Duck Confit With Fassoulada Beans

duck confit on fassoulada beans

Duck is a an under-appreciated meat, at least here in North America. People often think it’s hard to cook or it has too much fat or both. If you want to try cooking some duck, I suggest starting with duck legs, now found packaged apart from the rest of the duck. If you’re good at butchering, buy a whole duck and cut up pieces and used accordingly.

Ducks have fat but so do many other animals and it’s a pity to trim/cut and throw away duck fat. In the case of duck legs, you’re using it to cook and break down the meat. The fat melts away and the meat gently poaches in the fat. This cooking method is called “confit”, it comes from the Gascony region of France and surely all of Gaulle loves duck confit and gourmands around the world love it.

What could be better than succulent, flavourful duck meat that falls off the bone? Today, I offer you a short cut method that works and even though it still takes a couple of hours, it’s still quicker than the traditional method.

The flavours here are orange zest, garlic, olive oil, thyme and rosemary and obviously salt and pepper. The accompanying side to the duck confit are Gigantes, Greek elephant beans that are simmered until tender then baked in the oven with aromatics, tomato sauce and herbs.

The winter evening arrives quick and the nipping cold makes it an easy case for staying indoors. The kitchen beckons, the soul wants some comfort food and I’m serving up Duck Confit with Beans.IMG_0500-001Duck Confit With Fassoulada Beans

(serves 4)

For the beans

1 cup of small dry (white) navy beans
1  stalk of celery, halved lengthwise then cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1  carrot, halved then cut into 1/2 inch pieces on a bias
2 medium onions, diced

2 bay leaves
1/2 cup of pomodoro or tomato puree (passata)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp. of smoked paprika

1 smoked sausage, sliced

Duck Confit

4 duck legs (thighs attached)

2 Tbsp. olive oil

4 cloves of garlic, minced

zest of 1 orange

1/2 tsp. ground allspice

10-12 sprigs of fresh thyme

1 tsp. of fresh rosemary leaves

1 1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper

Pre-heated 300F oven

  1. Place your beans in a pot and add 4 cups of water, allow to soak overnight. Drain and place in a pot with another 3 cups of water, the onions, carrots, celery and bay leaves and bring up to a boil them cover and simmer for approx. 90 minutes or until beans are soft.
  2. Strain the beans and vegetables and reserve the water (discard bay leaves. Place the beans and cooked vegetables in a baking dish with tomato sauce, olive oil, paprika, salt and enough of the reserved bean broth to just cover the beans.
  3. Fry off the slice sausage in a pan with some oil and reserve.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste, place the sausage slices on the beans and place uncovered in a pre-heated 350F oven 30 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Take out of the oven, keep warm or allow to cool and reheat when duck is ready to be served.
  5. Place your duck legs in a deep baking dish that will snugly fit them all in. Drizzle with oil and the garlic, zest, allspice, thyme and rosemary leaves and rub into the duck until evenly covered over the meat.
  6. Now season both sides of the duck with salt and pepper and arrange in your baking dish. Pour about 2 Tbsp. of water into the corner of the dish and cover with foil. Place in your pre-heated oven and bake for 90 minutes. Take out of the oven and check to see if the meat bone is exposed from the leg (if not place in the oven for another 20 minutes).
  7. Once you see the bone is exposed on the leg, remove the foil, turn the heat up to 350F and bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until the skins is golden and crisp. Take out of the oven and allow to cool in the duck fat for five minutes (if serving immediately) or allow to cool completely in the fat.
  8. If serving the duck confit later, store in a container with the duck fat covering it. When you want to reheat the duck, simply return the duck to room temperature and pre-heat your oven to 400F. Cover the duck legs with some duck fat (or olive oil) and bake for  15 minutes or until crisp. For stove-top, add a little duck fat to your pan over medium heat for 4-5 minutes/side.
  9. Serve on a bed of warm beans and pair with Kir Yianni Two Olives.

more duck

It’s all GRK Authentic Gyros


It’s all grk Authentic Gyros

Where: three locations in Toronto  – Dundas: 416 361 9888 | Bellwoods: 416 703 7888 | Annex: 416 968 7888

Owners: Matty Tsoumaris & Nathan Godin

The Food: Its all grk offers two types of gyro – chicken and pork, pork and chicken souvlaki, kebab, Greek fries, an array of sauces (tzatziki, tyrokafteri, mayo/mustard), authentic Greek salad, spinach pies. There’s even some loukoumades (the originial timbit) and Greek yogurt with honey.

