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

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)

Avgolemono

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.

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.

 

Octopus Souvlaki Meze With Greek-Style Chimichurri

IMG_5987This past summer was a busy one filled with Greek Supper Clubs and catering dinner parties. I love entertaining and now that it’s become a full-time job, I get to try many of the ideas I have swirling in my head.

Greek loves octopus and we cook/prepare it in many ways but my favourite is stilled grilled. When one buys octopus in the markets, chances are it’s frozen and that is perfectly fine. Defrost it overnight then tenderize it by braise on slow heat until just fork tender then you can finish off the the octopus is many ways.

I like grilled best – you get the crisp, charred texture on the outside and then a tender, meaty center that if cooked properly, you could probably cut with a butter knife.

Next time you’re entertaining, why not try to serve octopus on skewers? Simply dress the tentacles with some oil, lightly salt and place on a white-hot grill so that it develops a nice char on the outside.

Take the tentacles off the grill, cut into bite-sized pieces and skewer them. You can dress with extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice or good red wine vinegar and dried Greek oregano or whip up this Greek-style Chimchurri, which complements grilled octopus and even grilled meats like steak or chicken.

Chimichurri sauce has its origins Argentina, where they whip up a green sauce with garlic, herbs (like parsley) and serve alongside grilled steak. I’ve made a Greek style version and it’s a big hit whenever I serve it.

Try it with some grilled octopus on skewers…souvlaki if you will!IMG_5986

Octopus Souvlaki Meze With Greek-Style Chimichurri

(serves 4-6 as appetizer)

Greek- Style Chimichurri

6-8 jarred grape leaves, rinsed

1/2 cup of rinsed fresh parsley leaves, chopped

2 Tbsp. dried Greek oregano

3-4 scallions, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 carrot, grated

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp. wine vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

water (if necessary to thin out)

For the Octopus

1 whole octopus (about 1 kg.) braised to tender as per my directions

extra-virgin olive oil

sea salt and fresh ground pepper

  1. Rinse and pat-dry your cleaned squid (tentacles and tubes) and place in  bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Set aside.
  2. In your blender/food processor, add your Chimichurri ingredients in and process until smooth. Adjust seasoning (it should be slightly tangy) and add some water if the sauce is too thick (optional).
  3. Pre-heat your gas or charcoal grill to high. Toss the tentacles in some olive oil and then grill on all sides. Remove from the grill and season with salt and pepper, dried Greek oregano.
  4. Slice into bite-sized pieces and afix on skewers. Spoon and swoosh some sauce on a plate and place octopus on top. Serve with Alpha Estate Malagouzia.

Milk Braised Pork With Leeks and Celery

Kalofagas Oct 19 2014-0926I had heard of this milk-braised pork dish, seen it on TV even and finally, I was able to taste a fantastic version earlier this year when I had lunch at the Purple Pig in downtown Chicago. The restaurant’s chef is half-Greek Jimmy Bannos Jr. and this is my riff on that superb pork dish that simply melted in our mouths.

My twist is to add celery and leeks, mimicking a Greek classic called Pork Prasso-selino and there’s wine and stock in the braising liquid to go along with the milk.

Milk, an odd way to braise meat and when you check the meat after a couple of hours you will indeed see that the milk had curdled but that’s okay. Once the sauce goes into a blender it becomes smooth, thickens and the dish becomes one fine comfort dish that’s ideal for Sunday entertaining.

I’ve included another take on mashed potatoes and one I use now when I host my Greek Supper Clubs. I don’t peel the potatoes but rather score each one around the middle and boil with skins on. The potatoes retain more nutrients, they taste better and finally, very easy to peel! Try it, you’ll love the result.Kalofagas Oct 19 2014-0909

Milk Braised Pork With Leeks and Celery

(serves 4)

4 -10 oz. pieces of boneless pork butt, trimmed of excess fat

olive oil

salt and pepper

2 cups of sliced leeks

1 carrot, peeled and sliced

1 stalk of celery, sliced

3 bay leaves

12 sprigs of fresh thyme

1 glass of dry white wine

1 1/2 cups of chicken stock

2 1/2 cups whole milk

For garlic mashed potatoes

6 large Yukon Gold (or other yellow fleshed) potatoes

4 cloves of garlic

1/2 stick of unsalted butter

approx. 1 cup of whole milk (warm)

