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Posts from the ‘Kitchen Skills’ Category

Seared Digby Scallops & Citrus Roasted Fiddleheads

 

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I’m past the halfway point of my time home in Cape Breton, and on this chilly, rainy morning I’m feeling particularly sleep deprived, cranky and sore.

Sleep deprived because my five month old suddenly doesn’t sleep anymore. Or nap. Cranky because she looks at me, all red-eyed and wild-haired, and giggles. Like she’s being funny. She is not being funny. Sore because I started the Couch to 5k app three weeks ago, solidly finished three days of the app and then became completely lame. My knee gave out – a combination, I think, of wearing my mother’s running shoes (I left mine in Ireland) and having a wonky hip to begin with.

So basically, I’ve been hobbling around like a zombie the past few weeks with a clingy baby attached to my boob.

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I’m so torn between missing Ireland – my husband, my house, my friends, my life – and being happy in the place where I grew up. I get sad seeing my garden growing at home in Ireland, but at the same time I’m so happy having my children spend time with their Canadian family. I’m missing the great weather right now in Ireland because I know we could have spent some wonderful time together this past long weekend, my husband and kids and I, but I’m thrilled my daughter gets to splash around at the beach and take walks by the river and have campfires with her cousins – such Canadian rites of passage.

Over the years, it pains me to say, Cape Breton has become less home and Tipperary has become more home. Moving there is one of the best things I’ve ever done.

That said, Tipperary has crap seafood. Get with the program, guys.

I have been literally stuffing my face since I returned home. All of my favourites – Tom’s Pizza (those garlic fingers!), the epic sandwiches at The Herring Choker and The Dancing Goat, and way more to come (like The Bite House! And Charlene’s Bayside!). It’s been the seafood though – the sweet mussels, fried haddock, chunky chowders and fresh-caught lobster – that has me waxing all nostalgic these days.

The other night, we had Digby scallops (Digby is a lovely town on the mainland) with an East Coast specialty – fiddleheads! Fiddleheads, for those not in the know, are a type of fern that has not yet unfurled. So, it’s all curled up and vibrantly green, and looks like the end of a fiddle. Hence the name.

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Fiddleheads are all kinds of delicious. Possibly toxic if you’re foraging and don’t know what you’re doing, but a delightful treat for those in the know. We’re in the thick of fiddlehead season, and you can even find them at the grocery stores right now (I have two small children and no time to forage, ok?).

Whether store-bought or foraged, you’ll want to make sure they’re thoroughly washed before you cook them. Soak them in water and vinegar as soon as you get them (if you forage, leave as much stem as possible). Rinse them, running your finger through the curled bit, no less than three times.

Safety folk will tell you to cook fiddleheads more than once. I don’t know how necessary that is if you’ve cleaned them well, but it never hurts to blanch them in boiling, salted water before finishing off in a hot pan or oven for a few minutes if you’re feeling nervous. This sounds like so much work, but they really are tasty little morsels and you can do so much with them once they’re cleaned.

Soup, risotto, roasted, stir-fried – my general rule of thumb is to treat the fiddlehead like asparagus. I love having them with poached egg and hollandaise. They’re great with seafood, which is why we had them with scallops the other night. A quick beurre blanc and we had ourselves about as fancy a dinner as you can find in Cape Breton.

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Seared Digby Scallops & Citrus Roasted Fiddleheads

12 large scallops, patted dry with a bit of paper towel

1 large bunch of fresh fiddleheads (about 600g), cleaned

1/2 lemon, juiced

salt and pepper

1 Tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces

2 Tbsp olive oil

For the beurre blanc:

60ml/1/4 cup dry white wine

60m/14 cup white wine vinegar

250g/1 cup cold butter, cut into cubes

1 shallot, finely chopped

salt, to taste

Directions:

