roasted beet salad 
Words can’t express my passion for beets.  They’re sweet, tender, and are versatile enough to accompany a myriad of other flavors – mild chèvre, sharp vinegar, smooth olive oil (I could keep going for a while). I know that you’re supposed to cook (boil or roast) beets with the skins on, but I never knew why… before now.  Thanks Wikipedia:

The [red beet] pigments are contained in cell vacuoles. Beetroot cells are quite unstable and will ‘leak’ when cut, heated, or when in contact with air or sunlight. This is why red beetroots leave a purple stain. Leaving the skin on when cooking, however, will maintain the integrity of the cells and therefore minimise leakage.

Makes: 6 salad-size servings
Total kitchen time: 2 hours + marinating time

Shopping list:

  • 5 large red beets (skins on), stems trimmed to a small nub
  • 2 large sweet onions (such as Vidalia)
  • 1/4 cup cornichon, sliced into thin discs
  • 3 tbsp. orange juice
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1.5 tbsp. finely chopped tarragon
  • ooks&fgbp
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. 
  2. Create a double-layer aluminum foil pouch large enough to hold all the beets.  Arrange the beets in the pouch and drizzle to coat with olive oil.  Add a generous pinch of kosher salt and pepper, plus about 3 tbsp. of water.  The water will create steam, helping the beets stay moist and also loosening the skins from the beet meat.  Seal the foil pouch tightly and roast for about 90 minutes.  Remove from the oven and open the pouch to vent the steam.
  3. Meanwhile, peel the onion and slice it into 1/4" thick discs.  Separate each disc into rings (like when they make the onion volcano at Benihana.  Come on, it’s pretty cool).  Since I’m a little OCD, I only like to use the rings that are smaller in diameter than the largest beet.  Which means the outer 4-5 rings are usually discarded.  That’s up to you, though.
  4. Toss the onion rings (the ones you want to use) in a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  Place on a baking sheet and add to the bottom of your oven during the last 15 minutes of the beets roasting.  This will soften and sweeten the onions just slightly, without taking away their great crunch.
  5. Once the beets are cool enough to handle, rub the outsides with a paper towel to remove the skins.  Quarter the beets, then slice each quarter into 1/4" sections. 
  6. In a non-reactive dish, combine the beets, onions and cornichon.  Toss with enough olive oil to just barely coat, then season with kosher salt and pepper.  Add the vinegar and orange juice, and stir to mix.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes up to 24 hours. 
  7. Just before serving, top with the chopped tarragon and garnish with another pinch of salt (sea salt is best).

Although this dish (or some variation) has deep roots in traditional French cuisine, I must pay credit to Thomas Keller for inspiring this version.  He doesn’t use cornichon, but I think he’s missing out.

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Sometimes I feel like getting a little fancy, and a whole roasted duck fits the bill.  Don’t let it intimidate you, though.  Roasting a duck is just like roasting a chicken, and no, it’s not absolutely necessary to crack open an actual coconut to make this recipe.  If you’re feeling a little adventurous, give this one a try.  I think you’ll be pleased with the results.

Total kitchen time: 2 hours
Makes: foul for four

Shopping list:

  • 1 whole duck (or 4 duck breasts, if you prefer)
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 24 oz. (4 small cans) pineapple juice
  • 1.5 cups basmati or jasmine rice
  • 1/4 cup cream of coconut (from the drink mixers aisle of your supermarket)
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tsp. yellow curry powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. red cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat your oven to 425° F and set the top rack in the middle position.  Rinse and thoroughly dry the duck, inside and out.  Salt and pepper the skin and inner cavity.
  2. Blend together the orange zest and butter using a small food processor (or with the back of a fork if you’re Amish, in which case I don’t know how you’re viewing my blog right now).  Stuff half of the orange butter under the skin of the duck and rub the remaining half on the outside of the skin.
  3. Truss the duck (it yields better results, but it isn’t absolutely necessary) and place it on a rack in a roasting pan, breast side up.  You can also place the duck directly onto a preheated heavy-bottom skillet, but a roasting pan will help the duck cook more evenly.  Whatever you’ve got around will work, so don’t fret.
  4. Roast the duck for 45 minutes, then flip carefully and roast another 45 minutes with the breast side down.  Be sure to pour out any fat drippings from the body cavity when you flip the bird.  Let the duck rest at least 15 minutes before carving.
  5. Meanwhile, boil the pineapple juice in a small saucepan over high heat until it has reduce to about 1/4 the quantity.  It should be shiny and a little syrupy.  Set aside.
  6. Prepare the rice using your rice maker or stovetop, according to the directions on the package. 
  7. In a small saucepan, combine the cream of coconut, coconut milk, curry powder, cinnamon, red cayenne pepper and crushed red pepper flakes.  Bring to a boil, and adjust to taste by adding more curry powder or red pepper flakes.  Fold the coconut mixture into the rice.
  8. Plate the duck atop the coconut curry rice and spoon over some of the pineapple glaze.

If you’ve never cooked duck before, you’ll be surprised at the amount of fat that melts off the bird as it cooks.  Ducks have fatty skin because ducks need to float.  Wood also floats, and burns.  Witches burn because they are made of wood.  Therefore, if a woman ways the same as a duck, she is a witch.  Wow, a recipe and lesson in illogical justice?  What doesn’t this blog have!

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