Saturday, December 29, 2007

Bah humbug

Alexis: Okay so I ruined Christmas. Dinner at least. I had planned a pretty ambitious menu: roast duck with cherry-peppercorn sauce, German red cabbage, green bean casserole, Jacques Pepin's potatoes and a lemon cheesecake with lemon-blueberry topping.

I started off in the morning with the cheesecake. Alex hand-crushed the graham crackers for the crust and I made the filling. I used a springform pan wrapped in foil, then baked it in a baine marie so it would stay pretty moist. Well - either I didn't wrap it properly or I used too much water. But when I took the cake out and unwrapped the foil, water was dripping out of the pan. I put it back in the oven at a low temp and covered the top with foil as damage control but couldn't save it - the cake part came out delicious, the crust was mostly soggy. We're still eating it though.
I overcooked the potatoes and decided to mash them instead, not adding enough milk and so ended up with wheat paste instead of mashed taters.

The green bean casserole never happened because I burned the fried onions. The recipe I used said to bake them at a high temperature but that didn't work out so I decided to fry them. We ended up with black flour-coated rings of ASS.

I made the sauce for the duck the night before - dried cherries, red wine, onions, black peppercorns... The day of, I roasted the duck. I've never roasted duck before so I was going strictly by the recipe. Everything was going well until I decided to put it under the broiler for a bit to crisp the skin. That's when the potatoes and green beans started going wrong so I left the duck in a little too long - the skin was a tad burned, as you can see, and instead of being medium done inside, it was totally cooked through. I used the drippings to finish off the sauce, de-glazing it with more red wine and adding it to the sauce I had prepared in advance. I now have a bunch of duck fat which I will freeze and use up slowly.

The big disappointment for me was the red cabbage. I added cloves, which I realized later was a big mistake because it gave it a weird, sort of dessert-y taste. Next time, I'll make a simpler menu. I definitely want to try to make duck again. And the cheesecake. YUM.

Alex: I think Alexis is being a bit hard on herself. It was quite ambitious and came out pretty well considering. Even though the Duck burned, it was only the skin so the meat was still pretty tasty. Duck is so fatty it is virtually impossible to dry out. The Cherry sauce was a nice little compliment. I am not sure how the Potatoes became so disastrous, but they were still edible. Maybe a little more milk or water would have saved them. I really loved the Red Cabbage. Alexis didn't seem to like it at all; maybe it's the German in me. It wasn't as sweet as I am used to but it somehow still worked. I mean, Cabbage is kinda nasty to begin with, so anything to make it edible is a huge success. My favorite was definitely the Cheesecake. Although the crust did get a little soggy, it was only on the edges. The cake was very light and lemony, a must have again. We just need to figure out how to seal off that damn cake pan! So I guess that just about does it for the feasting season, I can't wait till next year’s adventures in holiday cooking!

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