Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter Surf and Turf

So I know it's been a while since I've been very active on the blog scene... 7 and a half months to be honest. But there have been some good things happening since August. I went to a Professional Engineer's Exam review course in Denver for a week, spent my birthday with my Happy Husband, my sister and her boyfriend and some great friends in Washington, DC, came to terms with and went to my high school 10 year reunion, took the Professional Engineer's Exam and waited seven EXCRUCIATING weeks for my results, was accepted into an groundbreaking leadership program at work, had the honor of being in the wedding party of my closest high school friend, passed the exam and became a licensed PE in Maryland, had a fantastic holiday season with lots friends, family and cooking, traveled to Virginia 6 days for work, made it to Florida to visit my awesome parents for 10 days, and went on a weekend trip to Atlanta, GA to visit a college roommate that I hadn't seen since 2010. Needless to say, it was a busy 7 and a half months and I'm ready to get back into the kitchen (I never left the kitchen but the camera never really made it in much) and back into the garden this spring and summer.

Why, then, am I deciding to get back in to it??? Mostly thanks to those of you who actually read and enjoyed the posts from before. I also really enjoy the process but its really all because of my nagging and annoying supportive and encouraging friends and family. The following dish was going to be Easter dinner but ended up being Easter Monday dinner due to a 4PM post airport Wegman's sushi binge on Easter Sunday afternoon. Side note: If you have a Wegman's near you, I'm talking within 45 minutes, you need to check it out. In my opinion, Wegman's beats the pants off Whole Foods any day and costs much less. You can also get whatever name brand items you want at Wegman's instead of the 'crunchy granola' fancy brands at Whole Foods. I could go on about the over rated-ness of Whole Food's but that's not what you want to hear want FOOD!! and food I shall give you.

The Happy Husband has been craving duck lately and they happened to have some fresh duck magret (aka duck breast) at Wegman's so I picked it up along with some U-10 scallops (this means there are less than 10 per pound), a pound of asparagus that was just the right thickness (a total personal preference) and some purple, yes I said purple, potatoes. This meal ran me about $35 and 700 to 800 calories per serving but it was a special occasion and we certainly don't eat $16/lb duck and $18/lb (I didn't get a whole lb) scallops and I had a light day of eating in anticipation of dinner.

Today's exciting topic is the art of pan searing!! Searing is a high heat method of cooking that results in a perfectly crisp food exterior and delectably juicy food interior. When you first learn to sear there will, more than likely, be lots of smoke and food that is burnt on the outside and raw on the inside or food that's more alike to jerky than it is to juicy greatness. So my suggestion would be to start with a food that's a bit less costly than gigantic scallops and farm raised duck.

Farmed duck has a very thick fat layer under the skin but this is not a tragedy. Duck fat is a fantastic fat to sear in, especially something like a duck breast or succulent sweet scallop. 

In order to successfully render (get the fat cooked out of the breast and into the pan) the duck you will need to cut cross hatches into the skin in approximately a half inch apart and just above the surface of the meat. Whatever you do, DON'T cut the meat. The process of rendering also applies to bacon. This is what happens when you cook bacon and the grease ends up in the pan at the end. 

You will need to heat your pan on medium high heat until a drop of water sizzles when it hits the pan. I also prefer to use a heavy bottom pan when searing as the pan will hold tremendous heat and you can slide it right into the oven to finish off the cooking. Mine is a flame orange le Creuset cast iron frying pan that was a Christmas gift and will be in my kitchen forever. I'll probably ask to be buried with it because I love it so much. Set the breast in, skin side down and begin to cook.
Do NOT touch the duck/steak/pork chop any other item you are trying to sear. You need to leave it alone to let the pan and the natural sugars in the meat do their thing. Once you get a nice crust (wait a few minutes and then you can peek under a corner) you can flip it over and start to sear the other side. If you are doing duck you will see the fat start to liquefy and drain into the pan and out of the skin. This is a good thing. You want the duck fat to render so you can cook the scallops in it. 

This is the time that, if I were not planning on cooking the scallops in the duck drippings, that I would put the hot pan directly into a preheated 400 degree oven to finish cooking the duck/steak/pork chop to the desired level of doneness. I however had to transfer the duck to a foil lined cookie sheet so that I could get the scallops into the fatty goodness. 

The searing of the scallops is exactly like that of the duck except for one little difference. The scallops cook much more quickly but still need to be moved only once, to their other side, in the process. For scallops you want them to be just warmed through, opaque (solid white) and slightly firmer than when they were raw. i prefer to season the scallops simply with a bit of garlic salt and pepper. This allows their inherent sweetness to come through. For the veggie, I roasted the asparagus in the toaster oven at 425 degrees dressed with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of lemon pepper salt. The roasting process brings out some deliciously nutty flavors in the asparagus. Cook it until it becomes slightly crisp on the outside but still al dente (not soft and mushy yet). For the potatoes, I decided to make purple, Easter egg colored, garlicky mashed potatoes that I richened up with some sour cream and only one tablespoon of butter for 4 potatoes. 

To finish the dish and tie it all together, I sliced the duck and glazed it and the scallops with an orange marmalade sauce. I'm looking forward to practicing my plating more for you guys and hopefully doing the blog often enough to justify buying some prettier plates. 

If you have any questions about this dish or comments please leave them below and I'll get back to you at my earliest convenience. I'd also love to hear about any searing successes or epic failures that you've had recently.

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