A study in duck – dinner with Jon & Rick

Here’s a rundown of the courses that I made last night for our friends Jon & Rick:

  1. Virginica oyster – orange juice, Banyuls wine vinegar, cilantro, chili paste
  2. Diver sea scallop – duck confit, sunchoke puree, pomegranate
  3. Pasta – foie gras, black truffle, mascarpone cheese, cream
  4. Duck breast – potato pave, haricots verts, juniper berry/thyme infused Zinfandel reduction
  5. Arugula – parmesan cheese, black truffle oil, lemon juice, sea salt
  6. Custard – vanilla bean, saffron, caramel sauce, candied pecans

I pretty much ripped the oyster dish off of either Morimoto or Nobu (or both).  The original recipe calls for yuzu juice which I couldn’t locate, so I substituted the Banyuls.  Otherwise the dish is the same, but I guess this substitution makes it mine.

The scallop dish is my very own creation, one that I conceived prior to Thanksgiving and have been holding on to in my mind.  The puree was initially meant to be butternut squash but I had a change of heart when I saw our grocery store still had sunchokes in stock.  I think this ended up being a good move.  For the pomegranate sauce I just reduced pom juice & honey until it came to the consistency I wanted.  The dish was meant to be garnished with frisee in addition to the pomegranate seeds, but I forgot the frisee – it didn’t seem to matter much.

I’ve made the pasta course before for friends and know that it’s a crowd pleaser.  It’s available in Foie Gras – A Passion and was submitted by Laurent Gras (I believe), who incidentally is opening a restaurant in Chicago in the next few months.  I did nothing to make this dish my own – I’m not sure it can really be improved upon.

The duck breast course is one that keeps evolving for me.  Initially it started out from Patrick O’Connell’s contribution to Foie Gras – A Passion (his recipe calls for seared foie gras, a polenta cake, frisee and a blackberry sauce).  I’ve ended up turning that dish into what you see above – all the components are still essentially there, just in different forms (the pave for the polenta, duck breast for the foie gras, Zinfandel reduction for blackberry sauce, etc).  Additionally, I wanted fava beans to be on the plate but fucked up in preparing them, so substituted the haricots verts – this ended up being a really nice compliment to the overally heaviness of the dish.

I like to do the salad course at the end of the meal – a French tradition that I think needs to be seriously considered.  It’s nice to have it between the last savory course and dessert.  You could do a sorbet, but the salad is just lighter.  Here I keep it simple, allowing the flavors to do all the work.  Just some arugula, lemon juice, black truffle oil and sea salt.

Of course there was dessert too – a vanilla bean/saffron infused custard.  The custard was a little loose due to the ratio of egg to milk that I used (1 egg to 1 cup of milk).  In the future I might consider doing 1 egg + 1 egg yolk per cup of milk.  The ratio of sugar here lends to a less sweet dessert – 1 tbsp to 1 cup of milk.  You can make the dish sweeter by the addition of the sauce & candied nuts.

Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves on a snowy night in Chicago.  The general consensus was that the scallop & pasta dishes reigned supreme.

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