Sunday Family Dinner: Duck, duck, …huh?

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One of the questions I’ve been receiving a lot over the past few months is….“Are you all still doing your Sunday Family Dinners?”

And the answer is—absolutely YES!

But the truth of the matter is……

Well, you see…..

So, the reason is………..

I’m a terrible Procrastinator.

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GAH! The cat is out of the bag!

It’s terrible, I know. Particularly because I spend hours a day scolding coaching college students on how to avoid procrastination.

Trust me, the hypocrisy irony is not lost on me.

Ugh.

Sunday Family Dinner

So yes…since my last Sunday Family Dinner post in July (insert puppy eyes, shamed face here), mi familia still converge at one of the seesters‘ home and get together to get our cookin’ and eatin’ on.

And it’s been darn delicious too.

I definitely don’t want to miss the opportunity to share the past dinners (for my own personal food diary motives and also to share some tasty eats) so I’m committed to posting one recap a week until I catch up.

So hold me to it!

Sunday Family Dinner

Our March fam-din theme was born the way most of ours come to fruition……..while we’re currently eating/feasting on that particular month’s dinner. Does any one else sit around the table with their family enjoying a meal while talking about what their next meal will be?

Just us? Figures…

Well, the theme for March started off with a single ingredient – DUCK. All the dishes were supposed to contain duck in some sort or fashion.

With the exception of dessert….because we may be adventurous but duck flavored dessert did not excite any of us.

Sunday Family Dinner

Since foie gras is now legal again in California, we were planning on having a variation for appetizers. But at the last minute, foie was no where to be found and we didn’t have the time to get it shipped to us. No biggie…we just had to make a few alterations.

Sunday Family Dinner

After doing a little research, I opted to pick up whole ducks from a local Asian grocery store as it was the most affordable route for us. Just a little FYI–most ducks sold at Asian grocers are Long Island (Pekin). So I swung on by our nearby 99 Ranch Market and picked up two duckies. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that they still had their heads and feet intact until I got home.

<Gulp>

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I admit, I got a little nervous as I stared into their little eyes. But after a pep talk from big seester (more like a “c’mon, just do it!”), I put on my big girl pants and butchered/broke them down. After a quick thank you to the duckies for feeding us and the initial eebie-jeebies, I got over it. Hey, if I’m going to be a responsible carnivore, I’ve got to do the dirty work sometimes.

The main dish was to be a slow cooked sugo of duck with fresh hand cut pappardelle pasta. But since we had so much leftover duck “parts”, I decided to make a rich stock that would be used in the sugo.

Sunday Family Dinner

We even used the duck skin and fat to make crispy, salty duck cracklings–which were surprisingly easy and a darn delicious way to celebrate every part of the duck.

We opted to use Mario Batali’s technique for the cracklings which was kind of a confit-render-fry method. I highly recommend it.

Sunday Family Dinner

As always, we kicked off dinner with a cocktail. True, it wasn’t a duck themed cocktail but more of a nod to spring. I blended fresh mangoes, passion fruit, strawberries and fresh mint together to create a lovely tropical puree. I combined two parts of the fruit puree, 1 part vodka, 1/2 part coconut rum, 1/4 part fresh lemon juice and topped it all off with lemon sparkling water.

Bright, fresh, and packed a punch.

A duck punch.

Sunday Family Dinner

To keep from getting h’angry, we noshed on baked artichoke-lump crab dib with toasted flat bread.

Didn’t you know that crabs were the ducks of the sea?

Just kidding… wait–am I?

Sunday Family Dinner

And we also thought it may be a good idea to have some greens along with our meal. But our greens came in the form of —-

Cherry Tomatoes and Spinach….

Topped with Fresh Mozzarella….

With a shower of crispy Pancetta…

Studded with the freshly made Duck cracklings.

I mean C’MON guys…this salad was practically Vegan.

Sunday Family Dinner

As I mentioned before, there was fresh hand cut pappardelle pasta. Sure, Trader Joe’s sells a perfectly good, packaged dry pappardelle. But why do that when you can guilt your seester into making the pasta from scratch?

She actually used two recipes for the two batches. The first one from Food and Wine had a better flavor from the extra egg yolks. But we liked the texture better from the one we found here. It’s still a work in progress to find the best pappardelle recipe. Any suggestions?

Sunday Family Dinner

We used the pappardelle noodles to soak up all the goodness from the rich duck sugo that was topped with a bright herb gremolata. I’ll be sharing the recipe for the sugo this Friday.

Sunday Family Dinner

And finally, DESSERT!