  • Once your fiddleheads have been thoroughly cleaned, trim the ends and place in a pot of boiling, salted water for 3 minutes. Immediately shock the fiddleheads in ice water to stop the cooking process. Strain and lay out on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
  • Drizzle the fiddleheads with salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil. Preheat the oven to 400∘F (200∘C) and set the tray aside.
  • Make the beurre blanc: in a clean saucepan, add the shallot, vinegar and wine and boil on high until the liquid is reduced by half. Strain out the shallot and return the liquid to a medium heat. Whisking constantly, add the cubed butter a little bit at a time until it’s all incorporated. You should have a slightly thick, glossy sauce. Season with salt and keep warm, stirring occasionally until you’re ready to use.
  • Place the seasoned fiddleheads in the preheated oven. Roast for 5-8 minutes.
  • Make the scallops: heat a cast iron or stainless steel pan on high. Pat the scallops dry with paper towel, then liberally season with salt and pepper. When the pan is smoking hot, add some olive oil and sear the scallops on one side for 40 seconds (the shouldn’t stick – if they are sticking, they aren’t ready to turn so just wait a few seconds and try again). Turn the scallops and add the little cubes of butter to the pan. Baste the scallops with the browned butter as the other side cooks for about 30 more seconds.
  • Remove the fiddleheads from the oven, transfer the scallops to a warm plate and serve with the hot beurre blanc.

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Maple Planked Salmon with Maple Dijon Glaze

 

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In a culinary world full of deconstructions, elaborate plating, shocking flavour combinations and specially-foraged ingredients we sometimes lose sight of the simple pleasures of eating. A set table, friends and family, a smoking barbecue – great food done simply.

Maple syrup and salmon may not sound like a winning flavour combination to some, but it is a pairing that has withstood the test of time and always, ALWAYS impresses even the pickiest eater – especially if you’re cooking the salmon on a plank.

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Planking salmon is one of my favourite ways to cook the fish. You can buy maple or cedar planks in most grocery stores in Canada, or if you have access to a lumber yard you could have someone cut you some. Cooking the salmon on a plank adds a distinctive flavour and light smokiness, but since you’re cooking the fish indirectly it also remains moist and flaky. Topped with a great glaze, a well-planked filet of salmon is tough to beat on a beautiful summery evening.

And we have been having some lovely evenings lately. 

I was disappointed with the weather when we first arrived in Canada – mostly due to the gorgeous weather that exploded in Ireland as soon as we left! Even though I spent the majority of my life in Cape Breton, I couldn’t believe the leaves weren’t out on the trees (as they were in Ireland) and the daffodils weren’t in bloom (they were long finished in Ireland) when we arrived in early May.

We’re still waiting for the leaves, but it won’t be long now. We’ve also caught some trout, gone on walks and played in the sunshine with family and friends in the two + weeks since we arrived. This salmon, which we enjoyed last night with a dear family friend, was icing on the cake.

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So you want to try planking your own salmon? Here’s the method I follow every time I plank (that sentence sounds so healthy, doesn’t it? If only.):

  1. SOAK – you need to soak your planks for at least 1.5 hours before cooking with them.
  2. TRIM – I buy an entire side of local salmon from the fish guy (who comes to the nearby village of Baddeck on Wednesdays to sell seafood out of his trailer).
  3. CURE – I lightly cure the salmon for 30-45 minutes before cooking. Just sprinkle the trimmed side of salmon with even layers of salt and sugar (I don’t measure, but a few tablespoons of each should be enough). Leave it for 30-45 minutes and you’ll see how much excess water is drawn from the fish. It makes for a more succulent filet, but you don’t have to cure your salmon if you don’t want.
  4. PORTION – A full side of salmon should provide around six generous filets. I sliced the side in half, then portioned each half into three.
  5. RINSE – If you didn’t cure your salmon, don’t worry about this step. If you did, you’ll want to rinse the excess salt/sugar from the salmon with fresh, cold water.
  6. DRY – Pat each filet dry with some paper towel.
  7. PLANK – Transfer your salmon filets to the plank(s).
  8. GLAZE – Brush some of your chosen glaze on the uncooked fish.
  9. GRILL + GLAZE – The final step! Place the planked salmon on the barbecue grill (you can also do this in the oven – but it’s not as nice), close the lid and allow the salmon to cook slowly on medium for about 15-20 minutes (keep an eye – it will take a bit of time for the planks to heat the salmon, but it won’t be longer than 20 minutes). Intermittently, you can add more glaze as the heat and smoke does its work.

