Dry-Aged Duck Breast with Hoisin & Pickled Cucumber

With the pasta being rather difficult to make in a tiny studio apartment, I wanted everything else to be relatively easy. Sometimes easy and simple is the way to go, especially when using dry-aged duck breast. The flavors are more intense so you don’t need much to accompany the duck breast.

So here is Dry-Aged Duck Breast with Homemade Hoisin Sauce with Ume Boshi, Pickled Cucumber, and Chive Oil.

5 Spiced Duck Leg Cappellacci

This is probably my most ambitious homemade pasta project for #RontiniFriendsgiving #RontiniParties because I had to marinate the duck legs, cook the duck legs, hand-shred the duck legs, mince/grind the duck legs through a meat grinder, make the farce, pipe the farce into the freshly made pasta dough, fold/shape the dough…

I decided to make the pasta a weekend before the actual date because there was no way that I could make pasta dough from scratch and do all of that in one day along with the other day-of Thanksgiving prep!

So here you have Cappellacci (meaning little hats) filled with 5 Spice Duck Leg with Celery in a Brown Butter Sage Sauce with Fennel, Fines Herbes, Cured Egg Yolk, and Fennel Fronds.

Quail with Autumn Mushrooms

I was going to put more egg (a quail egg) in this holiday menu but as I was writing the prep list, I realized that it’s too much and that the quail egg isn’t completely necessary.

I wasn’t set on one mushroom for this dish. I was open to all that was available! That meant going to the farmer’s market. I also thought I had two weekends before Thanksgiving to prep but after looking at the calendar, I only had one! Food shopping in NYC is difficult because I am only one person with two hands and two shoulders. And bags get heavy quick. The farmer’s market at Union Square is open every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. The best days, in my opinion, are Wednesdays and Fridays.

I didn’t want to risk it so I bought my mushrooms at the biggest Whole Foods Market, the one on Houston/Bowery. Their mushrooms were pretty good, I was there picking through all the nice chanterelles and all the nice king trumpets to put in my bag. And being a Prime member has its benefits!!! I wanted black trumpets too but they didn’t have any. I bought baby Bellas (aka small portobello aka baby cremini) for the purée. And good thing I went to Whole Foods because the market had almost nothing/really shitty mushrooms.

Here you have Quail that was brined then seared, cooked to medium, with a Cremini Purée, roasted Chanterelles and King Trumpets, garnished with its Jus, a Montegrato Pedro Ximénez Reduction, and Crispy Rosemary.

Egg on Egg on Egg

*Biology Class 101: I know sea urchin tongues aren’t really the “roe” but they are the gonads of the creature; for the sake of this post, I am calling them “eggs”. The gonads/sex organs (sometimes also referred to as coral) produce the roe.

Originally, the first course was going to be tuna crudo but I scrapped that idea because I didn’t think it would be a show-stopper!

So here you have Soft Scrambled Eggs folded with Sea Urchin Cream on the bottom, topped with airy Potato Foam, garnished with Sea Urchin Tongues, Trout Roe, Chives, and Pumpernickel Soil.

Recipe: Coconut Crab Curry

My favorite restaurant in NYC is still Fish Cheeks, an authentic Thai restaurant that focuses on seafood in NoHo. For the first year in the restaurant, they had a sign that read “A No Pad Thai Zone”. I’m there basically every week. If I’m eating alone, I always start with the grilled pork cheeks (those taste better than bacon by a million times!) and then finish with their coconut crab curry! Other favorites on their menu: zabb wings, tiger prawn/lobster karee, and po tak! They also have happy hour everyday, twice a day, which is #awesomesauce because people who also work in the industry usually work during “normal” happy hour times.