We had a lemon-herb pound cake that was soaked in Grand Marnier. The cake was smothered with a whipped cream that had freshly made lemon curd folded into it. It was all then topped with a mound of sweet macerated strawberries.

Did you know the nickname for strawberries is duck-berries?

Is that too far of a stretch? :)

Sunday Family Dinner

And that, dear Friends, is a wrap on our “beak to tail”, all things most things Duck themed Family Dinner. I do promise to catch up on previous dinners as there is a lot of goodness to share!

Sunday Family Dinner

And how adorable are our munchkins?

Coddled Eggs with Pesto and Potato-Parsnip Purée

Coddled Eggs with Pesto and Potato-Parsnip Puree

We’ve officially entered “shower” season. And by that, I don’t mean April Showers but Wedding Showers and Baby Showers!

My next two months will be weekends filled with shower games, presents galore, tea sandwiches, little bite sized desserts, and sparkling cocktails (I hope!).

Coddled Eggs with Pesto and Potato-Parsnip Puree

What can I say? Love is in the air and my dear friends and loved ones have a lot to be celebrating over these next few months.

So for my latest contribution to Safest Choice™ Darling Dozen, I thought I would make something that would go well on a menu for both bridal and baby showers.

Coddled Eggs with Pesto and Potato-Parsnip Puree

I’ve always been a huge fan of choosing brunch to host parties and celebrations. It’s the perfect time of day where you can serve a variety of foods to please all palates. A few desserts, sandwiches. croissants, scones, preserves, charcuterie boards, and of course–there has to be eggs!

And these adorable coddled eggs served in mason jars will be an absolute hit at your showers.

Coddled Eggs with Pesto and Potato-Parsnip Puree

They start with a luscious, smooth layer of a potato-parsnip purée….which truthfully, are one of my faves these days. They’re a bit lighter than traditional mashed potatoes but are just as delectable.

Next, comes a layer of savory, herbaceous pesto. And c’mon now–who doesn’t love pesto? But for this particular dish, it really does add some much needed brightness to offset the rich, coddled egg and purée. You can also add some sauteed greens as well.

Finally, the whole thing is topped off with a beautiful egg. Heaven.

Coddled Eggs with Pesto and Potato-Parsnip Puree

Your guests will just love these little jars when served. The yolks are unctuous and runny — perfect to dunk toasted little soldiers into. And since Safest Choice™ uses an all-natural egg pasteurization process to eliminate the risk of salmonella, feel at ease when serving them to mamas-to-be.

Want to find out more about their pasteurization process? Click here

Coddled Eggs with Pesto and Potato-Parsnip Puree

These little cuties can be assembled hours before your parties (even the night before!) to give you even more time to spend with your guests.

Adorable? Check! Easy to assemble? Check! Delicious? Check!

Sounds like a slam dunk dish to me. Happy Shower Season, Friends! <3

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Coddled Eggs with Pesto and Potato-Parsnip Purée
Serves 4

Ingredients:

kosher salt
½ pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
1 medium sized parsnip, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
¼ cup heated heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
1 teaspoon garlic powder
black pepper
4 tablespoons pesto
4 large Safest Choice™ pasteurized eggs
sea salt flakes
chopped parsley
serve with soldiers or other bread of your choice

Prepare the potato-parsnip purée by bringing a medium sized pot of water to a boil. Add ½ tablespoon salt, potatoes and parsnips. Boil until they are tender—about 20 minutes. Drain the root vegetables and either run them through a food mill or ricer. Stir the hot heavy cream, 1 tablespoon butter, and garlic powder into the potato-parsnip mixture. Season with additional salt and black pepper as needed. Set aside.

Take 4 small mason jars or ramekins and use the remaining butter to grease the inside of each jar. Divide and spoon the potato-parsnip purée into the bottom of each of the jars. You can also use a small piping bag to do this. Spread one tablespoon pesto on top of each potato-parsnip purée and then carefully top each with an egg.

Fill a large pot with about 2-3 inches of water and bring to a simmer. Place a steam rack inside of the pot of water and carefully place the filled jars/ramekins on top. Cover the pot and steam the eggs for 8-10 minutes until the whites are set but the yolks are still soft. Alternatively, if using mason jars, screw on the lids of each jar and place directly into the pot to simmer for about 10-12 minutes. If the jars/ramekins that I’m using aren’t very high, I prefer to place them on top of a steam rack.

Once done, top each coddled egg with sea salt flakes and chopped parsley. Serve with soldiers or other bread of your choice.

