New carrots are in! Carrots last well into the winter and get sweeter with age, but the new ones are here now, and with a little honey and other tricks can be quite fantastic. And these ones are really the most perfect side for duck that I can imagine. But duck, local and seasonal?
Well, I am in France, so let me just go on a little about French farmers' markets. Well, actually, almost everything I was going to say that's great about French farmers' markets has already hit the Boston area: there's a market every day of the week except Mondays, there's bread and meat and cheese and milk and yogurt and wine as well as veggies. This is totally true in the Boston area as well, only I don't keep a list of the farmers' markets by day on the fridge, and I only head to the farmers' market first on Saturdays when it's in Union Square right around the corner from my house. So it's as much the mindset of an old French lady or an American on holiday in France (the main clientele at French farmers' markets) as the presence of markets that I really need. A mindset that lets you not only get to the market every day but take the time to walk up and down the whole market before you purchase anything, to greet the marketers and ask their advice on what's good, amidst questions about relatives and comments about the weather.
There is, however, one thing that French farmers' markets themselves offer that is unique: fresh meat. None of this flash-frozen stuff that the USDA apparently requires at farmers' markets in the U.S. Cool and perfectly hung beef, pork of every kind not only fresh but also cured, in patés and--my favorite--rillettes, and all manner of house-made sausages (including another favorite, blood sausage, and one of the few meat products I might not try at home again, andouillettes--basically tripe sausage), and of course rabbit and a fantastic array of poultry including goose and duck. Aside from goose and duck rillettes and patés, magret de canard is by far my favorite. While the regular translation of magret de canard is "duck breast," "fatted duck breast" is not only more prosaic but also more accurate. And if you know my love of all things fatty and rich, you'll understand. I would, however, like to note at this point that I recently had a cholesterol check that got me a note from my doctor saying not only are my cholesterol levels good, but I have the highest level of good cholesterol he's ever seen--and this with a family history of high cholesterol of the bad kind! A sure sign that butter, cream, and duck fat along with with rather enormous volumes of olive oil, avocado, and salmon collars contribute to good cholesterol.
So, for better cholesterol, better eyesight, and a delightful combination of flavors, textures, and colors:
Magret de canard with shallot-wine sauce
2 magrets ("fatted duck breasts")
1 cup sliced shallots (from 6 small shallots)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground pepper
2 T raspberry jam
1 cup red wine
1 1/2 T mustard
If there's any fluid on the duck breast, wipe it off. Bring to room temperature. Meanwhile, put the shallots, garlic, cloves, salt and pepper in a bowl. Make 4-5 cuts into the fatty side of the duck just to touch the meat under the fat. Heat the pan. Put the duck in fat-side down for 3-4 minutes on low heat. Once the fat begins to render and brown, turn and brown, about 5 minutes more. Add the shallot mixture, raise heat to medium and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Remove the duck (it is not yet cooked through). Add the raspberry jam, mix, then add the wine. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes. Return the duck to the pan, cover, and cook 2-5 minutes longer (depending on desired doneness). Slice against the grain, cover with sauce, and serve.
Glazed Carrots with Ginger and Hot Pepper
this is my, rather reworked, version of Martha Stewart's Glazed Carrots and Ginger
2 bunches new carrots
2 T butter
2 T honey
2" fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 1"-long matchsticks
1 tsp hot pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
Cut the carrots into pieces 2" long and 1/2" thick (new carrots are small, but you'll probably need to cut most in half across and then again lengthwise on the top half, maybe even in four lengthwise). Blanch the carrots by bringing a large pot of water to a boil and dropping carrots in for exactly 3 minutes, then removing and draining immediately. Meanwhile, melt the butter and honey in a large pan. As soon as the carrots are drained, add them to the pan along with the other ingredients. Sauté over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes. Serve immediately.