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This sounds like a lot of work, but like any great meal, if you’re prepared and organized it will come together so, so easily. Serve with wild rice or roasted potatoes and sauteed greens (some nice wine won’t go amiss, either).

Here’s the recipe for my favourite maple glaze:

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Maple Dijon Glaze for Planked Salmon

Ingredients:

1/3 cup/80ml good quality, medium or dark maple syrup

1/4 cup/60g Dijon mustard

1/2 Tbsp each: finely chopped fresh chives, parsley, dill, oregano

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Directions:

  • In a small bowl, mix the maple syrup, dijon and fresh herbs.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add some glaze to the uncooked salmon, then add more while the salmon cooks.

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Irish Midlands Panna Cotta Tartlet

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I’m sitting at the desk in my bedroom at the moment. The sun is shining through the window, I have a cup of (hot!) coffee sitting next to the laptop and my baby is napping in the kitchen. Maeve is watching TV and doing puzzles with my mom. In a week we’ll be taking the girls to Canada for two months so stay tuned for some Canadian posts soon!

I love my babies so much – I really do – but it feels *so* good to sit at a desk and quietly type up a blog post. I miss it.

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I’m usually running around during the day. Ciara sleeps in the car – her daytime naps are short, short, short – and in her sling most days. She only sleeps in her moses basket at night, but when she finally goes down she sleeps for 8-9 hours straight. No complaints there! It just doesn’t leave a lot of time during the day for blogging. Did I mention it feels *so* good to be sitting at a desk?

Since I only get to sit down and blog every once in a while, it’s probably no surprise to you that I’ve been planning this post for, literally, weeks. I made and (quickly) photographed these delicious tartlets 2 or 3 weeks ago and am only now getting around to typing up the recipe! But it’s a really good recipe. I think it’s worth the wait.

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I was recently reading a recipe that combined panna cotta with earl grey tea and thought it was a great idea. What was even cooler was the panna cotta was set in a tartlet shell. At first I thought it was just a nice way to present the dessert, but holy moly, I never knew sweet pâte sablée and panna cotta could bring out the best in each other. The crumbly sweet pastry combined with the just set, barely sweetened cream is a match made in heaven.

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I didn’t flavour the panna cotta with tea, though. In the next county over (Offaly) there is a fabulous little food company called Wild Irish Foragers. They make shrub syrups, sweet syrups, pots and preserves – all from plants and flowers foraged here in the Midlands of Ireland. I love their products, mostly because they make things I don’t have the time or skillset to make myself.

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I flavoured the panna cotta with their Wild Dandelion Preserve, which is otherwise known as Poor Man’s Honey. It’s sweet like honey with just a hint of wild, floral, herbal flavour. I also used a raw cream to make the panna cotta. This one came from Crawford’s Farm in Cloughjordan (home to Tipperary’s only eco-village and where my favourite sourdough is made).

Yes, I could have used our own raw cream to make the panna cotta. I am aware I live on a dairy farm. BUT the cream only settles (floats to the top) in our milk storage unit at certain times of the day. It’s mixed all other times and thereby IMPOSSIBLE to skim. Crawford’s is amazing stuff. It tastes buttery. It’s thick. It makes perfect panna cotta.

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Finally, I topped the tartlet with a blueberry compote. Because I’m from Nova Scotia and I love blueberries. Here’s the recipe! The next time you hear from me I’ll be eating lots of seafood on the East Coast of Canada!