Anyway, six months ago, I stumbled onto Fish Cheeks‘ coconut crab curry recipe on Vice. I immediately bookmarked it and have been trying to get the energy to do it at home. Fall season has hit NYC and my work life has been overwhelmingly exhaustive. I’ve been working 6-7 days a week since Labor Day. Last Saturday, I finally had the time to make curry paste from scratch. I have a new appreciation for what goes into the work of making the curry paste. I wonder how big their mortal & pestle is…? Or maybe Fish Cheeks has an assembly line of cooks making curry paste at the same time?

There were three ingredients that I couldn’t find though; betel leaves, prik ban chang, and shrimp paste. I was told by the Thai grocer that a close substitute to betel leaves were the leaves of Chinese broccoli (gai lan, 芥蓝). Prik, which is chili in Thai, is a red chili pepper that is not spicy but is used to make curries red/orange in color. The Thai market was out of shrimp paste so I bought dried Japanese shrimp from Chinatown.

So here is my adaptation from Vice’s published Fish Cheeks‘ recipe.

For the Curry Paste:

  • ¼ oz. sea salt
  • ¾ oz. dried Thai bird’s eye red chili
  • ½ oz. fresh Thai bird’s eye chili
  • ¼ oz. garlic
  • ½ oz. fresh galangal
  • 1 oz. lemongrass
  • 1 oz. wild ginger
  • ½ oz. fresh turmeric
  • 1 oz. dried shrimp

For the Curry:

  • Two 14 oz. cans of coconut milk
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 1 oz. fish sauce
  • 1 oz. palm sugar
  • 1 oz. lemongrass
  • 1 oz. tamarind concentrate
  • ½ oz. fresh galangal
  • 4 fresh makrut lime leaves, plus 2 finely chopped as garnish
  • 4 Chinese broccoli leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 8 oz. crab meat

Make the curry paste by mashing everything together with a mortar and pestle. I have a 6-inch one and the volume was perfect. Start with the top listed ingredient and then work your way down. Do not move onto the next ingredient until the previous one has become a paste.

In a medium saucepan over low-medium heat, bring the coconut milk, shallot, fish sauce, palm sugar, lemongrass, tamarind, galangal, 4 makrut lime leaves, Chinese broccoli leaves, and the curry paste to a simmer. Be sure to break the tamarind concentrate thoroughly with a whisk. Stirring constantly to prevent scorching, cook for 15 minutes, then take off heat and let it cool for another 15 minutes. Remove the Chinese broccoli leaves, put everything into a VitaMix and blend until smooth, strain, then discard solids.

Add in the crab and the rest of the finely chopped makrut lime leaves on low heat, until the crab is heated through. Pour into a serving bowl and serve with lots of steamed white rice!

Recipe: Watermelon “Sushi”

This past Labor Day weekend, I hosted my second rooftop party. It was very much delayed from the previous rooftop party because the first one was back in 2014!! I should have multiple rooftop parties throughout each summer! There was a total of 14 people, which honestly was more than I had planned for but I don’t regret it because it turned out to be such a blast!

I made four different canapés and I just love, love, love the watermelon “sushi” that I came up with when I used to work at Degustation. It was one of my favorite amuse bouche that I put on the tasting menu – here and here.

I had fish troubles for this one because the fluke that I had bought at the fish market turned bad two days later, which meant that I couldn’t use it, even after I cured it, it was still bad… So I had to rush to my favorite trustworthy Japanese supermarket the day of, which killed one hour of my prep time! I’ve always used some kind of flat fish like sole or fluke but Katagiri didn’t have sashimi grade flat fish so I bought some salmon and yellowtail.

It’s best to use cold, refrigerated watermelon. Cut the watermelon into bite-sized rectangles. To cure the fish, cover the fish in equal parts of salt and sugar and place in refrigerator for 45 minutes. The fish pieces that I had were no more than 5 mm thick.

I always like to have my reduced sherry vinegar on hand at home because I use it to season a lot of random things. I buy a 16-year aged Pedro Ximénez sweet sherry vinegar from Despaña and reduce it with herbs and spices until it becomes syrupy. Once you’re done assembling the watermelon and sliced cuts of fish, drizzle some sherry reduction and grate some fresh lime zest over the top. This is always a big crowd pleasure and is perfect for summer!