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*DISCLOSURE: As a brand ambassador for the Safest Choice™ Darling Dozen, I was compensated for the creation of this recipe and post. However, as always, all opinions are my own.*

Zesty Cilantro-Lime Rice

Cilantro-Lime Rice

Usually when I make a side dish for tacos or fajitas, I whip up a version of my Spanish Rice. It’s a straight forward method with tomato sauce, chiles and a few other aromatic and spices.

But when I want a bit of a lighter flavor, I make a pot of Zesty Cilantro-Lime Rice.

Cilantro-Lime Rice

It also starts off with onions, garlic, and chicken stock for a rich flavor. But then it’s all finished off with bright citrus-y notes with lots of lime juice, zest of fresh cilantro.

Oh, and there may be a tab of butter or so for added richness.

Definitely a good thing.

Cilantro-Lime Rice

If you’re a bit shy about making rice on the stove top and prefer a rice cooker, just follow the initial steps below. Before adding in the stock, put the rice, cooked onions/garlic into the pot of your rice cooker. Pour in the stock, salt and then follow your machine’s directions. Once done, just follow the rest of the directions to finish it off.

Easy Peasy.

Happy Taco Tuesday!

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Zesty Cilantro-Lime Rice
Serves 2-3

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
½ cup diced white onion
½ tablespoon minced garlic
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup white rice (long grained preferred)
2 cups low sodium chicken stock or vegetable stock
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
zest of 1 lime

In a small pot that has a lid, heat the olive oil and one tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Once melted add the white onions and cook for 2-3 minutes until softened. Add the garlic, pepper flakes and cook for an additional minute. Stir in the rice and cook for one more minute.

Add the chicken stock, kosher salt and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Simmer until all the liquids have evaporated and the rice is tender—about 18-20 minutes. Once done, remove the pot from the stove and let sit, covered for 5 minutes.

Remove the lid and add the remaining butter, cilantro, lime juice and zest. Use a fork to fluff the rice grains.

Enjoy!

Blackberry-Banana Pancakes

Blackberry-Banana Pancakes

Every day is the perfect day for pancakes.

Especially when there’s bananas and fresh blackberries involved.

And butter. And syrup.

Blackberry-Banana Pancakes

I recently caught up with some girlfriends over brunch at The Naked Cafe in Solana Beach. It was a gorgeous, sunny day overlooking the beach –definitely the perfect backdrop to a scrumptious meal.

I ended up ordering a bunch of random à la carte items but the most memorable dish were their buttermilk banana & blackberry pancakes. HOLY MOLY–they were the fluffiest things ever! And why have I never made this fruit combination before in a pancake?

Blackberry-Banana Pancakes

The situation needed to be rectified….immediately! I turned to my tried and true Blueberry Pancakes recipe from Cooks Illustrated and did a little tweaking. An extra splash of vanilla extract here and some lemon zest there –heavenly!

Blackberry-Banana Pancakes

And don’t hesitate to make a double batch! Pancakes freeze quite well –just place a piece of wax paper between each cake and throw them into resealable freezer bags. You can have a pile o’ pancakes whenever your heart desires.

Or your tummy.

But really, aren’t they the same thing? :)

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Blackberry-Banana Pancakes
Makes approximately 16 pancakes

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
2 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon
1 cup fresh blackberries, sliced
2 cups sliced bananas
vegetable oil
Serve with butter, extra fruit, and maple syrup

In a medium bowl, sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk milk, and melted butter. Stir in the vanilla extract and lemon zest. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and whisk gently just until combined. The batter will be quite lumpy.

Heat about 1 teaspoon of the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet set over medium heat. Once the oil starts shimmering, use paper towels to wipe the pan so only a thin, even coating of oil covers the bottom and sides. Use a ¼ cup measure to portion the batter and pour into the center of the pan. Top each pancake with a layer of blackberries and sliced bananas, gently pressing them into the batter. Cook on the first side until the edges are set and bubbles form on the surface, about 1-2 minutes. Use a spatula to flip the pancakes and cook for 1-2 minutes on the second side, or until golden brown and cooked through. Repeat with remaining batter, more oil to the pan if necessary. Serve pancakes with tabs of butter, additional fruit and maple syrup.

Adapted from Cooks Illustrated

Guinness Braised Pot Roast… Sláinte!

Guinness Braised Pot Roast

Hiccup!

Oh! Excuse me!

Hiccup! Burp! *blush*

Guinness Braised Pot Roast

Sorry Gang….I’ve spent the past weekend tinkering around the kitchen with Guinness. I HAD to because today is St. Patrick’s Day and I just couldn’t let y’all down. I needed to share something so deliciously wonderful —that was of course, made with Guinness.

