Wow – time sure flies!
It has now been a week and I am finally sitting down to recount the dinner party Eric and I hosted last Thursday. We had a few neighbours over – a perfect time for me to try out some new dishes and practice some MasterChef techniques!
On the menu:
Five-spice duck breast, Asian mushroom and scallions with mixed rice, braised baby bok choy with red kale
To avoid disturbing the mood or conversation at our dinner parties, I always prep the ingredients as much as possible. The night before, I halved and pitted the cherries for the clafouti, cleaned and chopped the mixed mushrooms, thawed and scored the duck breasts, washed and quartered the baby bok choy and red kale, made the jalapeño-lemongrass syrup.
I arrived home about an hour before the ladies were scheduled to appear. I whipped up the clafouti and pulled it out of the oven just as they arrived. As with most dinner parties, we began with a bottle of bubbly (thank you, Nadine) followed by the signature cocktail. I was definitely too cautious with the jalapeño-lemongrass syrup when I made the pitcher of cocktails. We quickly remedied that by adding another shot of the zippy citrus syrup. All was good in the world once again!
A few minutes later the breasts were rubbed with the spice mixture and the duck fat rendering began. There is no way I would discard that liquid gold! I saved it to roast some creamer potatoes for our Sunday Scrabble dinner. Once the duck breasts were adequately seared, they went to the oven to keep warm. The bok choy and kale were flash fried in the five spice and duck fat pan (YUM!) until tender. The mushroom mixture (oyster and shimeji mushrooms) was fried in butter to release their juices, hit with a bit of soy sauce and simmered a few more minutes. Finished with some diagonally sliced scallions and the mushrooms were set to top off the mixed brown basmati rice.
Oh, I almost forgot – that pressure cooker came in handy once again. While the clafouti was baking, I rinsed and prepped the rice with an onion for the pressure cooker. Brought it all to a boil and then turned it off – ready to steam up under pressure upon demand!
Each component came together quite beautifully – then Eric’s craft began. We waited patiently as the platters were arranged so precisely for their photo shoots. Eventually, a full meal was plated and then we could all attack the remainder. We ate, drank, chatted about everything and definitely laughed plenty throughout the night. We finished the meal with the clafouti and managed to polish off another two (?) bottles of wine. Friday sure was rough!
My lesson learned: sear and cook the duck breast to what I would normally consider a bit too rare. The residual heat kept it cooking for an additional 30 minutes as the sides were prepared and the platters were being photographed. That being said, it was the best duck I’ve ever had!