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

  1. Season your pork aggressively with salt and pepper. Place 2-3 Tbsp. of oil in a heaven oven-safe Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the meat on all sides and remove.
  2. Add the leeks, carrots and celery into the pot and stir in, sweat for 5-6 minutes. Tie the bay leaves and thyme with butcher’s twine and add the the pot along with wine, stock and milk.
  3. Bring up to a boil, preheat your oven to 325F. Taste and add some salt and pepper, cover and place in your pre-heated oven for 2 hours. Remove from the oven and check doneness with a fork (place back in the oven for another 20-30 minutes if still not fork tender).
  4. Remove from the oven, take out the pork and set aside, remove bay/thyme bundle and discard. Remove some pieces of leek, celery, carrots for garnish.
  5. Use a stick blender to puree the sauce or pour into a blender and puree. Reduce the sauce until thickened. Place the meat and reserved vegetables back in the sauce, keep warm.
  6. In the meantime, score the middle of each potato with a paring knife and place in a pot with the garlic and enough water to cold water to cover. Bring up to a boil, add salt and cook for about 20 minutes or until fork tender. Strain, place the garlic back in the pot, use paper towels to easily peel off the skins and place potatoes i the pot. Add butter, mash, add milk and mash then adjust with salt and pepper. Add chives, stir in.
  7. Place a mound of mashed potatoes on each plate then a piece of pork, some vegetables and ladle over some sauce. Pair with a Thymiopoulos Earth & Sky Xinomavro.Kalofagas Oct 19 2014-0917

 

 

 

Beet Salad With Herbed Goat Cheese and Greens

Kalofagas Oct 19 2014-0808Although it’s autumn and I now gravitate more towards soups, I do still enjoy a hearty salad. In Greece, they are blessed to have winter vegetables and greens (climate) and beets are very popular.

Here, I roast beets then poach in  sweet/sour combination of red wine and balsamic vinegars. The beets alone are very sweet and this step takes them 1 step towards savory.

I am also using goat cheese here but you could use any crumbly tart cheese you like…heck go Feta if you wish! As for salad greens, again use what’s seasonal and fresh but do use my favourite (and very popular) 3-citrus dressing for the greens.Kalofagas Oct 19 2014-0813

Beet Salad With Herbed Goat Cheese and Greens

(serves 4)

4 medium to large sized beets

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Herbed goat cheese

1/2 log of cheese (4-5 oz.), softeneed

1 tsp. chopped fresh mint

1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives

fresh ground pepper

For the greens

1/2 recipe of my 3-citrus dressing

4 cups mixed greens (of your choice)

Garnish

toasted sliced almonds or walnuts

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 400F and place the beets in a roasting pan just large hold hold them. Pour enough water to come up 1/4 way and place in the oven for 2 – 2 1/4 hours or until just fork-tender. Allow to cool completely before peeling the skins (I use the back of a knife).
  2. After the beets are peeled, add the red wine and balsamic vinegar in a medium pot and bring up to a boil. Slice your beets into 1/4 inch slices and poach in the simmering vinegar mixture for a minute then remove with a spatula/spider and allow to cool (you can reuse the cooled vinegar for future dressings).
  3. For the goat cheese, place softened cheese in a bowl and add herbs, chives, fresh ground pepper to taste and mix well. You can reform a cheese log in plastic wrap (twist the ends to tighten into a log) and place back in the fridge.
  4. Prepare 3-citrus dressing as per instructions.
  5. Place three slices of beets on each plate. Toss your greens in citrus dressing and place on top of beets. Take your goat cheese out of fridge and top each salad with  1/4 inch slice. Drizzle with more dressing and top with nuts. Serve with Thymiopoulos Boarding Pass Malagouzia.

Lamb Two-Ways

IMG_6210Here’s a dish for a special occasion/dinner or something to prepare on the weekends. It’s Lamb Two Ways…not really that hard, just an extra step when preparing the lamb.What I’ve done here is separate the ribs from the loin from a Frenched rack of lamb that I bought from my butcher.IMG_6183

If you’re not too keen on doing it yourself then ask your butcher to separate the ribs from the loin.  Both cuts are seasoned the same way but the cooking methods differ. Here, you get that slow roasted Greek-style lamb that’s reminiscent of a braised shank or leg and the loin is more like a lamb chop…seared on the outside and just pink on the inside. IMG_6200

I love both ways of having lamb and I thought, why not have both on your plate? Now you can too!IMG_6204

Lamb Two Ways

(serves 2)

1 rack of lamb, ribs separated from loin (you may ask your butcher to do this)

For the Ribs

olive oil

sea salt

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 1/2 Tbsp. sweet paprika

2 tsp. dried Greek oregano

1/2 cup finely diced onions

3 cloves of garlic, minced

3 bay leaves

6-7 sprigs of fresh thyme

1 cup hot beef stock

1/2 cup red wine

1/4 cup Mavrodaphne wine

1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

For the loin

olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

sea salt

fresh ground pepper

1 1/2 Tbsp. sweet paprika

2 tsp. dried Greek oregano

  1. Rub the ribs with olive oil and rub with garlic, salt, pepper, paprika and oregano. Place an oven-safe skillet on high on your stovetop and add some olive oil and pan-sear on the fat side then sear on sides and as much as you can on the underside (weird angle).
  2. Add onions, remaining garlic, bay, thyme, stock, wine, Mavrodaphne (sweet wine) into pan, cover (with foil) and place in your preheated 325F oven for 1 1/4 – 1 1/3 hours.
  3. Take out of oven, adjust seasoning and reserve/keep warm.
  4. For the lamb loin, rub with oil, add garlic, salt, pepper, paprika and oregano and rub into meat with your hands. Place in the fridge.
  5. Take the lamb out of the fridge (allow meet to return to room temp.) and place a another skillet on your stovetop. Turn heat to medium-high and add some olive oil to the pan, sear for 2 minutes a side (about 3 turns) and remove from the pan and allow to rest before slicing into medallions. Take your warm ribs out of other pan and cut into ribs. Spoon over pan juice on both cuts of meat.
  6. Serve with garlic mashed potatoes and some wilted spinach. Open a bottle of Averoff Xinomavro Naoussa.IMG_6209

