Tuesday, January 20, 2009

CSA: Edible Collards / Duck Tacos with Carambola Salsa

Midweek wrapup of what's been going on with Week 7's ingredients.

In short: I made collards edible. Really! My thought process was this: traditionally collards are cooked with a lot of pork bits, usually smoked ham hocks and whatnot. But it's usually just kindof overcooked, and vegetal, and blech... So I thought, what pork bits do I have? Answer: several pounds of homemade Andouille sausage and Tasso ham, some leftover roast pork belly, and some jars of homemade Trotter Gear. The solution came in a sortof hybrid collard-gumbo!

Process: This is a rough description, I didn't actually measure anything. I trimmed the fat bits off the roast belly, and rendered them in an enameled dutch oven until there was a fair bit of bacon fat going on in the pan, then added the rest of the belly (cubed) until everything was crispy-crunchy, and removed. In goes the Trinity, in this case a 1/4 yellow Bell Pepper, an onion, and two celery stalks (diced). In retrospect, you could add flour and make your roux before adding the trinity if you wanted to. But I figured I'd get my unctuousness from the trotter gear and okra. If I had it to do again, I would probably go with a roux. Once the trinity had sweated, I added three cloves of garlic (minced) for a minute or two, and then two tomatoes (peeled, chopped) and some of the fresh thyme from a couple weeks back. Cooked everything for a bit, then added about two cups of chicken stock, then the washed and roughly chopped collards to the top of the pot, on with the lid, and steam 15 minutes. Then stir in. At this point I added one of the Tasso steaks, cubed, into the mix and stirred the whole mess together. The tasso should be enough seasoning (it's wicked hot, but also has allspice and other things going on), but I added a bit of salt and Tabasco for good measure. In went six okra, chopped, and simmered for about 15 more minutes. Tasted and adjusted seasoning, then in went about 1/3 a jar (i.e. quart mason jar) of trotter gear. Once heated and stirred, in went two andouille sausages (sliced) and some garlic chives and green onions (thinly chopped). Add back crunchy belly bits. Served over rice.

Verdict: awesome. Collards are there, but don't have that musty grassy, rotting vegetation thing they get going sometimes. Mostly fresh and kinda crunchy. Admitted you mostly get porkey and spicy. But it's filling and pretty great. Mmmm...

The weird Asian braising greens? Chinese Spiced Duck Breast with Braised Greens. M cooked it all up as I was still down with a headcold. Marinated and wok seared, oven finished, duck breast served over the braising greens, the leftover heirloom beans from last week, and some bok choi from the back yard, all stir fried in the wok with some shaoxing rice wine vinegar and sesame oil. It was very good, but the braising veggies contained what looked like Mustard Greens (or Rapeseed/Canola stalks!). Were we supposed to cook the whole thing, or just the ends? The flowers and softer bits were very good, but the stalks were woody and unpleasant... We used about half, so I've got another round of experimenting to do.

So that killed the duck breasts. How about the legs? The bones went into a brown duck stock that spent Inauguration Day simmering. And there were still lots of CSA things leftover. Solution: Duck Carnitas Tacos with Chipotle Carambola Salsa.

Procedure: Make Duck Stock. Got that? Good. Seriously, it's real easy. The rest of the recipe is adapted from a recipe for Duck and Mushroom Chile Rellenos in Mark Miller's excellent Coyote Cafe cookbook. Take two duck legs, debone and skin them (bones and skin can go in stock). Chop. In a sauce pan: the duck bits, a clove of garlic, toasted and in: (1/2 tsp mexican orenano, 1/4 tsp cumin seeds (ground), 1/4 tsp coriander seeds (ground)), 1/2 tsp cinnamon (canela if you've got it), 1 1/2 T New Mexican Chile powder (I used about 1 T med New Mex and 1/2 T Nambe Pueblo chile powder), 1 1/2 cups duck stock, 3 T of duck fat (I used some fatty bits from the duck carcass) and salt and pepper to taste. Cook this at a simmer for about an hour, then up it to high and boil off all the water. Once it starts getting thick, start stirring or it will burn. Like beyond the point of no return, ruined for eternity, throw out the pot burned. Stir until everything is a bit crispy and fried, or until you're hand hurts and you're hungry.

Meanwhile make the salsa. Chop up and seed two carambolas, dice about half this weeks' cherry tomatoes, maybe 1/4 cup of the cilantro, maybe 1/4 cup red onion, juice of half a lime, some salt and pepper, and about 1/4 tsp chipotle chile powder. Stir, adjust to taste, let sit.

Now make tortillas. Or go to the store and buy them if you're lazy. It will take longer than making them. Mix masa, water, and a dash of salt. Let sit a bit. Devide dough into golf ball sized lumps. Heat skillet to very, very hot. Roll out some plastic wrap. Place dough on plastic wrap. Fold other half of plastic wrap over. Take spare pot (or tortilla press) and smash the hell out of dough. Like the apes in 2001: A Space Odyssey, but with a saucepan not a femur. Peel off, throw into dry skillet, cook 45 seconds to a minute a side. Pile on a plate with a damp paper towel on top.

Assemble tacos. You are capable of assembling tacos, I presume. Add some shredded cabbage if you're feeling frisky and you have lots of leftover cabbage like me.

Verdict: Awesome! Good use of the entire duck, and various elements from the CSA box. This dinner was made up on the spot entirely with things I had on hand, and not having to go to the store is its own reward.


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