Guinness Braised Pot Roast

But what was I to make with the thick, wonderfully rich and chocolatey stout?

Tacos? Ribs?

So many options yet so few hours in a weekend.

And finally, despite the crazy 90 degree heat wave we were having in San Diego, I cranked on the oven to make pot roast.

I figured the sauna-like environment I had created would let me sweat off at least 10 pounds.

Win-Nguyen situation.

Guinness Braised Pot Roast

I settled with a fairly straight-forward method for the pot roast. Quick sear of the beef, browning of aromatics, added some liquid and then braised it all in a dutch oven for a few hours.

But the kicker?

Guinness Braised Pot Roast

The GUINNESS of course! Plus, the coriander seeds with tomatoes added another level to the flavors that were then punched up with brightness by the fresh parsley and lemon zest to finish it all off.

Guinness Braised Pot Roast

Serve it with mashed potatoes, parsnip puree, polenta –heck, or even as a sammich’! SOOO GOOD!

Guinness Braised Pot Roast

And with that dear friends, have a HAPPY ST.PATRICK’S DAY! Sláinte!

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Guinness Braised Pot Roast
Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

 

1 beef chuck roast (approximately 3-4lbs.) trimmed and cleaned
black pepper
kosher salt
½ cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cups diced celery
2 cups diced carrots
2 cups diced white onion
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes
3 cups Guinness or other Stout of your choice
2 heaping tablespoons minced garlic
8-10 sprigs fresh thyme
8-10 sprigs fresh parsley
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
3-4 dried bay leaves
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
zest of one lemon

Heavily season the beef with kosher salt and black pepper. Roll the chuck roast in flour and dust off any excess. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a dutch oven or other heavy bottom pot that is oven proof over. Once the oil reaches medium heat, sear each side of the beef until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes each side. Once browned, remove the beef to a large plate.

Add the remaining olive oil to the pot. Add the celery, carrots, and onions and cook over medium heat until softened but not browned, about 7-8 minutes. Add in the garlic, red pepper flakes and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper, can of tomatoes with its juices and bring to a simmer. Pour in the Guinness (or other Stout) and allow the liquids to come to a boil.

While the liquids come to temperature, take kitchen twine and tie the thyme and parsley together into a small bundle. Create a sachet with a small piece of cheese cloth and place the black peppercorns, coriander seeds and bay leaves in the center. Bring the corners of the cheese cloth together and use additional kitchen twine to tie the sachet together.

Once the liquids in the pot have come to a boil, place the beef roast back in along with the bundle of herbs and sachet of spices. Allow the liquids to come back to a boil, cover the pot with an oven proof lid and place into a preheated 300 degree F oven. Cook the beef for 3-3½ hours until the meat is fork tender.

Carefully remove the roast to a large plate and cover with foil. Remove and discard the bundle of herbs and sachet of spices. Skim off and discard as much oil/fat from the surface of the vegetables. Using an immersion blender, puree the vegetables until it becomes a fairly smooth sauce. Taste and adjust with additional salt or pepper as needed. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can use a standard blender or food processor.

Slice the beef – it should be very tender and could be pulled apart with forks. Plate the beef and spoon the sauce over it. Top the beef with chopped parsley and lemon zest. Serve with mashed potatoes, polenta, etc. Enjoy!

 

Spring Skillet Pizza Pie for π (PI) Day!

Spring Skillet Pizza Pie

Happy 3.14159 Day…..

otherwise known as π (Pi) DAY!

Spring Skillet Pizza Pie

This morning, my Twitter and IG feed have been filled with gorgeous berry, apple, and chocolate pies as my foodie friends around the world celebrate π Day. And it’s makin’ me HUNGRY!

But this year, I decided to lean towards the savory route again for π Day and this time, we went the Pizza Pie route!

Spring Skillet Pizza Pie

Since spring is just a few days away, I opted for colorful and light veggies for toppings. We started off with a base of EVOO, garlic, thyme, fresh mozzarella and then went to town on all the beautiful produce in reach. Mixed color peppers, artichokes, grape tomatoes, thin asparagus tips and arugula jumped out to me but really, use anything that tickles your fancy. The whole pi(e) was then drizzled with a sweet, tart balsamic reduction.

HOLY PI(E), BATMAN!

Did I ever mention that beautiful food geeks me out?

It also makes me dance around the kitchen….but that’s a story for another time.

