Osso Bucco (Braised Veal Shank)

DSCF6932 (640x456)It’s the coldest week of the year in the city and it’s also the best time to be outside; shopping. Almost stores are nearly empty with rushing shoppers and moving in and around aisles can be such a relief. Same goes for restaurants where queues never end, and for a long time, a relative peace and quiet in a relatively buzzing and unrelentless place. It’s only during this season I can truly cherish the food I love to eat without the tendency of eavesdropping at the conversation over at the next table.

It’s actually during the fall and winter seasons that I clean-up my storage and apartment and see what can be thrown away or donated.  This year, however, is a major overhaul. I went through my piles of stuff from almost six years back and it was an enormous junk pile. As I look at each, I see many were bought while I moved in from one location to another when work required me to or I had to move to another residence for a change.  All of them were gathered along the way. Some were gifts, and others were from my previous past life that mothballed in time. I was lucky enough to find someone who found real and potential use for all those. It was, in my part, a big sigh of relief and comfort. I suddenly saw so much space from my little haven and knew  what I have and what I really badly need to keep myself clutter-free. Removing clutter is one way of moving forward, and I’m all in for that.

It’s also during the winter months that I focus my cooking on heavy broth based dishes. I particularly love to work on the beef or the veal shank and the pork butt to create traditional dishes with my own twist. This particular dish, though, is one of my favourites.  I made a very traditional Osso Bucco the first time using white wine. This is another version; a more updated version using tomato puree.  It has the same cooking procedure as the Osso Bucco alla Milanese except for the tomato puree or sauce and the gremolata which I omitted upon serving. I concentrated on bringing out the life of the veal shank itself and creating a heavy and smooth sauce from it. Those two were enough to warm me up during cold, below freezing days and nights.

Ingredients:

  • Veal Shank
  • Olive oil
  • Shallot, minced
  • Garlic, minced
  • Thyme or Rosemary
  • Bayleaf
  • Tomato Puree or sauce
  • Sea Salt
  • Ground Black Pepper
  • White Balsamic Vinegar
  • Beef Stock
  • Red Wine
  • Flour (for coating)

Season the shank with salt and pepper and coat with flour.  Pan-fry both sides until golden brown and set aside.

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Sauté the shallots and garlic until aromatic using the same pan. Deglaze with the red wine, add-in the tomato puree followed by the balsamic vinegar, bayleaf, thyme, sea salt and beef stock. Return the shank back into the pot and let it boil to simmer until the shank becomes fork tender.

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Carefully lift the shank from the pot and set it on a plate. Strain the sauce into a sauce pan and adjust the consistency and seasonings. Drizzle the sauce over the shank and garnish with Thyme or Rosemary or in my case, chopped green onion.

The usual mirepoix of carrots, celery and onions can replace the garlic and shallots. Again, this mirepoix is common and basic in this side of the world and for the same reason, I would rather use something simpler to adjust to my taste and limited time.

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Duck Confit (Confit de Canard)

DSCF6921 (640x512)Let me begin by stating the fact that I haven’t ever in my life, or my professional kitchen life, have cooked a Duck Confit. My first encounter with this dish was about seven years ago, in the professional theory cookbook each and every Culinary student has had to have to survive all the food theory classes and practical laboratory exercises as drawn and summarized by the faculty on its student manual. Those manuals were as vague as the step-by-step procedure written down on the two pages of the cookbook about the Duck Confit. I didn’t understand nor comprehend any of the required processes in arriving to the final product. It was, likewise, never taught in Culinary School; guessing that the duck was too costly for each student to experiment on. Moreover, the duck, particularly the Roast Duck, for me, at that time was mainly reserved to be had in Chinatown eateries and was an elegant and expensive bird or game to have for dinner; as many would have also thought. I stuck to cheap cuts as always, but kept my eyes constantly open for an affordable fresh duck somewhere. Most Canadian superstores sold them frozen at very steep prices and I was not buying one for the same reason. I recently discovered frozen ducks in Chinatown  which was half the price and were imported from the USA. That was a clear invitation which led me to this duck season.

I was very happy with the Magret, and wished I had cooked more. After about a week at looking and comparing recipes and interpreting the proper procedures in handling a duck for a classic confit, I finally started and made one. I did a step every night for a week until I was able to preserve enough portions for supper or lunch on my days-off. Making the Duck Confit is not really as elaborate as I imagined it would have been, however, it cannot be hurried like a stir-fry or a quick roast. Preparation takes TIME: 4-6 hours for curing, another 4-5 hours of poaching, and maybe another hour or two for straining the oil and preserving the duck before even finally arriving to the actual cooking part. Nevertheless, with all the duck parts preserved, a Duck Confit is only dish from many other sub-dishes which can be derived from preserving these luxurious birds. Hopefully, I’d be able to tackle and extract something more extraordinarily Filipino with all the preserved duck parts I have now.

Ingredients:

  • Duck Legs
  • Sea Salt
  • Thyme
  • Duck fat
  • Garlic
  • Bayleaf
  • Black peppercorns
  • Fingerling potatoes, boiled

Curing:

Rub the duck legs with sea salt, minced garlic and finely chopped Thyme. Leave them in an air tight container, adding more sea salt on top of each leg as you go. Refrigerate for 4-6 hours.

