A Meal That Translates
Tonight two things happened. The first was that I began to be able to smell and taste again after several days of being horribly stuffed up with a winter cold. The second was that there was no dinner plan, and practically no food in the house, because I’ve been too miserable to set foot outside in the pouring rain to shop.
There was a bowl of apples that should have been used up last week. One beautiful magret duck breast. Two carrots, a red onion, and a dozen topinambours, or Jerusalem artichokes. Half a head of lettuce, half a bottle of cream. And that was pretty much it, outside of basic pantry items.
Apple crisp was a no-brainer, and the one you see above is my favorite of all time. When I used to be a personal chef I had a dear client who gave me this recipe, and now I’m giving it to you. It’s got all the usual ingredients, but the proportions are a bit different. It has more butter and less sugar than usual, which makes it unexpectedly sophisticated. Use the tastiest apples you can find and it’s a quintessential winter dessert. Hide some leftovers for breakfast too.
But dinner before dessert, and there’s nothing here that you can’t make in any non-French kitchen. It was so good that I hope you’ll give it a try.
Make a purée of Jerusalem artichokes and carrots. Peel and dice them, then boil them in water with salt and lemon juice for half an hour. Drain and purée with a little butter and cream, season with salt and pepper. It’s amazing how good this is all by itself.
While the vegetables are cooking, score the fat on the duck breast and set it fat side down in a barely warm pan. I don’t season the duck before doing this, because I like to save the duck fat without added salt or other flavors. A lot of fat will render slowly over about 20 minutes, and you should pour this into a jar and keep it in the fridge. Season the meat side of the duck with salt and pepper. Turn up the heat to medium-hot and let the duck skin get brown and crispy, which only takes a minute or two. Flip the duck over, and still over medium-high heat let it cook for only 3-4 minutes. Remove the duck from the pan and let it rest.
Add a diced red onion to the skillet the duck was cooked in, and season it with salt and pepper. Sauté for a few minutes, then add a splash of sherry vinegar, a pinch of thyme, and a small spoonful of jam. I used Itxassou cherry preserves, but you can use whatever fruit you’d like, just enough to balance the sherry vinegar. Stir until the onions are cooked and the glaze is syrupy.
Toss some lettuce and a bit of shredded carrot with a little argan oil. You can use walnut oil if you don’t have argan, but really, you need to get argan oil if you don’t have any in the house. It’s a miraculously good thing to have in the cupboard. Crack a few walnuts and sprinkle them on the salad.
Slice the duck breast on the diagonal and fan out the slices on top of the salad. Drizzle with the onion and cherry sauce, and add a nice mound of the purée on the side. There’s dinner.
And here’s dessert.
Apple Crisp à la Lynne
1 3/4 cup oats
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup butter
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
10 peeled and sliced apples
(enough to fill a 9×13″ pan)
1/2 cup apple juice
Melt the butter. Combine the dry ingredients, add melted butter, and stir to a crumbly mixture. Place apples in pan and drizzle with apple juice. Spread topping over apples.
Bake at 325 for 40-50 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling. Serve with a drizzle of cream or a spoonful of crème fraiche if you like.