February 9th, 2013

December 2014, by PNH

Duck and Hubbard; Let's Hear It for Latvian Rye

A while ago I bought a small Hubbard squash. With Hubbards (and various other kinds of winter squash, if I understand that term correctly) “small” is a relative term. This particular critter probably weighed less than 10 lbs, so it really was quite modest, as such things go. [personal profile] lisajulie was kind enough to bake it for me (I didn’t have access to a decent oven at the time) and put it into some zip-closure bags and freeze it.

Last night I found chicken broth at MOM’s that didn’t have any onions or yeast in it (I’m allergic to both). Only one brand & type out of perhaps 8 or 10 that they carry, but one is enough.

It was clearly time to make some duck soup.

Obligatory caveat: As usual, I can’t give you a fully formal recipe with precise amounts. I only ever do that with ceramic glaze recipes, and even then it isn’t viable to follow them precisely: YMWV (not just “May”, Will), and you have to be willing to perform a bunch of testing. With food, it’s even less possible to provide fully predictable results. You may dislike an ingredient I use, or you may not be able to eat it for one reason or another, or whatever; but if you are willing to tweak your way around it, you can probably get to something that satisfies you. The other side of this is that I never measure anything anyway when I’m cooking, so there never is a precise recipe. [Yes, I bake without measuring things. Yes, the results of my baking are highly variable, and occasionally even silly; I live with it. OTOH, I can tell you that The Sam’l Taylor Coleridge Memorial Poppy-Seed Cake (with Optional Blindworm’s Sting) is incredibly forgiving; I have yet to experience a failure with it despite the fact that I don’t use regular [wheat] flour; use substitutes for the milk item[s] it calls for; putz around freely with the amount of oil I put in it; etc., etc.]

Be that as it may, let’s get back to the soup.

Ingredients here are 1 box of broth (I think it’s about a liter); a pound or two of mostly-cooked winter squash (I would actually opt for ‘Marina di Chioggia’ if I could find or grow it, as it is very smooth and creamy; Hubbard is rather more fibrous, and you may want to purée it before you add it); 1 duck breast; a bunch of dried barberries (try a Persian market for these); some summer savory; some ground coriander seed (I know one person who is viciously allergic, and if I were making this for her I would probably substitute a small amount of ground-up dried citrus peel; you can find dried tangerine peel at Chinese markets); a light sprinkle of cinnamon; and whatever other herbs and spices suit your fancy. (I had intended to put some fresh ginger in it, but I forgot. I was also going to marinate the duck before cooking it, with grains of paradise and cinnamon and maybe allspice, but I didn’t have time.)

Method: I put everything except the duck into an appropriate cooking pot, and started it heating. Then I sliced the duck as thin as I could, and pan-fried it; tossed it into the nascent soup, which was at the boil by that point. Done deal. (What, you wanted it to be more difficult? I’m sure we can come up with some Advanced Variations that are sweetly complex. Besides, if you can’t find a Persian market and you aren’t adept at shopping online, you’re going to have to come up with a substitute for dried barberries.)

I tried this soup over rice, and then I tried it plain. The flavors were a lot more evident without the rice, and I think I prefer it that way. (The loss of flavor may seem reasonable to some of you, but it surprised me — I eat lots of things over rice, and I don’t recall losing flavors out of them.) The barberries add little tart accents, which I think is more interesting than the more even tartness that I would have gotten with vinegar or lemon juice, or by puréeing the finished soup. (This is why I suggested smoothing out the squash before you add it.) OTOH, if you want the tartness spread evenly you can easily achieve that.

A few weeks ago I was prowling around at the aforementioned MOM’s (it used to be “My Organic Market”, abbreviated MOM, but the obvious change occurred), and I noticed something new among the breads. There were these restrained-but-fancy labels that said “STORYE” on them. Primarily out of curiosity, but also on the off chance that I might be able to eat the stuff, I looked at the ingredients. They clearly stated that the rye they use is yeast-free, so I decided to give it a whirl.

They happened to be doing a tasting that included my usual brand of fake butter, and I agreed that I was going to buy the bread one way or the other, so I was able to taste the “Classic” version right there in the store. Even with fake butter it was outstanding: tart, nice deep flavor, plenty of caraway. (If you don’t like kimmel, they also have a version with carrots.)

Later, when I read the label more carefully, I discovered that the bread is actually made in Latvia. (Welcome to The Future, in which you can get a truly astonishing profusion of foods from faraway places!)

I will note, in this connection, the fact that I have a strong fundamental disagreement with the people who say we should buy only things that are made or grown locally. We are all in this together; everybody on the planet deserves to have a right to live and eat and get an education and earn a decent living wage if they’re working, and I think it’s horribly shortsighted and counterproductive (not to say vicious) to deliberately withhold that from someone just because they happen to live in some other country. Yes, massive transportation of goods contributes to global pollution; but I’m not convinced that this has to be a show-stopper, particularly in the long term. I think we can (and must) find ways to make transport a lot less polluting. Besides, I have a strong suspicion that there are lots of other, larger contributors to pollution. Refusing to buy cars or television sets or food products [etc.] that are made overseas (or, for that matter, overland) just doesn’t seem likely to ameliorate the larger set of problems.