Recipe: Gougères

Gougères are essentially cream puffs without the cream and instead with cheese. They are the savory version of the pâte à choux. The cheese is commonly grated Gruyère, Comté, or Emmentaler. I used Gruyère in this.

In culinary school, I had to mix this by hand and that was exhausting. I have a stand mixer at home so making the choux was a piece of cake!

This recipe yields around 50 pieces.

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 8 oz. butter
  • Large pinch of salt
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 cups Gruyère, and extra for garnishing
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line baking sheets with SilPats or parchment paper, oiling them is not necessary. In a saucepan, combine the milk, water, butter, and salt, and bring to a boil. Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until a smooth dough forms. Stir over low heat until the dough dries out and pulls away from the pan, approximately 2 minutes.

Scrape the dough into a bowl of a stand mixer. Let it cool for a few minutes before beating in the eggs. On “stir”, using the paddle attachment, beat the eggs into the dough, one at a time, and beating thoroughly between each one. It is important to be sure that each egg is fully incorporated into the batter before adding the next. Don’t worry if the batter separates and looks curdled at first. Keep beating, and it will come together nicely. Add the cheese and season with black pepper, cayenne pepper, and nutmeg.

Transfer the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round tip and pipe tablespoon-size mounds onto the baking sheets. Sprinkle more cheese on top of each one and bake for 20 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. Serve hot/warm. I stuff them with duxelles, which is a finely chopped mixture of mushroom (chanterelles).

Blue Corn Tacos with Duck Leg Confit & Red Mole

I only just realized that I forgot to post this from last year’s Friendsgiving… here it is.

Why blue? They look purple to me.

I still stand by the confit method as the best way to cook duck legs. You can never go wrong with confit. And what better way to serve succulent shredded meat than with tacos? Two years ago, I used regular colored tortillas but I wanted the pop of color from the purple blue shells! Also, last year, I kept the legs and breasts separate. I like to switch it up from time to time. Don’t want my guests to get bored with my food!

The red mole here is from one of my good friends! I love it so much!

 

Plans for Friendsgiving 2019

I’m very early this year for my Friendsgiving menu plans! Inspiration started and I decided to just go with it. I’ve been usually doing dinner for four for the past couple of years because that means less glassware to clean but I want to do six people total this year… Here is what I have so far; I expect menu changes…

Egg on Egg on Egg
Sea Urchin • Soft Scramble • Trout Roe
Potato Foam • Pumpernickel Soil
(1st course)

Quail with Autumn Mushrooms
Chanterelles • King Trumpet • Cremini Purée
Rosemary • Montegrato Pedro Ximénez
(2nd course)

5 Spiced Duck Leg Cappellacci
Celery • Brown Butter • Cured Egg Yolk • Fennel
(3rd course)

Dry Aged Duck Breast
Homemade Hoisin • Pickled Cucumber • Chive Oil
(4th course)

Pear Tart
Ginger Snap • Ginger Ice Cream
(5th course)

Summer Spritz

I haven’t been that good lately keeping up with my website… Work has been busy and since I am cooking someone else’s food, the creative juices have come to a halt. On hold, actually.

I am, however, experimenting with new cocktails at home. This sudden burst in the making of craft cocktails begun for my birthday celebrations earlier this month. Before, I would only have the necessary ingredients to make three gin-based cocktails. Now there are five drinks to choose from, and one of them is not-gin based; it’s what I’m calling the Summer Spritz. It’s dangerously strong… but that’s what I say about all my drinks. I am a believer in a heavy pour and a good helping of whatever spirit is needed.

I am not a fan of Aperol nor Campari so grapefruit is the bitter element here. Giffard’s Crème de Pamplemousse is incredibly delightful! For this drink, only three bottles need to be opened! The grapefruit liqueur, dry rosé wine, and a sparkling wine to top everything off.