I pull the confit out in the cold weather it more than likely will become an ingredient in rib-sticking cassoulet. I'll tell you all about it when it happens.
I made another rub. This one was for the duck breasts. I pounded star anise, fresh hot peppers and coarse sea salt into a paste then rubbed on the breasts.
Roy made a velvety, cognac-laced duck liver pate to serve with our cocktails.
He also made a lovely saute of tiny new potatoes and radishes of the same size, in butter and a bit of duck broth. They were finished with chopped chives.
The stranger who a few weeks ago presented me with a bunch of his garden vegetables has subsequently revealed himself to be David Ludtke. David sells his baked goods at the Hudson Farmers' Market and also grows what appears to be a great variety of vegetables in his garden. "This week's goodies", he said to me as he presented me with branches of spigiarello an Italian leaf called spigarello in English - close but not quite the same pronunciation - and some erba stella a.k.a. minutina or buck's horn in English. Think of those branches of spigarello as coming from a broccoli tree. I ripped the leaves from the branches, sauteed them with a bit of olive oil and chopped garlic until al dente. Tender enough to chew but with enough sturdiness in texture to accompany its subtle, almost sweet broccoli flavor.
It grew dark by the time I put the duck breasts on the grill. No photos (to speak of) - no lights outside and it was very dark. That big old Muscovy duck was full of flavor and the potatoes, radishes and spigarello were just the right escorts.
Dessert should have been a plum tart. Roy rightly said, "I'm not turning on the oven" and stewed the plums with some honey and white vermouth. The room temperature plums, covered with heavy cream and garnished with crumbled amaretti cookies sweetened the palate in a pleasing way.
This is the salad I made with the leftover duck. I tossed the ever-so-slightly bitter erba stella and a few peppery, spade-shaped arugula leaves - also from David - with a dressing made with Dijon mustard, sesame oil, soy sauce, sriracha (hot pepper sauce) and a splash of heavy cream. I placed slices of cold duck on top (the star anise flavor really comes through after a day or two) and then garnished with some toasted walnuts. Should have added some thinly sliced radishes too.
Monday cooled down and the humidity dropped to a reasonable level. Heaven. And when you're in heaven you go, with a few friends, in a convertible along route 66 to Chatham, NY to the Hudson Valley Bounty Dinner at the Columbia County Fairgrounds. Twenty restaurants, food shops and caterers, etc. made some of their specialties with products sourced from HV farmers. The result was a dizzying selection of dinner options. Options? I think that I tasted everything. Mark August 2013 on your calendar for this event. What an embarrassment of riches. And to be in the main building of the this country's oldest, continuous operating county fair is particularly pleasurable.
Pictured above Uncle Barry's Famous Waffles with Beth's Jam from The Cascades.
SUSANSIMONSAYS: This Saturday, August 11th, at the Hudson Farmers' Market Book Tent come and meet Zak Pelaccio and let him sign a copy of his new book just for you. He'll be there from 10:30am - 12:30pm. Well known restaurateur - Fatty Crab, Fatty 'Cue (to name a few) - Zak is poised to open a dining spot in Hudson, on 3rd street between Warren and Union Streets. Aren't you just a little curious?