Shaddley, of Head Cheese fame, is my wine rep. He does a damn fine job of using my face hole as a disposal of opened, partially consumed bottles of delicious wines that I otherwise wouldn't know about, or have a chance to drink. For this, I am thankful. We've been friends for the better part of six years, and since we both have decadent tastes, his grape juice slingin', and my cooking have formed a natural marriage. Despite that he and his wife, YogaMarketingBrownieGirl, live in North Buda, we still manage to sit down to meals from time to time, shoot the shit, drink in excess and revel in the mystic beauty that is life, oft over some plate of food crafted from high quality, local, and organic ingredients.
A few weeks back, Shaddley and I had such a chance encounter without YogaMarketingBrownieGirl, who was busy doing whatever it is she does (I have no idea anymore?!), and I was stoked to get in the kitchen. I had bought a duck from work earlier that week, and after breaking it down, I had one nice breast to work with. The rest of the duck was used for various projects; the legs were used for confit, the other breast is being saved for a future special dinner with the Biegs upon her return to Texas for the Holidays, and the rest of the parts were turned into a delicious stock. This was to be a test run of some new plates that I picked up, and I was excited to cook a big meal, having some ideas that I wanted to test out from my trip to London.
Shaddley and I had spoken about Cab Franc, but he couldn't find any, so we went for Shiraz instead. Our wine for the evening was Herman Story Shiraz, vintage forgotten, which worked well with the foods that we would be having that evening. This was one of those multi-course themed meals that we all know and love. It was feeling rather Autumnal for a change, so I ran with that inspiration. What did this mean, exactly? For me, as a Produce Manager, it meant squash, beans, fingerling potatoes, cranberries, root vegetables, greens, and apples. These things have been the focus of my section for the past few months, and I figured they deserved their time to strut the virtual runway of my dining table, before the seasons shifted to citrus and dark, leafy greens (right around the corner!).
First up was a delicate soup of butternut squash and white beans. I used the duck stock as a base, and garnished this fine, creamy soup with some local Richardson Family pork sausage, a dollop of Remember When heavy cream, fried leeks, and some fresh thyme. The soup was light enough to start this meal, without filling us up too much. The savory flavors of the sausage and the sweetness of the squash set our pallets up for the rest of the meal, without overshadowing the remaining two courses.
Next, we had a salad. I had picked a variety of lettuces, arugula, and other greens from my garden for this occasion. Some Pederson's apple smoked bacon, and a poached local Alexander Farms egg topped this crunchy mix of the freshest greens available, which ranged from peppery to sweet. A well balanced Champagne vinaigrette rounded out this beautiful pile of homegrown, local fare.
Our main was ready to go soon after, and I was having fun with the seasonal action, which showed in the playful dish. We sell lady apples at work, which look cute as hell, but seem somewhat useless, being that they are smaller than ping pong balls, have a 'meh' flavor, and a thick skin. I had an idea, inspired by none other than Food and Wine magazine to slow roast them, and serve them alongside the duck. They got roasted in a mix of Becker Vineyards Fume Blanc, Champange vinegar, anise, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, organic sugar, and some fresh cranberries, which really set off their flavor, and brought the essence of these warming fall flavors to the dish.
The duck breast looked so beautiful that I could have eaten it raw, but instead it got pan seared and coated in a spice pear glaze, which was really just the syrup leftover from reducing some pear poaching liquid from brunch the week before. The spices in the pear syrup were almost the same as the little roasted apples, substituting cardamom for cinnamon, and kept the tone of the meal cohesive, like a fine Burgess novel. This dish had four vegetable sides to accompany it, two on the plate, and two family style. On the plate, we had homegrown turnips, and organic rutabagas, pan roasted in duck fat, as well as homegrown turnip greens and lacinato kale, cooked in bacon fat. Family style, we had fingerling potatoes slathered in Remember When butter, and radishes cooked in duck fat with their happy leaves. That dish is really good, and easy; it just makes sense. The duck was served topped with a apple-cranberry foam made with the roasting liquid from the apples. Pictures for this dish were hazy, a clear indication of the state of the photographer at this point in the meal, so, deal.
Turnips and rutabagas...
Apples are yummy.
After our meal, we had room for dessert... two bottles of the new to Texas, De Proef beers. These Belgian beauties were a perfect ending to this meal. We had a wild fermented number, and a Flemish style ale, both of which were sour, and refreshing. I love sour ales, and the flavor of brettanomyces, so for me this was treat. I'll have to find more of them, soon. After all this revelry, Shaddley had to make the long journey South to North Buda, full, and content; I was left to my own devices, savoring this celebration of camaraderie and season.