Irish Midlands Panna Cotta Tartlet

Ingredients 

For the Pâte Sablée:

120g/scant 1/2 cup softened butter

75g/1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar)

1 egg yolk

300g/ 1 1/4 cup plain flour

1/2 tsp sea salt

For the Panna Cotta:

500ml/2 cups Crawford’s Farm Raw Cream, or heavy cream

2 heaping Tbsp Wild Irish Foragers Dandelion Preserve

1/2 packet powdered gelatin (about 1 tsp)

Pinch of fine sea salt

For the Blueberry Compote:

250g/1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

60g/1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla

Zest of one lemon

1 heaping Tbsp cornstarch mixed with 125 ml/1/2 cup water

Directions:

  • Make the pâte sablée: in a bowl or stand mixer, mix the egg yolk, butter and icing sugar until well combined. Add the flour and salt. Mix until it comes together, like a cookie dough. If it’s dry and crumbly, add 1-2 Tbsp of milk. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Roll out the pastry to about 1/4 inch thickness and fit into four small tartlet pans. Don’t worry about tears. Just use extra dough to patch any holes. Do not poke holes in the bottom as you do with some tart shells; the panna cotta will leak through later!
  • Line the tartlet pans with parchment paper and fill with pie weights (or dried beans). Bake until the top are golden brown and the bottoms are cooked through (the bottoms will still look pale), about 15-20 minutes. Don’t worry if the bottom of the tartlets seem too soft; they will firm up as they cool.
  • When the tart shells are cool, carefully remove them from the pans and place them on a tray.
  • Make the panna cotta: in a small saucepan, combine the cream, salt and Dandelion preserve. Slowly heat the cream mixture until it’s hot, steamy and the dandelion preserve has dissolved. You do not want to bring it to a boil, but just before it starts to boil.
  • Remove the cream mixture from the heat and sprinkle the gelation over top. Gently whisk the mixture until the gelatin is dissolved completely (this might take a minute or two).
  • Pour the mixture into the tart shells (don’t try to move the tart shells off or around the tray at this point) and put the tray into the fridge to set.
  • Make the compote: in a saucepan, combine the blueberries, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla. If you’re using fresh blueberries, add a splash of water to the pot. Bring to a boil, then add the cornstarch/water mixture. Stir until thickened, remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  • When the panna cotta has set in the tart shells (about 30 minutes), top it with the cooled blueberry compote. Garnish with mint or lemonbalm. Serve immediately or keep them in the fridge to be served the same day.

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Perfect Italian Buttercream

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Well, the weeks and months seem to be flying by. Suddenly my sleepy little newborn is wide awake and PLAYING WITH TOYS and FOCUSING ON PEOPLE and GIGGLING and generally being adorable. These are all amazing developments, even if they mean less me-time and more baby/toddler-time. The blog suffers, as do my other interests, general health and well being and, sometimes, my sanity. But it’s all good. The Spring has more or less arrived and the sunny weather does great things for the spirit.

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In a little over a MONTH I’ll be flying to Canada with my girls. Ciara really needs a passport. My mom is here in Ireland, which is amazing, and she’ll be flying home with us, as will a friend’s daughter, who will travel around with us in Canada and be a great help with the smallies. I’m looking forward to it. I can’t wait to see all my extended family members and friends at home in Cape Breton, and at the end of our “Canada time” we’ll fly out to Victoria, BC to spend time with my brothers and their kids.

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In the meantime, days are spent on playdates and coffee breaks. The Easter bunny came over the weekend, leaving way too much chocolate for a two year old. Luckily Maeve has her mom, dad, grandad and nana to help do away with the spoils. We spent our Easter having lots of family time. This included a feast of epic proportions on Easter Sunday with a huge roasted gammon joint, garlicky dauphinoise potatoes, spring veggies, smoked trout from the fabulous Goatsbridge Farm in Thomastown, Kilkenny, lots of wine and THIS. This dark chocolate layer cake with vanilla Italian buttercream and chocolate mini-eggs.

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The whole meal was great, but the cake was extra-delicious. Even though we were massively full, everyone managed to save room for a slice. The cake was moist and rich and the buttercream was light, airy and blissful – which is surprising, considering an entire pound of butter went into it. Yes, this isn’t a diet-friendly recipe (are any of my recipes diet-friendly? I need to take a long hard look at my life) but it is the perfect indulgent holiday dessert.

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You don’t need to make it “Easter” or even “holiday”. Top it with chocolate-dipped strawberries, edible flowers, candied orange slices or nothing at all. I like how it looks with the naked-mask of frosting. It would make a really impressive birthday cake for someone.

I used a few tools to make this cake.