Roast Lamb Chops & Potatoes

IMG_0728This is a Greek food site – here you’re going to get many offerings of lamb. This past summer during my vacation in Greece, we celebrated August 15th (Panagias) with a feast of grilled lamb chops.

I bought too many from the butcher and I froze the rest. Fast forward to early September and out came the lamb chops. Oh I could have grilled them again but I was feeling lazy. It was Sunday, on vacation and that’s my prerogative.

This recipe is a fabulous way to enjoy lamb, especially those who don’t have a grill or perhaps even a leg of lab is too big for your Sunday lunch. You can buy as much lamb chops as you wish, according to how many are sitting at your table.

The great thing about this recipe is that the fat renders and gets all cozy with the potatoes beneath the lamb. The meat is tender, very flavourful and the ends are crispy. The closest to grilled lamb chops without using a grill!IMG_0722

Roast Lamb Chops & Potatoes

(serves 4-6)

approx. 1 1/2 kg. of lamb shoulder and loin chops

Marinade

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, passed through a box grater

10-12 cloves of garlic, minced

zest of 1 lemon

2 Tbsp. Dijon style mustard

10 sprigs of fresh thyme

2 tsp. dried Greek oregano

4 tsp. sea salt

1 1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary

For the potatoes

approx. 12 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered lengthwise

1 cup hot chicken stock

2 1/2 tsp. sea salt

3/4 tsp. ground pepper

juice of 1 lemon

  1. Add all the marinade ingredients into a deep roasting pan and mix with a spoon. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add your lamb and cover, then place in the fridge for 6 -12 hours.
  2. When ready to roast your lamb and potatoes, take the meat out of the fridge and transfer the meat to tray (temporarily). Add the potatoes into the roasting pan along with the salt, pepper, stock and lemon juice and toss to incorporate.
  3. Now place the lamb (plus marinade) on top of the potatoes and pre-heat your oven to 400F (middle rack).IMG_0699
  4. Roast uncovered for 30 minutes then take out of the oven and flip your pieces of lamb and place in the oven for another 30 minutes. Roast for additional time if your potatoes need more cooking time.
  5. Remove from the oven, divide and serve roast lamb and potatoes, spooning pan juices over the lamb.
  6. Serve with an Alpha Estate Pinot Noir.

Easy Tyropitakia in a Pan

IMG_0691While here in Greece, many leave the city for their ancestral town/village or they head to their summer homes/vacation spot. It could be the mountains or in my family’s case, our summer home in Halkidiki.

Greeks like to socialize and most of the time you can find Greeks going for a walk (volta) or hang around the plateia (main square). For us who are lucky enough to spend time by the sea, the beach and time in the water becomes the town square – catching up on news of family and friends, politics and thankfully – food and recipes.

Our neighbor, kuria Nitsa dropped off these tyropitakia – no phyllo but crisp on the outside, light and airy inside and oozing with Feta goodness. Before I could finish the first piece and ran to her and asked for the recipe.

Getting recipes from “noikokoires” or housewives isn’t easy. It’s not that that they don’t want to give the recipe but that they simply don’t have a written recipe. These ladies cook by feel, instinct.

After a couple of tries, I’ve mastered the recipe which basically is coarsely crumbled Feta cheese, some fresh chopped mint, salt, pepper and flour. There is a little baking powder in there for adding lift and I like to use cold Souroti sparkling water to make a tight batter.

All one has to do is mix in a bowl, add 1/2 inch olive oil in a deep skillet and place tablespoon-fuls of batter in the oil and fry for a minute a side or until golden.IMG_0673

Easy Tyropitakia in a Pan

(makes 10-12)

1 cup of crumbled Feta cheese (try to use a firmer variety)

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint

1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper

1/4 tsp. sea salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

approx. 1 cup of cold sparkling water

olive oil for frying

honey for garnish

  1. Into a bowl, add the Feta, mint, salt, pepper flour and baking powder and gently toss until incorporated.
  2. Slowly add the water while stirring with a spoon until you have a thick batter, but loose enough to still just slide off the spoon.
  3. Add about 1/2 inch of oil into a deep skillet and bring up to approx. 350F. Take a rounded tablespoon of the batter and gently drop into the hot oil (slide the batter off with your finger).
  4. Fry for a minute or so or until crisp and golden then flip. Reserve on a paper-lined platter and fry off the remaining batter.
  5. Serve warm/room temperature with some drizzled honey as part of a breakfast or meze offering.IMG_0683