When Carl was growing up his mother, bless her, was an appalling cook, bless her, and, God, please don’t let her read this! For any and every special occasion she had ‘That One Special Dish’ she would troll out and everyone but her husband, bless him, suffered through the misery of it all.
Having spent some years in South America, she returned to Australia with a recipe she thought contained a variety of flavours and textures everyone would enjoy. I believe the recipe is called Pastel de Choclo and this is apparently a very popular dish in Chile but I guess it all depends on who’s the cook, bless her. My mother-in-law makes it with mince that’s then combined with onions, raisins and olives, then it’s poured into a casserole dish and topped with tinned creamed corn and finished off under the grill. I think it’s the tinned creamed corn I don’t have much of an appetite for especially when it’s combined with raisins.
Years ago Carl and I and the other siblings were very polite and well-mannered and when we were up at the table and presented with ‘That One Special Dish’ we’d be pushing it around our plates and some would be scraping off the corn and others would be picking out the raisins and then as always, we’d be offered seconds. We’d quickly pipe up and say, ‘Oh, if I’d known you were cooking this I wouldn’t have eaten before I came’, and, ‘Oh, I couldn’t possibly, it really is very filling, isn’t it?’ and ‘Oh no, you’ll want that for tomorrow wouldn’t you? You could heat it up for lunch.’ These days we’re just blunt. When we’re invited for dinner we immediately say, ‘We’re not coming if you’re cooking Pastel de Choclo’. Blunt attacks like this can be avoided by saying, ‘Oh take the night off, come around here instead’.
Over the weekend we’ve had a celebration for Carl’s birthday. I asked him what he’d like me to cook for his birthday and surprise, surprise, it wasn’t ‘That One Special Dish’. He asked for confit duck Italian style. The recipe I used is from Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Kitchen cookbook but I have modified the recipe because I’ve found the duck needs to be rinsed to remove the salt or it’s too salty and I know the legs have to be cooked in a lot of duck fat but I don’t think you need 2kg (4 1/2lb).
Italian-Style Confit of Duck
Degree of Difficulty: 4/5 It’s not really difficult, it’s just time-consuming and the recipe has to be started a day ahead.
Cost: Expensive. The duck legs aren’t too badly priced but all that fat is. Never throw out duck or goose fat, it is gold! I had two containers of duck fat in the fridge that I’d bought from a butcher for $5.00 each. I had to buy more so went to Harris Farm and bought two smaller containers for $10.00 each. You need to shop around as the price does vary greatly.
- 12 large duck legs
- about 1.5kg duck fat
- 1 handful of fresh rosemary, leaves picked (nicked mine from the neighbour)
- 10 fresh bay leaves
- 1 tbspn dried juniper berries
- 1 tbspn peppercorns
For the marinade:
- 8 tbspns coarse sea salt
- 1 small bunch of fresh thyme, leaves picked
- 10 fresh bay leaves
- 1 small handful of dried juniper berries
- zest of 2 oranges
Chop the ends (about 1cm) off the duck legs as this will give you better presentation when plated.
In a pestle and mortar (or in a metal bowl using the end of a rolling pin) bash up the marinade ingredients. Rub this over the duck legs and leave overnight to let the flavours penetrate and any moisture drip out.
Preheat the oven to about 170C (325F).
Rinse the marinade off the duck legs, pat dry with paper towel, and put them into a small heavy-bottomed roasting try that they can fit into tightly. Add your duck or goose fat. Put the tray into the preheated oven and cook for about 2 hours, spooning the fat over the duck legs every so often, until the skin of the duck is crisp and the meat is tender. Five minutes before the end, add the rosemary, bay leaves, juniper berries and peppercorns to the tray to crisp up.
Take the tray out of the oven and allow the duck legs to cool a little. Put them into a sterilized container or Tupperware tub with the rosemary, bay leaves, juniper berries and peppercorns. Pour over the fat from the roasting try – you may want to sieve it. Cover and allow to cool The confit is now ready to store in the fridge.
When you want to eat some, just remove the number of duck legs you need. Put them on a roasting tray in a hot oven at 250C (450F) for about 20 minutes, until the skin is really crisp and the meat is so tender it will fall off the bone.
Is there a relative in your family with, ‘That One Special Dish’?
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