  • 4 small sandwich tins
  • a cake turntable
  • a stand mixer
  • a large pallet knife
  • a sharp serrated knife

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If you don’t have any of these things, don’t panic. This buttercream masks the cake perfectly and is very forgiving if, like me, you have a bit of a wobbly hand. I will say that the pallet knife, at least, is important if you like sharp, defined corners on your cake. The turntable helps because you can keep the knife as steady as possible with one hand while turning the cake with the other. But even if you slap this buttercream on with a spoon, or just schmear it in between the layers and leave the sides alone, it will still look great and taste amazing.

This cake was made with my usual Never Fail Chocolate Cake recipe with dark, good quality cocoa powder and hot coffee instead of boiling water. I made the cake in the four sandwich tins, let them cool, wrapped them in plastic and let them sit overnight. That way they were cool enough and retained all their moisture when the time came to ice them.

So here it is! The recipe for the perfect Italian Buttercream (no icing sugar in sight).

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Perfect Italian Buttercream

Ingredients:

5 egg whites, room temperature

1 tsp cream of tartar

1.5 cups/375g white sugar

1/3 cup/90ml water

1 tsp good quality vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

2 cups/454g/1 big block good quality butter (like Tipperary Co-op)

Directions:

  • Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer). Using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks.
  • While the egg whites are being whisked, combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan and boil into a thick syrup (soft ball stage). You don’t want the sugar to caramelize. I don’t keep track of the temperature (who has time for that, really) but it’s at the point where the syrup is quite thick and about to begin to caramelize.
  • Turn the stand mixer down to low and slowly pour the hot syrup into the whisked egg whites. Do this slowly enough that the syrup doesn’t splash too much on the sides of the bowl. Touch the side of the bowl. It will be quite warm from the syrup and the egg whites will have gone down in volume.
  • Continue to whisk on med-high until the mixture cools to nearly room temperature – about 3-5 minutes.
  • Take the pound of butter and cut it into small cubes. Once the egg white mixture has cooled, continue mixing while adding cubes of butter, 2 or 3 at a time. Allow the bits of butter to be combined into the mixture before adding more butter. Slowly add the entire pound of butter while constantly whisking. Once all the butter is added, don’t freak out if the mixture looks curdled. Keep whisking for several more minutes until everything is well incorporated. Add the vanilla and beat into the frosting.
  • The finished buttercream should be aerated, totally smooth, slightly thick and off-white in colour. Use it immediately to mask your cake, or pipe onto cupcakes.

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A Cape Breton-Style Lobster Dinner (Also: How to Eat Whole Lobster)

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Does the title of this post sound a bit condescending? I hope not.

The thing is, so many visitors come to this part of the world to take in the natural beauty and to indulge in some amazing seafood. Many aren’t that familiar with the way we serve lobster – that is, steamed or boiled, whole, and served with drawn (melted) butter for dipping the meat. Plain and simple, in every Cape Bretoner’s opinion, is the best way to enjoy it.

I remember the “lobster class” I had in culinary school in Toronto. We made vanilla butter poached lobster and used the shell to make a bisque. I was blown away. I can’t say, up until that point, that I had ever eaten fancy lobster. In my chowder? Sure. In a roll with crushed potato chips sprinkled over? Absolutely. But vanilla butter poached? My brain exploded; I just couldn’t handle it.

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And it tasted amazing. But I have to say, there’s nothing more satisfying than being in charge of your own fate, especially where lobster is concerned. I love digging into the shell with my hands and fork and a nutcracker to see what I’ll find – how sweet the meat is, how well cooked it’s been, how chunky the knuckles (my favourite joint) are. Every lobster is different.

My cousin’s husband has been lobster fishing since May and today was the last day of the season – no more lobster fishing in Cape Breton for the rest of the year (sniffff). As I hadn’t yet had a proper feed, we asked him to bring a few home for us. He caught us some absolute beauties (thanks, Cecil)! My mother boiled them to perfection and served them with a summery potato salad and drawn butter.

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How’s the best way to attack a lobster? Well, as a great chef once told me, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” You have to find a way that works for you.

