Hey guys, here’s my humble version of takana fried rice. I’ve had this dish a number of times at Musha: A little Japanese restaurant not far from where I live in the Santa Monica area, LA. They serve traditional homemade style food, warm and cold dishes. The ambience is awesome and I really love that place. When I order I tend to gravitate towards the same dishes every time I visit which isn’t hard. The portions are tapas style so it’s pretty easy to sample your way through their entire menu in a few visits and find the dishes you really like.
So the other day, I saw some beautiful duck breasts at the store and decided to have that for dinner. I’ve been fermenting lettuce at home… and if you’ve been reading some of the previous posts, lettuce has been featured as well. So with the leftovers, I decided to make a batch of “kimchi”, I also had leftover parsley so I used it as well, and I’ll get to the ingredient list and preparation in a bit, but wanted to mention that lettuce ferments beautifully and retains a lot of its bite and brightness. In any case, my dinner that day was so delicious that I decided to make it again tonight and post it here to share it with you. I’ve been cooking quick dinners lately, this is one of them. Takes about 30 minutes to make given that you have a batch of fermented lettuce at hand, but if don’t, just grab kimchi or sauerkraut (cornichons or pickles could be another alternative) at the store and it will slightly different but equally delicious. Pan seared Duck breast with lettuce “kimchi” and fresh pea shoots:
Lettuce “Kimchi” (makes lots):
1 shredded iceberg lettuce
1/2 Cup of chopped parsley (stems included)
2 Tbsp shriracha sauce (or more 1 Tbsp chilli paste)
1 Tbsp sea salt
1/2 Tbsp of Fish Sauce
1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 or 2 Tbsp of sugar
To make the lettuce “kimchi”. Place all the ingredients in a clean bowl and with clean hands mix it all up really well. I like doing it this way because it distributes the salt really well and speeds up the drawing of moisture out of the vegetables, which is good, because the sooner they are covered by their own liquid the better. Transfer to a non reactive container and place a weight (make sure it is clean, I use a glass bowl that fits the jar, and then i fill it with water to add more weight), I have used glass and ceramic before. Don’t use stainless steel, iron, copper, etc.. Within an hour or two, lots of liquid will haven been drown out. Press down on the weight gently and let rest some more. Before you know, the liquid will cover the compacted veggies in the jar and the fermentation process can safely begin now. Cover the jar with kitchen towel to keep your “kimchi” even safer. Allow to rest on the counter for 1 week, and up to 4 weeks at which point you can store it in the refrigerator indefinitely really. The fermentation and taste will keep developing until the acidity level is so high that the bacteria responsible for the fermentation process can no longer live. This are acidity levels similar to those found in any vinegar. Some alcohol will also be released in the presence of sugars. Exactly, nothing wrong with that.
Duck Breast (serves 2, 30 mins):
2 fresh duck breast (hopefully not frozen but frozen will do)
Splash of Sauvignon Blanc
Splash of Sherry wine vinegar (Pedro Ximenez if you have it, any red vinegar should work)
Sesame oil (I used olive oil, but sesame oil would work better I believe)
1/2 cup lettuce “kimchi”
Fresh Pea Shoots to taste
Salt to taste
Cooking the duck breast. There are probably a few approaches to getting this awesome piece of meat right. Sous Vide comes to mind. But I won’t be making it this way. I chose the very traditional way of making it, which is very easy and accessible to most. First, score the skin layer crisscross style, which serves a couple of purposes. One, increases the surface area of the skin side, which will allow fat to render more efficiently. Scoring is a very common technique when thick layers of fat need to be cooked until crisp. Second, it allows for salt to reach the muscle underneath so the duck breast can be seasoned more evenly (you could always brine them, but that will require time, and this post is about a quick week night dinner). Fat can’t be salted, salt is only soluble in water, so if you don’t score the skin, a lot of the salt on it will get carried away from the skin with the fat when it melts.
Ok, once the scoring is done. Salt the duck breasts generously, and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes. I cooked these cold out of the fridge. You can let them reach room temperature if you want, but I just don’t have the patience and I think it actually helps if the meat is a little cold. I’m not gonna lie. I adjust the stove like 20 times while cooking these, but the first 10 minutes is pretty simple. Just lay the duck breasts skin side down. A cool stainless steel pan, doesn’t need to be hot. And set the stove to low heat. Some stoves are hotter than others. You want to hear a slight sizzle but only that. Gentle cooking. You probably noticed no cooking fat is being used, no olive oil or any fat really. The skin on the duck breasts have all the fat needed to get this cooked just right. In these first10 minutes, make sure that the skin isn’t getting 2 dark, a nice light golden color is perfect. If you feel the skin is cooking too fast, remove the pan from the stove, allow to cool off a bit, return to the stove.. here is where practice helps. So, now that the skin is crispy and light golden brown, drain the fat from the pan. Reserve for other purposes. Duck fat is a precious thing.