Go for the chicken or pork souvlaki, their pork and chicken Gyro are the best in the city and the fries are cut on premise, crisp, delicious. All their dips are fab in the sandwiches or as a side with the fries.

What to drink: a fridge full of Greek soft drinks (Ivi) orange, lemon, sparkling and still water from Greece, Greek ice teas and Coke, Ginger Ale.

Setting: All three locations look similar, Greek-specific products on the walls, blackboard menu, lots of space to sit and eat and an open kitchen. Service is prompt, friendly and it appears they have a good balance of take-out and sit-in business.


Baked Apples Stuffed With Walnuts

IMG_3802-001It’s autumn and the markets are teeming with apples…apples to eat as a snack, apples for making apple sauce, apples for pies and apples for baking. Here in Ontario, we must have at least 10 varieties in the marlet – people love apples!

This recipe is quick, easy and it uses ingredients most of us already have in our pantry. Basically we’re peeling/coring apples, stuffing them with a mixture of walnuts, brown sugar and spices and we bake them.

You can play with the spice blend or use another nut (almonds would work) and bake away. Of course, apples and spices pair well with ice cream – a no-brainer.IMG_3759-002

Baked Apples Stuffed With Walnuts

(serves 6)

6 apples (Granny Smith, Fuji, Gala or Northern Spy)

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground clove

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup orange juice or apple cider

1/2 cup maple syrup

French Vanilla ice cream

Pre-heated 375F oven

  1. In a medium bowl, mix the butter, sugar, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and vanilla, set aside. Lightly grease the sides of a round/oval 8X12 in. shallow baking vessel.
  2. Peel and core the apples and place in your baking vessel then press the nut filling into each cavity with a spoon and press down with your finger.
  3. Gently pour the juice over and around the apples,  cover loosely with foil and baked for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, baste the apples with juices and bake for another 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and apples are cooked through (use a thin wooden skewer to pierce/check for apples’ doneness).
  4. Remove from the oven, spoon juices over apples and drizzle maple syrup as well. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream.

Chicken Avgolemono With Vegetables and Kritharaki

IMG_3740-001This post is about Avgolemono – a compound word in Greek meaning egg/lemon and we use it to make thick lemony sauces or to finish off a soup. The classic Chicken Avgolemono is the most familiar and here, I am basically making a chicken noodle soup with a couple of Greek twists.

First, I am using Kritharaki, looks barley (krithari) and that’s how it gets its name. Your local Greek market will carry it and quite often I’ve found it sold in the international aisle at the supermarket.

The other twist is the Avgolemono – making the soup thick, lemony and if you thought chicken soup was comforting and good for the soul, then you’re in for a real treat when you try this soup!

I used homemade chicken stock and pulled the meat off the bones to add to the soup. If you have time, do the same.IMG_3739-001

Chicken Avgolemono With Vegetables and Kritharaki

(serves 10-12)

12-14 cups of hot chicken stock

2-3 cups of cooked chicken meat (I pick off the meat from carcass used to make stock)

1/4 cup olive oil

1 large onion, diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

2 stalks of celery, diced

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

1/2 head of broccoli, cut into florets then quartered

1 cup of trimmed and chopped green beans

1/2 cup of kritharaki (or orzo)