Just so you know, lobsters retain a bit of liquid when they’re cooked and things might get a little messy. If you’re the queasy type, you might not like the look of tomalley (green lobster liver), but keep in mind that it tastes divine. To eat the tomalley is not only OK; it’s highly recommended.

People tend to differ about what part of the lobster is tastiest. Some swear the tail-meat is nicest, while others prefer the claw (the meat is less stringy in the claw, but it’s also a piece of rubber if the lobster’s been overcooked). If you ask me, and I already mentioned this, the knuckle meat is the sweetest, tastiest (and most hard fought) part of the lobster. It takes a bit of elbow grease to get it, but I think it’s worth it.

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When you get a whole lobster, the first thing you should do is break it in half. This separates the tail from the body. Then I like to remove the tail meat from the shell. To break the lobster in half, just keep one hand around the tail and the other around the body, then give it a good twist. Keep some napkins close by in case you get squirted.

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To remove the meat from the tail, take the tail in your hand and squeeze the ends of the shell toward each other. You should feel a crack. Then I break the tip of the tail off (the part that fans – just the very tip). Once the tip is off, you can work the meat away from the shell with your fingers.

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Once the tail is eaten, go for the claws. Twist the knuckles from the large claws and crack the claw with a nutcracker until it breaks in half. The meat should come right out. For the knuckles, use your knife or a special lobster fork to fish out the meat.

You can scoop everything out of the body cavity and eat that, too. It’s delicious, though many leave this part alone because the green bits make them queasy!

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The correct accompaniments for a steamed or boiled lobster in Cape Breton are potato salad and coleslaw, as well as freshly baked biscuits and rolls, and beer or cider (try Big Spruce Kitchen Party Pale Ale or Bulwark Craft Cider). Some of the best places in Cape Breton for a boiled lobster dinner include The Baddeck Lobster Suppers, The Lobster Galley and The Rusty Anchor. There are lots of other great places, but these ones have been tried and tested by moi.

Although the season is now over, I’m sending wishes for many lobster dinners in your future. Life with lobster is just better!

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The Whole Duck, and Nothing But.

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The other day, I was doing a quick shop in Lidl when I saw they had a special on whole duckling for roasting.

Now, if I want a good duck, I’ll get it from a local butcher. It’s worth the money because the bird is meatier and fattier – better for roasting as you’ll end up with much more of the succulent meat. But these whole ducks at Lidl were €8.00! For an entire duckling. I couldn’t pass it up. I mean, we are a family on a budget.

So I got this duck and wasn’t sure what to do with it. The thing about roasting whole duck is that the different parts are at their best cooked different ways. I like roast duck. The best I ever had was in an old restaurant called Hua’s on “Ghost Street” in Beijing – it was expensive, but the duck at this place was so good, my friend and I ended up ordering two. But I prefer a nicely seared, pan roasted duck breast and slowly confit’d duck legs.

So when I got home, I got out my sharpest boning knife and broke the duck down completely. I used every single part, getting four meals out of one bird. Here’s how I did it and what I made:

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  1. Make sure the bird is right side up. That means, the breasts should be facing the ceiling and the legs should be facing you, the butcher.
  2. With a sharp knife, slice down either side of the breast bone (or the back bone). It’s found at the very top and goes vertically from one end of the bird to the other. Give it a good slice on either side.13868049975_2e415afcc4_z
  3. Once you’ve done that, choose a side to work on. Now’s the time to remove the breast meat. You probably won’t be very good at this the first time you do it (I would practise on some chicken first, since there’s less breast meat on a duck and you wouldn’t want to waste any). Using your knife, lightly scrape (don’t slice) down the side of the duck, leaving as little meat on the rib cage as possible. Once you have enough of a cavity made, you can use the tip of your knife to scrape down the sides. Once the breast is nearly severed, slice through the remaining skin and fat to remove it completely.13868047445_cf2acbbcca_z
  4. Now, do the same thing on the other side to remove the other breast.13868422344_09f927e03f_z
  5. Once the breasts are removed, it’s time to take off the legs. Use your hands to move the leg around. Once you feel where the hip joint is, give the leg a good twist to dislocate the joint. Once the joint is dislocated, use your knife to slice through. First, hold the leg to one side to tighten the skin around the joint, then slice through it. Once you’re through the skin, you can see where the leg joint naturally separates from the body. Use your knife and slice through the hip joint.
  6. Again with your knife, slice through the skin above the leg to see where the thigh meat is located. Once you see it, scrape down the rib cage until you’ve removed the thigh meat.13868420284_f26983f7c4_z
  7. Repeat this on the other leg until both are removed.
  8. Once you have the major joints removed, take off the wings. I just, again, find the main joint, give it a good twist to dislocate, and then slice through the joint with my knife, removing the wing.13868066933_766f5efd49_z
  9. Now it’s time to remove all the skin and fat from the duck. There will be a lot of fat in the skin and a lot of fat in between the skin and meat and, also, just inside the cavity. Remove all the skin and fat from the bird and, also, clean the joints and breasts of any excess fat. Save all the skin and fat.13868038265_56b61ff328_z
  10. You should be left with the carcass (the body cavity). You can use a larger knife to chop through the bone or, if you have a big enough pot, leave it whole. Congratulations, you’ve just deboned a duck.

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Here’s what I did with the different parts:

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The Breasts:

  • Lightly score the skin of the breasts with a sharp knife or razor blade. Season well with salt and pepper – rub it into the scoring marks. Leave to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • Heat a frying pan on medium-high. You want the pan hot enough to render all the fat from under the skin of the breast, but not so hot that you burn the skin in the process.
  • When the pan is hot, do not add any oil or butter. Lay the breasts, skin side down, onto the hot pan. The fat will render almost immediately and will begin to crisp up the skin. Let the majority of the fat render from the breast – cook it on the skin side for the majority of the cooking process.
  • When the fat is mostly rendered and the skin is crispy and brown, turn over the duck and immediately transfer the pan to a hot oven (about 200 degrees Celsius). Depending on the size of the breast, cook for 7-12 minutes for a nice medium-rare.
  • I served the duck with green beans amandine (made with lemon, olive oil and toasted slivered almonds) and a buttermilk mash.

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The Skin and Fat:

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  • When all the skin and fat was removed from the carcass, I transferred it to a Dutch oven and immediately put it over a medium- low heat to slowly render all the fat.
  • As the fat rendered, the skin got extremely crispy. When the skin was completely crisp and golden brown I knew all the fat had been rendered.
  • I strained the duck fat into a container to save away and seasoned the crispy skin with some sea salt. I squeezed some sriracha chili sauce onto a plate and Pat and I had a delicious snack of crispy duck skin to eat while watching Game of Thrones (the best way to spend an evening, in my opinion).

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The Carcass and Wings:

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  • I could have kept the wings and fried them for some crispy duck wings, but I didn’t really feel like it. I added them to the carcass, put the carcass and wings in a stock pot, added a chopped carrot, two chopped onions, some chopped celery, a few peppercorns, some whole star anise, some coriander seed, some lemongrass and ginger, a bay leaf and fresh parsley and coriander.
  • I covered it all in cold water and gently simmered for 2 hours. It made a beautifully aromatic broth.
  • I put the hot broth in the fridge overnight. As it cooled, the fat collected at the top of the container and I easily scraped it off the next day.
  • I made pho with rice noodles, rose oyster mushrooms, crispy fried cod, scallion, basil, fresh coriander and sriracha. I seasoned the duck broth with lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce, sriracha and some tom yum paste I had in the fridge. It was amazeballs.

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The Legs:

  • I saved this for last because I haven’t actually cooked the legs yet. They’re in the freezer. The duck fat is in the fridge. This Friday night I’m making duck confit with lentils and Toulouse sausage. Traditionally, you’d have duck confit with cassoulet but that’s a bit too much work for a Friday night!
  • I’ll season the duck fat with bay, peppercorns and juniper berries before scooping it (cold or room temperature) over the legs. Then I’ll cook them in at a low heat in the oven for a few hours, until tender.

Say what you want about Lidl, but €8.00 for a whole duckling is a steal. They’re Irish ducks, too and they’re still available.

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