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Rinse the salt and the aromatics in cold, running water and strain or pat-dry with a towel.

Poaching:

Set a couple of garlic cloves, black peppercorns, Thyme sprigs and a bayleaf in a roasting pan. Set the duck legs after and slowly pour enough duck fat into the roasting pan; an appropriate amount to cover each one. Insert the roasting pan in a pre-heated 100’C oven and poach (oil in a slow murmur) the duck legs for another four hours or until the legs become tender. Remove from the oven and let the pan cool down a bit. Take the legs out of the pan and strain the oil into another container. Return the legs back into the strained oil and refrigerate.

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Cooking:

Pan-fry each leg until golden brown using the same duck fat in which the legs were preserved. Do the same with the potatoes, and sprinkle some finely chopped Thyme as garnish. I roasted the potatoes at higher temperature to crisp up the skin.

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The salt will help preserve the ducks. This curing process took me back several decades back in time, when growing up, I ate heavily salted and smoked fish from the Philippines. They had to be rinsed-off just the same to remove some of the biting saltiness originating from endless days of drying and preserving before they were packed and sold. I had the same idea in mind when I was making the confit. Salt is as essential as if not as important to making the legs last for quite a long time.

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I was also able to extract enough duck fat from the excess skin from the duck I butchered and carved into six portions: two legs, two breast, and two wings. The skin was similar to the Filipino’s Chicken Skin beer-match appetizer. That didn’t go to waste. I kept the carcass in the freezer for future use, and the wings were cut into two and cooked together with the legs. I also included a breast just to see how it can take the entire curing and poaching process for which maybe I may also have a use in the future. I have ideas, but that would be later.

Treat the oil like or similar to butter. It has been infused with flavours and that would further enhance salad dressings and other dishes requiring pan-frying.

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Potatoes cooked in duck fat are called ‘Pommes de Terre Sarladaise’ in French. I paired them with the leg and excluded the usual garden fresh salad which was also regularly served with the Duck Confit back in Paris. I prepare salads almost every day and would rather avoid it as much as I can. Baby Bok Choys can be a presentable substitute, too.

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Duck Breast in Red Wine and Cherry Jam Sauce (Magret de Canard)

DSCF6898 (640x510)The holidays officially ended just this Tuesday, the eighth of January.  I never understood why there were two more Turkeys served that day when kitchen operations should have been back to normal. It was already a week after New Year’s Day? This raised a big question mark on my part on how much Turkey and gravy these people can take.  It was unmistakably unbelievable! I couldn’t handle that much sauce and was sick of gravy by the second week of December. I was already hitting the oriental trail of noodles and vegetables as soon as the New Year’s stepped in.  I thought it was finally over and done with; really over and done with until the next holiday.   It caught me by surprise.

This intense jostling and wrestling with the Turkey for almost a month took me to the grocery for some whole young, Duck. It’s really not at all that expensive. I know many, including a couple of my friends, can’t take Duck as much as I can’t Turkey nowadays, but Duck is as versatile as any other bird. I haven’t really tackled cooking and working on a Duck Leg or a Duck Breast, but whichever part they are served, I enjoy the rich and gamy feature and quality of the bird. I can’t resist having a Hong Kong style Roast Duck on noodles or rice after work, and if I were with my nephews, a Peking Duck is always worth having. The last time I had a Peking Duck was close to a decade ago. I haven’t had anyone to share it with me here in Toronto.  Filipinos seem to curse the bird, one way or the other.

I know for some reason I can’t cook either one of those two Chinese Roast.  I don’t have the tools, the experience and moreover, the required skill to work on them with precise and pinpoint crispy skin accuracy.  They have their ways which I believe can be totally intriguing and fascinating to see and learn.  I’ll take theirs anytime, hands down, however, the French has some extremely delicious classical dishes, too that is paired with wine.  This is more of my avenue. I have been looking at some French Duck dishes and encountered this one: a Magret. I missed this in Paris when I was there last fall (sign that I should return), but was able to taste a classical Duck Confit. I will tackle both dishes; the Magret de Canard being a precursor to the confit. I have two whole ducks in my fridge. The hunting season has just began.

Ingredients:

  • Two Duck Breast, skin scored
  • Red Wine (Merlot)
  • Thyme
  • Bay leaf
  • Cherry Jam
  • Light Soy Sauce
  • Honey
  • Butter
  • Lemon Juice
  • Cornstarch slurry
  • Fingerling Potatoes, boiled

Reduce about a half bottle of wine in sauce pan together with the Thyme and Bay leaf. Once reduced to half, strain in another sauce pan. Thicken with a cornstarch solution to achieve desired consistency, add-in the light soy sauce, honey and the Cherry jam.  Finish off with butter and lemon juice.

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Pan-fry the Duck breast, skin side down, for about five to eight minutes, depending on the size of the breast. Flip the breast and insert in a pre-heated 180’C oven for another four minutes. Check the breast for doneness. Set aside to rest and slice on a bias.

Saute the potatoes using the oil that was rendered from the duck on the same pan.    &nb   

Slice in a bias and set on a plate with the Fingerling potatoes and the sauce at the centre of the plate.

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