Spring Skillet Pizza Pie

As you know, I’m obsessed with making pizza pi(es) in a cast iron skillet. But if you don’t own a cast iron or want to make a larger pizza pi(e), just bake the whole thing on a hot baking sheet (or pizza stone) for 15-20 minutes in a 450 degree F oven.

There’s still plenty of time to get your π Day on and here are some ideas for ya:

And with that folks— have a gorgeous weekend and HAPPY π DAY!

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Spring Skillet Pizza
Serves 2

Ingredients:

5 ounces fresh pizza dough, rested and at room temperature
flour
½ tablespoon corn meal
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, divided
¼ cup thinly sliced red onions
¼ cup thinly sliced bell peppers
¼ pound thinly sliced fresh mozzarella cheese
½ cup blanched asparagus
4-6 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ cup artichoke hearts, quartered
½ tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
sea salt
½ teaspoon fresh lemon zest
fresh black pepper
2-3 pinches red chili flakes
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar reduction*
1 small handful fresh arugula leaves

Turn on the oven broiler and adjust one of the racks to the top of the oven to rest directly under the broiler. Place a seasoned cast iron skillet (10-12 inches in diameter) directly under the broiler for 8-10 minutes. It may begin to smoke but you need the skillet to be screaming hot.

While the skillet is heating, roll out the pizza dough onto a floured surface–you’ll want it a tad smaller than the width of your skillet. If you have a pizza peal, sprinkle it with cornmeal and transfer the pizza dough onto it. If not, you can also use a wooden cutting board.

Brush the olive oil over the dough and sprinkle the garlic and ½ the thyme leaves over it. Quickly top with the red onions, bell peppers, mozzarella cheese, asparagus, tomatoes and artichoke. Once the skillet has heated for the appropriate length of time, quickly and CAREFULLY slide the pizza into the skillet. Replace the skillet so it sits directly underneath the broiler.

Close the oven door and allow the pizza to cook for about 45-60 seconds. Open the oven door and rotate the skillet 180 degrees. Close the door and allow another 60-90 seconds underneath the broiler. Once the crust is slightly charred and cheese has melted, CAREFULLY remove the skillet from the oven and place it on a rack for 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle the top with parmesan cheese, remaining thyme leaves, sea salt, lemon zest, black pepper, and chili flakes. Drizzle the balsamic reduction and top with the arugula leaves. Transfer the pizza to a cutting board, slice up and enjoy!

*To make the balsamic reduction, combine 1 cup balsamic vinegar, ½ tablespoon sugar and 2 pinches of red chili flakes to a small sauce main. On medium-high heat, bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce the heat to low. Continue stirring and cooking until the liquids have reduced by half and take on a thick, syrup consistency—about 10 minutes. Be sure to watch the reduction closely as it can burn quickly. Transfer to a container and allow to cool completely.

Down and Dirty Breakfast Fries

Down & Dirty Breakfast Fries

Sometimes a gal has got to throw frou-frou out the door and just get down and dirty….. for breakfast that is.

I’m talking about turning to premade pantry items that can be thrown together in about 15 minutes to create a gritty, gut bomb breakfast. Something so darn good that you should actually feel a tinge bad about inhaling.

But don’t…. in fact, I’ll like you more for it.

Down & Dirty Breakfast Fries

C’mon now... we’re talking fries with a runny egg. It’s a no brainer.

If you’re aiming for extra credit, you could go the extra mile to fry up your own potatoes and pull together homemade salsa. Heck, I usually would but this dish is all about channeling your old 3am college days. And y’all know I’m not a morning person so the AM is my perfect “out” for taking shortcuts. No guilt here :)

Happy Sunday FUN-Day everyone!

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Down and Dirty Breakfast Fries
Serves 1

Ingredients:

2 cups uncooked frozen french fries (or homemade if you want a gold start)
cooking spray
3-4 ounces breakfast sausage
1 egg
2-3 heaping tablespoons salsa
black pepper and kosher salt
chopped cilantro

Place a large piece of aluminum foil over a baking sheet. Spread the french fries in a single layer over the foil and lightly cover with cooking spray. Bake until crispy according to package decorations.

In a skillet, add the breakfast sausage and cook over medium heat. Use a wooden spoon to crumble the sausage and break into small pieces. Cook the sausage until browned and transfer to a plate. Take a paper towel to wipe out the majority of the grease left from the sausage. Return the skillet to the stove over medium low heat.

Crack the egg into the skillet and fry it until the yolk has just set. Plate the baked fries onto a dish and top with the browned sausage, salsa and then fried egg. Add a pinch or two of both pepper and salt over the egg. Sprinkle the plate with the chopped cilantro and enjoy warm.