2 large eggs

juice of one lemon

  1. Into a large pot, add your olive, onions, carrots, celery and parsley and turn the heat to medium and cover. Allow the vegetables to sweat for 15 minutes. Now add the hot stock, bring up to a boil and the lower to simmer, cooked for 30 minutes.
  2. Now add the broccoli, beans and kritharaki and simmer for another 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, crack your eggs into a medium bowl and add the lemon juice, whisk until incorporated. Set Aside.
  4. Once your pasta has cooked, take off the heat, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and make your Avgolemono: while whisking the egg/lemon mixture, slowly pour 4-5 ladles of hot liquid from soup then slowly poured tempered egg/lemon mixture back into soup.
  5. Stir, allow to set for 5 minutes, serve.

Serano Bakery

IMG_3690-001Serano Bakery

Where: 830 Pape Ave, East York, ON M4K 3T5
(416) 462-2735

Owners: Sophie and Chris and Kostas Takas

The Goods: Serano Bakery offers breads, cakes for all occasions, Greek sweets, homemade pies, phyllo based sweets like Baklava, cookies, puddings. Try their revani, kataifi, kariokes or chocolate baklava. My brother and sister-in-law ordered their wedding cake from here. Everyone loved it!

A few years ago Serrano doubled in size and now they have a large array of Greek and Mediterranean goods like olive oil, condiments, phyllo pastry, cheeses, salami, herbs, coffee. Heck, you can even buy my cookbook there!

Setting: Serano recently renovated their space after having expanded to better showcase the deli side of their business. The shop is spacious, they have many people at the ready to serve customers. Any time I’ve dropped by, they are busy but their attention to each customer is noticeable and always courteous.


Manoura Cheese From Sifnos

IMG_3683-002This past summer, I visited the island of Sifnos, located in the Cyclades chain of islands in the Aegean. The first time I visited Sifnos was back in 2008 and the although the island was busy, it was full of tourists who were more low key, looking to relax – have  real vacation.

Eight years later and the same holds true, it’s popularity has risen but Sifnos attracts the same crowd – a mix of families, singles and couples just looking to get away from the city and escape for R & R on this beautiful island.

Plati Gialos, Sifnos
Plati Gialos, Sifnos

Sifnos is where Nikos Tselementes (father of modern Greek cuisine) is from and the local cuisine is rich, boasting of its chickpea stew baked in terra cotta vessels, lamb cooked in mastelo, another terra cotta vessel, chickpea fritters, melopita (honey cakes) and the subject of this post (finally), manoura cheese.IMG_3685-001

Manoura can be made of sheep or and it is formed and aged in round moulds. This cheese comes in two varieties…white and black. The latter is more interesting in that it is rubbed with grape must and herbs then it is aged.

It’s a semi-firm cheese, made from anthotyro (a combo of fresh cheese and whey) which is salted then allowed to age. When I bought my manoura from a deli in Apollonia (main town of Sifnos), the shopkeeper told me to never place it in the fridge, not even after it is cut!

Manoura Saganaki
Manoura Saganaki

Again, the aging and salt preserve the cheese and after it is cut, she insisted I resist the temptation to place in the fridge. To do so would dry out the cheese. Instead, one should merely place in a tupperware, closed and stored in a cool spot in the kitchen.

Manoura is made Sifnos and Folegandros and now some of the neighboring islands in the Cyclades carry it and I have seen it sold in some delis in both Athens and Thessaloniki. This cheese is slightly tangy, it’s salty, gritty, chaulky mouth feel and the wheel of cheese I have, looks dry inside but with moist spots in it – likely fats from the milk. It’s delicious!IMG_3688-001

This cheese is best served on its own with rusks/paximadia, it’s wonderful dredged in flour and fried saganaki style, drizzled with honey and certainly goes well with a red wine like Paros Moraitis Meltemi Red or a VinSanto by Santo Wines.IMG_3689-001

An Evening of Greek Country Cooking at Urban Pantry

duck confit on fassoulada beans
duck confit on fassoulada beans

This past Sunday, I hosted the latest Greek Supper Club at Urban Pantry, just 45 minutes northeast of Toronto, in Uxbridge. The concept was Greek Country Cooking and the setting of a Uxbridge was ideal for a comforting Greek meal.