Now, the tricky part, getting the duck breast to a nice medium level of doneness. Get an instant read thermometer. I don’t cook duck breasts 100 times a night every night to develop a second nature about when to get these out of the pan. I trust that little inexpensive gadget instead. We are aiming for somewhere between 54C and 58C (52C if you like them medium rare) give or take. With a sous vide water bath this would be a no-brainer. But with the thermometer, there is carryover heat to take into account. So, before the core of the meat reaches 54C degrees, the duck breasts need to be removed form the hot pan and allow to rest. Do this about 3-5 degrees before the goal temperature. The meat will continue to cook on its own. This is actually ideal. I take this time to get to the rest of the cooking, or a perfect idle time to clean the kitchen. To ensure more even cooking, I like to cover the pan. Keep the pan on low heat the entire time. I know the recipe title implies searing (which usually happens in a searing hot pan), think of this as really slow searing… i guess? Keep probing the meet with the thermometer, you can also flip it over if you think the skin is getting too dark. Once you reach say, 48C-49C, remove the meat from the pan and place it on the cutting board.
Making the lettuce “kimchi” side. Drain any excess fat form the pan but keep the brown bits (fond). That’s flavor right there. Return pan to the stove. Medium high heat now. Allow the pan to get hot. Watch the brown bits, we don’t want black bits. That’s game over. Deglaze with the splash of white wine. Deglaze with another splash of sherry vinegar. Add the lettuce “kimchi” to the pan. And reduce. By now, the duck breasts must have released some blood and liquid on the cutting board. Add that to the pan. Nothing goes to waste. The blood will help thicken the quick pan sauce a little bit. Cook off most of the liquid in the pan. Remove from the heat.
For plating. Cut the duck breast in Slices. Place the lettuce “kimchi” on the plate. Transfer the duck breast slices to the plate onto the bed of lettuce “kimchi” Dress the pea shoots with olive or sesame oil. Top the chicken breasts with them. I like the pea shoots for 3 reasons. It’s not parsley which don’t get me wrong, I love, but it get’s tiresome sometimes. Pea shoots look beautiful, specially dressed in a good tasting oil, they bring up the colors of everything else on the plate, and they add texture to the final dish. Oh, and they taste great too! And by the way, if you are into plating, and are comfortable using chop sticks. It’s a really good tool for styling and plating and also for beating eggs to make omelets! until next time! And I apologize for not having photos of the process. I was just too hungry.
Blood Sausage. Yes. Today I finally got in the mail a few ingredients I’ve been wanting to use and experiment with. It’s kind of weird to buy food online, but I guess that’s how it works these days. They are all of spanish origin. At long last! I have some salt cod, can’t wait to make a good omelet with it. I got anchovies, canned not jarred, but spanish canned products are delicious so I’m looking forward to using them. I also got a few slices of pata negra ham. Pata negra ham is a wonderful product. I don’t think I like any cured ham as much as I like this one. It is pricey though. A whole hind leg goes easily for over $1,200 US dollars. But it is worth buying a few slices and trying it, or go nuts if you got the bucks. I wouldn’t dare cooking with it though, it is one of those flavors that cooking can only but ruin. On top of that I got some salchichon form the same kind of pig used in the making of the pata negra ham and seasoned with black pepper, very dry very aged, amazing. Lastly I got 4 blood sausages. They are called morcillas in spain, these ones in particular also contain cooked rice. They are very popular in stews and soups. Very flavorful, and can be a bit spicy from the pepper and paprika.
Tonight, I prepared a really quick dinner. I had pretty much everything ready. I had homemade sauerkraut and it was “ripe”, great acidity level and saltiness. Super crunchy too! I had a couple of russet potatoes that needed to be used (some prefer yukon or creamer potatoes for mash, I think they all can make pretty awesome mashes) I had some leftover pork stock I made from the bones of the boston butt roast. And finally, I had these beautiful blood sausages. So I got to work. Keep in mind that I not always measure things as I cook, unless I know of full-proof recipe or in the case of baking/pastry. I adjust quantities as I go, but the suggested ingredients below are a good approximation I hope.
