Sunday, November 9, 2008


Sunday is a day I look forward to because I get to make my trip (alone) to the farmer's market. It is there that I wander the stalls, enjoying the reprieve from our usual hectic weekends, chatting with friends and farmers alike. And it is there that I formulate our dinner menu for the week. Sunday afternoons, I usually begin preparing more time consuming dishes for our supper, a task I quite enjoy. It is my therapy, my relaxation, my creative outlet.

But this Sunday wasn't a usual one. Instead of the farmer's market, I was at the hospital, helping my mother discharge my dear 90 year old grandmother, who was suffering from yet another illness, and to top it off, I wasn't really feeling that great myself. It is hard to be motivated to shop for meals, much less prepare them when one is feeling "off" both emotionally and physically. I had planned a meal of butternut squash risotto for tonight, but that didn't sound good to either my husband or me.

So instead of the farmer's market, I settled for Whole Foods and wandered aimlessly around the store hoping to be "inspired." Searching for my muse, I pondered the fish counter, the vegetables, and pasta aisle to no avail. When I was passing by the meat counter, a small package caught my eye. It was whole duck legs from our local poultry farm. Intrigued, I picked them up, and recalled that my mother-in-law had prepared them with success last week. Suddenly relieved, I put the duck into my cart, along with some apple chicken sausage for the children and miscellaneous fruit that I wasn't able to get from the farmer's market, and rushed home to google recipes.

The end result was a satisfying, creamy risotto, topped with slow roasted, shredded duck with vegetables. It was perfect for a cold autumn evening. The best part about it was that even though the duck had to roast for two hours, it only took 5 minutes to prep, and my daughter babied the risotto for me (which needs frequent stirring). I braised the chicken apple sausages in unfiltered apple juice and they came out tender and succulent, in a slightly sweet, caramelized sauce that perfectly complimented the apples within.

Slow-roasted Duck Legs

1 onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
1 stalk of celery diced
2 duck legs (or 1 per person)
Chinese 5 spice powder
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350.

Place the onion, carrots and celery in an oven-proof skillet (I like my cast iron one). Toss with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Lay the duck legs on top and salt and pepper them, then sprinkle liberally with Chinese 5 spice powder.

Bake for 2 hours. Remove skin from duck and shred meat. Remove vegetables from pan with a slotted spoon and toss with duck meat. Reserve duck fat for another use (like roasting potatoes...yummy). Serve over risotto.

Basic Risotto

2 C Arborio rice
1 shallot, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
olive oil
a pour of dry white wine
8 cups (or so) of hot chicken or vegetable broth
a handful of Parmesan cheese

Drizzle olive oil in the bottom of a large saucepan. Saute shallot, garlic and arborio rice until rice is opaque. Pour in some white wine (about 1/4C) and stir over medium low heat until wine is absorbed. Add one cup of broth and stir frequently until absorbed. After that add broth in 1/2 C increments and stir until absorbed. After about 25 minutes, taste rice to see if it is done. It should be creamy and saucy, but still have a bite. There may be some broth left over. Stir in a handful of grated Parmesan cheese. Serves 4.

Braised Chicken Apple Sausages

1 pound of chicken apple sausages (raw)
1 C unfiltered apple juice or cider (hard or soft)

Place sausages into frying pan and pour over apple juice. Heat to boiling and reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes. If apple juice is getting low, add a splash more at this point. Cover and simmer on medium low for 10 minutes more. Uncover, flip sausages, and if necessary add a splash more juice and simmer for 5-10 minutes or until sausages are cooked through. Sauce will thicken and cook down until quite caramelized, but be careful not to burn sauce. If it is getting too dark at any point, just add a splash more juice. These would be great with mashed potatoes, but my kids had to settle for risotto.

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