Greek wine was selected and poured by Kolonaki Group and the Cretan olive oil was supplied by Nisos Importing. I would like to thank the Pagidas family (Urban Pantry) the staff, Carmine Accogli for helping me in the kitchen and Christina Kakaletris, who captured the evening with her photography.
Kalofagas @ Urban Pantry Nov 16-1264Pita Caesarias – phyllo pasties filled with Pastourma, cheese and served with Greek yogurt
Crostini of Santorini Fava Puree with Smoked Trout, Capers, Pickled OnionKalofagas @ Urban Pantry Nov 16-1249
Sour Trahana on a with Three Mushroom Ragu, Graviera CheeseKalofagas @ Urban Pantry Nov 16-1439
1st course – Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Feta CreamKalofagas @ Urban Pantry Nov 16-1357
2nd course – Dolmadakia with Ground Lamb, Rice, Herbs, Avgolemono SauceKalofagas @ Urban Pantry Nov 16-1388
Main Course – Fassoulada Stew with Duck Leg, Sausage, Greek Navy BeansKalofagas @ Urban Pantry Nov 16-1483
Dessert – Ekmek Kataifi (shredded phyllo, mastiha pastry cream, whipped cream, toasted almonds)Kalofagas @ Urban Pantry Nov 16-1503
My next Greek Supper Club is on December 14th but it is sold out.  I am however catering dinner parties and work-related functions, so if you would like me to cook for you, email me at truenorth67 AT
Here’s some pics from the dinner, enjoy!

Stewed Pork With Leeks, Celery and Avgolemono Sauce

IMG_3674-002The cold months are here, at least here in Canada and the light, summer time dishes and salads have given way to soups and stews. Today’s dish is a classic, using pork shoulder, leeks and celery. Pigs in many villages in Greece are fattened up all year then slaughtered in December and broken down and used from sausages to cured meat so as to endure the cold winter months.

In Greece, they have selino…a European celery with long thin stalks and the large leaves at the top are in tact. It’s stronger than celery and you can use either in this dish. I’ve found selino at Asian markets it you want to try it out.

Leeks, abundant in autumn/winter and frankly, I wish they were available all year ’round. They are great for soups, phyllo pies and braised/stewed dishes like this one. Resist the temptation to add any herbs to this dish. The aroma and taste are the flavouring here and it’s a natural with Avgolemono sauce…classically Greek.IMG_3677-001

(serves 6)

approx. 3 lbs. of pork shoulder (leave a little fat on)

sea salt and fresh ground pepper

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

5 large, long leeks, ends trimmed, washed well from grit/sand, thinly sliced

7-8 stalks of celery, stalks halved lengthwise then chopped

Avgolemono Sauce

2 large eggs

juice of 1 lemon

  1. Cut the pork into 2-inch chunks and season with salt and pepper. Add 1/4 cup oil over medium-high heat. Add the pork and sear on all sides then add the leeks and celery and cover. Reduce the heat to medium and sweat for another 20 minutes.
  2. Add the remaining olive oil, enough stock to just cover the meat and bring up to a simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste, cover and simmer for 1 hour. Check to see if pork is tender (with a fork), cover and cook longer if needed.
  3. Crack your eggs in a large bowl and add the lemon juice and whisk until frothy. Carefully remove the liquid from the pot and into another bowl.
  4. While whisking the lemon/egg mixture, slowly add the hot stock to temper the temperatures of the two liquids.
  5. Pour the tempered Avgolemono and pour back into the pot with the pork. Off the heat, shake the pot back and forth to help incorporate the Avgolemono with the pork and vegetables and allow to rest for 5 minutes then serve. Pair with a Gerovassilou Malagouzia.