The party Friday night was a great success, if I do say so myself! Not a scrap of food was left behind and, as far as I can tell, it all tasted good to my guests. I cornered as many as I could to ask for their opinions of the various dishes I served, relying on them to be honest for all of our sakes before I shared the recipes with you and prepared some of the dishes for my clients. In any event, it will be so much easier to just be the caterer at the parties I have coming up. I find the juggling of hosting and cooking getting harder and harder as I hold myself to continually higher standards with the food and presentation. It’s incredibly hard for me to let go and not worry about the food once my guests arrive and so I find myself doing neither the hosting or serving particularly well and get frustrated with myself (I know, therapy would likely help). On Friday, quite early on, the garnishes on the canapes fell to the wayside as I rushed to refill drinks and catch up with the 30 people that had suddenly filled our little flat!
Consensus was that my Tea Smoked Duck Breast with Pickled Rhubarb on Sweet Potato Crisps was the hit of the night with the Crab Cakes coming in a close second, the Asparagus and Shiitake Terrine third. I’m including the Beet Cured Salmon with Avocado Wasabi Puree and Pickled Ginger on Beet Crisps because I think it’s something completely different and refreshing among all of the other decadent bites in this spread.
And although these recipes look challenging and involved, you could cheat along the way to make the process much simpler with a couple of cheats. For instance, I made my beet and sweet potato chips. Feeling time crunched? Buy them! (I confess that my beet chips were giving me fits the morning of the party, having not crisped up the way I’d hoped. I was calling all over London in search of just one bag of plain beet chips but no one seemed to carry them. Desperate, I called Tyrell’s Crisps, the company who makes them, and they couldn’t even find a retailer in London, but were good enough to send me 4 bags for free. Just as I was going to give up, I went to the oven and the beets had crisped up!) My idea for the smoked duck came when I saw a lovely packet of sliced smoked duck breast at the fancy food shop near our home. Initially I was going to just buy it and see how we went, but then I remembered my vow to get back to my culinary roots and revisit techniques that I don’t get to use all the time (plus it was about 8 GBP which I couldn’t justify). Instead of homemade beet cured salmon, use smoked salmon. It’s all about the flavors and textures with these and you can replicate them without all of the hard work if you prefer….remember I love to geek out in my kitchen, I know not all of you do, but give one of these techniques a try….they’re incredibly rewarding!
for the salmon:
1 pound salmon, skin on
1/2 cup rock salt
1/2 cup demerara sugar
1/4 cup grated horseradish
1 cup grated beet
1/4 cup vodka
1/2 bunch of fresh dill
zest of one lemon
Place your salmon in a non-reactive pan, skin side down. Mix together all of the remaining ingredients in a bowl and pat them all over the salmon flesh, pressing it slightly into the fish. Cover the salmon with plastic wrap and cover it with a sheet tray, plate or other item that fits on top of the fish nicely and then weigh this down with heavy cans, juice/milk quarts, yoghurt containers (just be creative). Put this in the fridge and allow to sit for 2 days. After two days remove the weights, uncover the salmon and brush off all of the curing ingredients. Gently rinse the surface, removing all of the salt and other debris. Slice thinly to fit on your crisps (or however else you might be serving this). It should last a couple of weeks in the fridge.
for the puree:
2 limes, juiced
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 teaspoons wasabi powder or paste
salt & pepper to taste
Place avocados and lime and lemon juice in bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth. Now add the wasabi (you might want to do this a little at a time so it’s right for your taste). Season, add more lime juice as you see fit and place in a squeeze bottle until service.
for the beet crisps:
3 beets, scrubbed, unpeeled, sliced on a mandoline to 1/8th inch thickness
salt & pepper
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. If you are able, try to find heirloom varieties of beets like golden or candy cane striped (sometimes called chioggia) varieties because they look amazing when dried out and crispy. Toss the sliced beets in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper to coat them well. Place the beets on a wire rack on your sheet tray and cook for 30-40 minutes until getting brown around the edges. They should crisp up when they come out of the oven, but if you’re having problems with them like I did put them in a 200 degree oven for about 30 minutes, turn the oven off and without opening the oven door let them sit there for an hour. They should be lovely and crisp without browning too much.
1/4 cup pickled ginger, chopped
tray of sprouted mustard cress microgreens
On each beet chip place a slice of the beet cured salmon, squeeze on some puree and garnish with a sprinkle of each the pickled ginger and mustard cress microgreens.
for the duck:
4 duck breasts
2 tablespoons pink peppercorns, crushed
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 cup jasmine rice
3 star anise
1/4 cup loose green tea
1/2 cup demerara sugar
Score the skin of each duck breast in a cross-hatch patter, down to the flesh. In a non-reactive bowl combine the peppercorns, soy sauce, fish sauce and toasted sesame oil and add the duck to the mixture. Allow to rest for at least half an hour (and up to 2 hours), turning occasionally. While this is marinating, create your smoker in a large, heavy pot that a rack will comfortably rest in and that has a tight fitting lid. Line the pot with heavy-duty aluminium foil and add the rice, cinnamon, star anise and green tea. Place the rack on top of this and now create a collar of more foil that you’ll be able to fold over the top of the lid when you put it on (this just helps with the amount of smoke that will fill your kitchen). When you’re ready to cook, heat a frying pan and at the same time start the heat under your smoking pot. Add the duck to the smoking hot frying pan, skin side down, lower the heat to medium and allow to cook without moving for about 5 minutes which will get some of the fat out of the skin. By this point you should see wisps of smoke coming from the aromatics in your smoking pot. Once the duck skin is crisped up (be careful not to burn them…so watch your heat), move them into your smoker, this time skin side up. Put the lid on, fold the foil over tightly to seal and allow to smoke for 10 minutes on the heat. Turn off the heat and allow the pot to sit covered (no peeking) for 5 more minutes.
for the sweet potato chips:
3 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed and sliced to 1/8th inch on mandoline
salt & pepper
Like you did for the beet chips, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Toss the sliced sweet potatoes in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper to coat them well. Place the potatoes on a wire rack on your sheet tray and cook for 30-40 minutes until getting brown around the edges. They should crisp up when they come out of the oven. Allow to cool completely before serving or storing.
pickled rhubarb – recipe from post last month here
On each sweet potato crisp place a slice of the smoked duck, a piece of pickled rhubarb and decorate with a couple of chives.