1 morcilla sausage per person
2 russet potatoes, skin on
2 Tbsp of butter (add more if needed)
1/2 cup of heavy cream (add more if needed)
1 cup pork stock
3 Tbsp Port wine (add to taste)
Sauerkraut to garnish to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste
I will quickly go over each component as this dish is technically very easy and doesn’t need a whole lot of explaining. A stand mixer would be nice for when making the potato mash, but the usual/traditional approach to making that works just as well, it just yields a slightly denser mash. The rest doesn’t require any “special” gear.
Morcilla de Arroz (Blood sausage):
This is pretty simple. Pat the sausage(s) dry with some paper towels. Heat some olive oil on a skillet. I used a nonstick. Don’t let the olive oil burn. When oil is shimmering, add the sausage. Prick the sausage with a toothpick or fork. It can tear open or burst otherwise (not like it will explode but you know what I’m saying). Pan sear the link(s) until golden brown (or very very dark brown close to black). The internal temperature of the sausage should be about 60C-65C or 140F-149F. Reserve. Sausages are already seasoned. No need to fuss with them.
Nothing to do here if you already have sauerkraut. Just make sure the sauerkraut is cold from the fridge, I like the temperature contrast with the hot ingredients. Strain it, so juices don’t spill all over the plate. Add to the plate. I make my own sauerkraut at home. It is fermented, not a vinegar pickled one. It is also extremely easy to make. Just shred some cabbage, add it to a container, sprinkle some sea salt, or kosher salt, or pickling salt over it, about a Tbsp per cabbage. Place another clean container that fits the first one over it, and place a weight over it to pressure the cabbage down. It will release water, the salt will make it do that. Those cabbage juices should eventually cover the cabbage, just keep that other container pressing down on it. Lacto fermenting bacteria in the air and the surface of the cabbage itself will get to work, and turn the cabbage into sauerkraut in a matter of 2 weeks. You can check a very old post on this for more information.
Airy Potato Mash:
Simple if you have a stand mixer or other electric hand mixer tools. Basically this is what I do. Place the potatoes whole and with the skin on in a plastic container filled with water. Place this in the microwave for about 20 minutes or until fork tender. You can use a regular pot over the stove, but the microwave just seemed more convenient today. Once done. Drain and add cold tap water to the container. Let sit there for a couple of minutes so you can peel without burning your fingers. Peel the potatoes. Add potatoes to the bowl of the stand mixer. Heat up the heavy cream and butter in the same pot used to cook the potatoes, just so there’s less stuff to clean. Warm it up for a minute. Add some of this cream/butter to the potatoes. Using the wire whisk attachment mix at low speed at first. Adjust salt and cream until you get the right consistency. Now set the mixer on high speed and mix for a couple of minutes. Use a spatula occasionally to help you through the process, and get the stuff at the bottom and on the walls of the bowl to get incorporated. Set aside when you’re happy with the texture and flavor. The longer you beat it the airier it gets. Also less lumps, although I kind of like some lumps in there sometimes. A potato ricer, food mill, hand masher, whatever you use, will do the trick, just don’t use a stick blender (immersion blender) or a food processor. The speed at which those blades spin will basically rupture the starch granules and turn your mash into a gooey unappetizing mess. I personally don’t like that texture.
Pork Port Reduction:
Simply add the pork stock and port to a saucepan, add a bit of salt if needed, and boil it off until you’re left with a dark thick glaze. Extremely flavorful. I made pork stock from the bones of a pork roast. Boiled them for a couple of hours in a pressure cooker and strained it. Discarded the bones. Reduced the stock to about a third of the original water amount which was just enough water to cover the bones to begin with. If you don’t have pork stock. You can make your own stock the same way with ham hocks, or some bacon, country ham, just keep in mind, those products have been smoked or seasoned in a certain way that will end up transferring to your stock and final dish. If you like their flavor, go nuts!
To sum this up. Blood sausages aren’t a common ingredient we eat at home but it is worth trying. I personally love them, they have a very strong, unique flavor and texture. I remember not liking them much as a kid, but that eventually changed over time. Sauerkraut and this type of sausage paired incredibly well. Not all that surprising really. Pork sausage and fermented cabbage is a classic combo. The potato mash added great mouthfeel. It also balanced the whole plate taste wise, sauerkraut has an aggressive taste as does this blood sausage, the mashed potatoes added that layer of simplicity and smoothness. I personally think mashed potatoes are the best thing in the world. Wait, so it’s pork. And yes, I used my cooking knife to eat dinner tonight. Until the next time!