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October 29, 2009

Duck, pumpkin, banana, Thai aromatics

This is the grown-up version of the dish I made for my nephew a few weeks ago.  It required a little more effort than roasting a duck, slicing a banana, and roasting a butternut squash, but it wasn't difficult to do. And, it gave me lots of leftover elements I could use in other dishes throughout the week (which you'll see in a future post).  Let's dig in.

I did this dish over two days, because one of the elements required time in the fridge overnight, so I'll start with that one: banana pudding.

The first thing I did was roast a banana, whole, in its peel (pierced in 3-4 places with a paring knife), in a 350F oven for about 30 minutes.



When the banana was cool enough to work with (about 15 minutes of resting was all it took), I opened it up and weighed 50g of roasted banana for use in this part of the dish (I used the rest in banana pancakes the next morning).


I combined the roasted banana with half-and-half, dried banana chips, salt, and sugar, and brought it to a boil:


I whisked in some agar agar and boiled it for another 90 seconds, whisking the whole time like a Tasmanian devil on crack.


I poured it into a bowl and refrigerated it overnight.


I got up nice and early the next morning to work on the duck brine.  In a large saucepan, I combined jalapeno chili, lemongrass, ginger, gluten-free soy sauce, cinnamon (I used cinnamon sticks instead of ground cinnamon, because I thought the powdery texture of ground cinnamon would coat or cling to the duck as it brined, and I didn't want that to happen), brown sugar, salt, water, and the juice from two of these:


I brought it to a boil, then turned off the flame and let it steep for 2 hours.



After it had steeped, I strained the mixture into a bowl (nestled in a bowl of ice to speed the cooling process) and refrigerated it for another 15 minutes until it was cold.


I put the duck tenderloins into the brine and let them stay in there for 3 hours (in the fridge).


While the duck was soaking in the brine, I prepped the rest of the dish.

I zested a lime -- peeling off long segments with a vegetable peeler -- then removed the pith with a paring knife and cut them into thin strips, boiled them in water and cooled them before preserving them in simple syrup:





Next, I made the fried pumpkin seeds.


The recipe called for just 16 pumpkin seeds, but I made a bigger batch of them because they were going to be fried and covered in curry salt, and that sounded like something I wanted to snack on.  So, I deep fried the pumpkin seeds in batches (in canola oil at 400F) and laid them out on paper towels to drain:




I tossed them with curry salt (hot curry powder, sweet/mild curry powder, and kosher salt, ground with a mortar and pestle) and put them in a deli container until I needed them for plating.


The next thing I did was roast the peanuts in a cayenne pepper-salt-sugar-water glaze:




When they'd finished roasting (300F oven for 25 minutes), I let them cool for a few minutes, then put them in a Ziploc bag and crushed them with a large mason jar:


I kept them stored in the bag until I needed them for plating.

Also while I was making the lime zest, pumpkin seeds, and peanuts, I was roasting a butternut squash (one hour at 350F):




When it had finished its roasting time, I took it out of the oven, peeled it and diced the flesh.  I weighed and set aside the 500g of squash I needed for this dish.  I put some of the diced squash aside for later in the week (a photo you'll see soon), and mashed a bit of the rest for a late lunch (topped with parm-reg):


Back to the dish....

I put the 500g of squash into a saucepan along with some cream, water, sugar, and salt and brought it to a simmer.  Before putting it in the blender as the book suggests, I used my immersion blender on it while it was still in the saucepan.  My blender is kinda crappy, so I wanted to make sure it was well on its way to being creamy before I put it in there.


After I'd blended it (had to do it in two batches), I strained it into a small bowl to keep it warm.



With about an hour or so to go before serving this dish to my friends and neighbors, the last thing I needed to do was finish the banana pudding.  So, I skimmed all the recipes, running my finger along the pages to make sure I hadn't missed anything when.... HEY!  Banana froth?  Wait, but I already roasted the banana, and that was for the pudding, so I.... oh.... huh...... yeah..... whoops.

If you've got the book in front of you, you'll see I missed the Banana Froth step of the dish.  I have no excuse other than I just plain forgot to do it.  When I was planning the timing of making all the different elements, I think I thought I'd already factored it in (because the opening instructions for the pudding and the froth were exactly the same -- roast a whole banana for an hour at 350F), but I hadn't. 

No worries, I thought to myself as I scanned the list of ingredients.  I already had everything on hand, and it's a froth, so it can't be that difficult; I've made froth before.  So, I pulled the ingredients together, cranked up the oven to roast another banana, and skimmed the instructions to make sure I knew what I was doing, and came to this part: "Cover and let steep for 2 days." 

My flux capacitor and a DeLorean were in the shop, so I just had to bag it altogether.

I win the Duh Award for the day, I guess.

I finished the banana pudding by taking it out of the fridge (where it had been since the day before), scooping it into the blender, and blending in on high speed until it was smooth:


I pressed it (in batches) through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, and then into a squeeze bottle for plating.


