8/30/2015 experimentation dinner

On the menu:

  • Mix cheese plate.
  • Homemade white hearth bread, with cultured butter.
  • Whole duck, brined in OJ and herbs, steamed and roasted.
  • Creamy polenta with fresh corn, herbed tomatoes, pecorino romano cheese.
  • Nectarine clafoutis.

The cheeses:

The bread:

I have been making my bread for a while now and modifying it a bit. Today I decided to go back to the basics to follow NYT’s recipe to the letter. Make sure to watch the video as it’s slightly different than the written recipe.


I obtained a better result using NYT’s exact recipe, so I will be doing it this way moving forward. The biggest difference between the recipe I published and NYT’s is less yeast, no sugar, and an additional 2-hour rest. The additional 2-hour rest is not too much additional effort to achieve a superior tasting bread. 

I did find that wrapping my wet loaf in the tea towel did not work out well. Most of the dough stuck to the towel and created a mess, not to mention wasted a bit of dough since it was impossible to scrape off the towel.

The duck:

I purchased the duck whole and frozen. I thawed it in the fridge and then left it out on the counter overnight. At first I was going to roast the duck whole, but since all of the dishes I was making needed oven space, I broke down the duck so it could be better controlled.

I read various recipes, but ended up using Alton Brown’s technique and recipe. I did not create the swiss chard bed. Instead of brining in pineapple juice, I brined in orange juice, with herbs, peppercorns, and garlic for nearly 4 hours, versus the 2 ½ suggested. I figured in my house, we’d be more likely to finish the OJ than pineapple J. 

Using the brining technique, the duck was flavored perfectly and I would not brine it any longer without over-seasoning the skin and meat.

This was my first time cooking duck and though the legs final internal temp was 180*, and the breasts 170*. Some places online suggest 160* and the duck producer suggested 180*. The duck was very tender and light brown, not red or pink how it is sometimes served in restaurants. I actually quite liked it this way.


The polenta:

I always thought that polenta was a dish that is hard to make and after making it today, I learned that it’s really not hard to make at all. I used 1-cup of Bob’s Red Mill polenta corn grits, a 3-cup liquid mix (2 cups boiling water, 1 cup 1% milk, 1 ts of jarred chicken broth), salt, the corn of 2 ears, 2 TB unsalted butter.

Boil the liquids, whisk in the polenta, and then add in everything else. It’s important to whisk in the polenta so all of granules are covered in the liquid and do not clump. Keep whisking gently so the corn grits do not get stuck to the bottom. Once the polenta thickens, stir in 1-2 cups of parmesan or locatelli pecorino romano cheese. You could easily use cheddar.

The herbed tomatoes were an extra to break up the richness of the polenta. I used a pint of cherry tomatoes, olive oil, garlic clove, some red pepper flakes, and a ¼ cups of mixed chopped fresh herbs. Heat up a non-stick pan on high heat, add olive oil to coat, then drop in the tomatoes and cook them until they crack. Mix in the garlic, pepper flakes, and fresh herbs about half way through. Since the mixture is on high heat, I definitely recommend a splatter guard.


The clafoutis:

I really love this simple and decadent dessert. It’s super versatile and seems to be able to take any fruit that sticks together. I’ve made it so far with cherry, apple and nectarine. It’s fresh fruit with a crepe-like batter filled in the crevices which puffs after baking and then collapses after cooling. My recipe is from the Joy of Cooking book.


The best part of this dinner was that everyone walked away saying how excellent everything was and how much they enjoyed it…several times. This is a dinner worth repeating!