Time to grill the duck and plate this sucker.  I reheated the squash soup, and removed the duck tenderloins from the brine and patted them dry:


I put them on the stove-top grill and grilled them for 2 minutes on each side.  When they were done, I cut a few of the tenderloins into 2x2" squares for plating (I snacked on some of the rest of the duck, and saved some for lunch the next day).


I sliced some Thai red chili, ginger, and scallion for the final plating, and pulled a few leaves of cilantro, as well.

To plate, I filled small custard cups with the butternut squash soup and assembled the duck on a spoon perched on each custard cup's rim.  Atop the duck went a blob of the banana pudding and all the little garnishes: scallion, Thai red chili, fried pumpkin seeds, lime zest strip, cayenne roasted peanut, ginger, and cilantro:



As I sit here in my little home office, watching the brown, orange and yellow leaves flutter from the tree across the street onto the wet street below, I can almost smell the duck brine steeping and the butternut squash roasting, and taste the flavors all over again.  This was a dish that made me thankful for fall.

Let's start with what's on the spoon.  WOW.  First, the duck.  I love duck.  I almost always order it when I see it on a menu, but I never make it at home.  Now, I want to make it every week.  It was perfectly cooked, and the flavors of the accompaniments?  Fantastic! There was just enough heat, just enough brightness, just enough warmth, and because I'd steamed the cilantro for 30 seconds (a trick I learned from a chef friend), it didn't taste like soap or make the whole bite taste like soap.  I actually enjoyed the taste of it (I KNOW!).  Even those who didn't like duck really loved this bite:  "This isn't duck; it's good!"  "Wow, I actually like this!"

The butternut squash soup was so fragrant and creamy and wonderful.  Admittedly, it was really rich, and a tad too salty for my tastes, but it was still delicious.  In all, it was a lovely dish, and it was so great to hit another one out of the park.

Up Next: Pheasant, shallot, cider, burning oak leaves

Resources: Duck tenderloins from Fossil Farms; jalapeno, lemongrass, ginger, chilis, cinnamon, pineapple, curry powders, cayenne, lime, dried banana chips, banana, butternut squash, scallion, and cilantro from HMart in Wheaton; San-J gluten-free soy sauce; David's kosher salt; pumpkin seeds and peanuts from TPSS Co-op; citric acid and agar agar from L'Epicerie; Natural by Nature milk and heavy cream. 

Music to Cook By: Ray Davies; The Kinks Choral Collection.  Earlier this year, Ray Davies, lead singer and songwriter for The Kinks, worked with the Crouch End Festival Chorus to record part of the Kinks' catalog with full orchestra, band and chorus accompanying him doing lead vocals.  Their recording of "Days" is just beautiful.  "You Really Got Me"?  Hilariously odd and wonderful.  A friend got an early copy for review and set it my way.  It goes onsale here in the States on November 10, but you can listen to samples and pre-order it on Amazon.

Read My Previous Post:  Crab Apple, white cheddar, eucalyptus, onion


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Somebody doesn't like duck? Seriously? Who doesn't like duck? ;)


Wow... how long did all of this take you Carol. That is one monster of a recipe for a teaspoon bite. :)

The parts sound yummy! (And I lurrrrve duck!) Now, how did you eat this?? Scoop up some soup onto the spoon with all the rest of the goodies, or stir the goodies into the soup, or what? (Sometimes I think somebody at Alinea needs to produce a supplemental User's Guide for how to eat some of these goodies!!)

I'd never heard of the steaming cilantro trick. I absolutely must try that, & I have a perfect cilantro-hating friend (read: guinea pig) to try it out on. Cool!

agreed with vince: the combinations in this one look so amazing, that i think i'd skip the small servings and just eat the whole pile all together. :)

Hello CB:
Luckily I've had dinner twice at The French Laundry, and want to go one time for every month of the year (December and February down). For the $210 cost, I thought one couldn't possibly replicate the meal for less than that at home. Seeing your posts gives me some pause to reconsider making the recipes at home for the joy of it. Thank you for your work, that is dedication!

This looks absolutely fantastic! I'm learning so much from your blog about the impressive amount of effort put into Alinea's cuisine. I admire your dedication to recreating these dishes. Bravo!

Does that cilantro trick actually work? That would be amazing! My one worry, however, is that it would make my house reek of cilantro as I was steaming it.

This whole recipe looks outstanding - and one I might be willing to attempt if I were to overdose on caffeine one day.

What I'm really de-lurking to mention though, is that through your blog I learned about Blacksalt, the seafood merchant and restaurant in DC. I was in DC early this year and made a point of stopping in because of your mention and - WOW.

I've been back again twice - both times giving the chefs carte blanche to do as they pleased and been blown out of the water. I also purchased some beautiful rockfish to make at home.

In any event - thank you (!) for introducing me to an amazing, wonderful experience.

Hey is this the chick who is gonna run down Pennsylvania ave BUTT ASS NAKED when the Phillies win?

Woo hooooooo

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