Duck Breast Kebab, Pomegranate Narsharab and Corn Plov

Azerbaijani Cuisine - Duck Breast Kebab

When it comes to making kebabs, duck probably isn’t the first meat that comes to mind. And yet, duck breast has all it takes to be a success on the grill: tender meat and an ample layer of fatty skin. In fact, by assembling two breast halves together, the meat is completely wrapped in fat, which produces perhaps the juiciest and most tender duck breast you’ll ever eat!

A drizzle of narsharab (reduced pomegranate juice) and grilled vegetables is all you need for accompaniment. However, if you want to add some variety to your kebab routine (and because this blog is called Food Perestroika, not Food Stagnation), try my Azerbaijani corn plov. Granted, I have over 60 recipes of Azerbaijani plov, and not a single one of them contains corn (incidentally, I found renditions with goose and wheat). But not to worry: there’s corn in Azerbaijan, and there’s nothing stopping the locals from adding it to their plov. The reason why I’m so adamant about the corn is that it goes well with duck, upholding a theory that pairs meat with common foods eaten by the same animal.

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Veal-Stuffed Lardo “Ravioli” with Chanterelles and Corn Purée

Here’s a recipe that perfectly illustrates Food Perestroika’s mission. Its Eastern European character is visible in the ingredients and the preparation: with the Mangalica lardo, the chanterelles, the corn, and the faux ravioli, we’re somewhere between Hungary and Ukraine. And yet these elements have been rearranged into a new, original dish.

The Mangalica breed of pig, the only kind with long, curly hair, is especially popular in Hungary. It is descended directly from wild boar, and is renowned for producing large and round animals well suited for making lard.  To form the ravioli, you will need to find either lardo that is wide enough, or very fatty bacon — I bought mine at Eataly.

Lazy Boris’ Corner:
If you replace the ground veal with more braised veal meat, the texture of the ravioli filling will be less interesting but still delicious.
In the corn purée (a recipe inspired by what we did at Danube), you can save an hour by substituting water for the corn stock.

Braised veal and stock
Yields about 6 servings plus some leftover meat

1 lb veal osso buco (shank)
black pepper, ground
olive oil
2 oz peeled carrot, large dice
2 oz peeled celery root, large dice
4 oz peeled onion, large dice
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 thyme sprigs
1 clove
4 oz red wine
14 oz water

  • Season the veal with salt and pepper. Sauté with olive oil in a small oven-safe pot over high heat until brown on all sides, then set aside.
  • In the same pot, cook the carrot, celery root, onion, and garlic for 2-3 minutes. Add the thyme, clove, and red wine, and simmer until reduced by half. Add the water and the meat, bring back to a simmer, and cover with a lid slightly ajar. Cook in a 200 F oven for 6 hours, until very tender. Let cool.
  • Take out the veal from the liquid, remove the bones, and reserve the meat with the bone marrow.
  • Pass the stock through a chinois and reserve.

Corn purée
Yields about 6 servings

2 ears of corn
12 oz water
1/2 oz butter

  • Separate the kernels from the corn cobs, and reserve.
  • Cut the bare corn cobs in halves, and place into a small saucepan with the water. Cover with a lid, and boil over medium heat for one hour.
  • Pass the corn stock through a chinois and discard the cobs. At this point, you should have about 7.5 oz kernels and 5 oz stock — make sure you keep this ratio.
  • Place the kernels and the stock in the saucepan, cover and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
  • Transfer to a blender, add the butter and salt, and process until smooth. Pass the purée through a chinois, and reserve.

Yields about 6 servings

stock from braised veal
1 oz peeled scallion whites, thinly sliced
1/2 oz butter
3 oz ground veal
3 oz braised veal meat
paper-thin slices of Mangalica lardo or very fatty bacon (for amount, see below)
corn purée
5 oz cleaned chanterelles
1 tbsp extra-light olive oil
2 tbsp thinly sliced scallion greens

  • In a saucepan over high heat, reduce the stock from the braised veal to 2 oz, and reserve.
  • In a small saucepan, saute the scallion whites in the butter over medium heat until transluscent. Add the ground veal, and cook until barely done, stirring regularly. Shred the braised veal meat into small pieces (for the mathematicians, that’s about 0.25″), stir into the saucepan with the reduced stock, and cook over low heat until  the liquid has evaporated but the mixture still looks very moist.
  • Cut the lardo or bacon slices into 1.5″ x 2″ rectangles. This is what determines how many slices you need for the recipe — you need to be able to cut 6 such rectangles per serving. You can cut some pieces slightly longer and use them for the top layers.
  • Reheat the corn purée in a saucepan.
  • Sauté the chanterelles in the olive oil in a pan over high heat, season with salt, and cook until soft. Sprinkle with the scallion greens.
  • Assemble the “ravioli” on warm plates: place one rectangle of lardo on the plate, top with some veal mixture, and cover with another rectangle (slightly larger if possible). Repeat for additional ravioli. Finish plating with the corn purée and the mushrooms.

Partridge Schnitzel and Meatball, Red Pepper Sauce, Corn and Zucchini

Hungary is a game paradise! Partridges (fogoly in magyar) are plentiful, for example, and they’re usually hunted in corn fields. This recipe combines the bird and its feed, with delicious results. The partridge is prepared two ways — as a schnitzel and a meatball.

You can’t find Hungarian partridge for sale in the U.S., but you can buy Scottish red-legged partridge from D’Artagnan. Obviously, the birds you get won’t necessarily be the same size as the ones I’m using here. For the meatballs, scale the ingredients up or down accordingly.

Red pepper sauce
Yields 4 servings

16 oz sliced red peppers
3 oz sliced shallots
1 oz olive oil
11 oz tomatoes, large dice

  • Process the red peppers in a blender until smooth. Pass through a chinois, and reserve.
  • Sauté the shallots in olive oil until translucent. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Add the red pepper liquid and simmer for another 30 minutes.
  • Process in a blender, pass through a chinois, and reserve.

Partridge fabrication
Yields 4 servings

2 partridges, about 12 oz each

  • Separate the wings, legs and breasts. Pick the meat off the wings, legs and carcasses, and refrigerate.
  • Discard the skin and silverskin from the breasts. Pound to a 4″ or 5″ diameter disc between 2 pieces of plastic wrap, and refrigerate.

Partridge meatballs
Yields 4 servings

1 oz bread, crust removed
1/2 cup milk
2 oz shallot, sliced
1 tbsp butter
8 oz partrige meat (from the wings, legs, and carcasses)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp Hungarian sweet paprika
1/4 tsp thyme leaves
1 egg, beaten
canola oil
red pepper sauce

  • Soak the bread in the milk for 20 minutes, then squeeze the milk out and chop coarsely.
  • Sweat the shallot in the butter until translucent, and let cool.
  • Grind the partridge meat once with the medium die. Place into a bowl and mix in the bread, shallots, salt, pepper, paprika and thyme. Grind the resulting forcemeat again, with medium die, then add the beaten egg, rectify the seasoning and mix well. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  • In a large saucepan bring the red pepper sauce to a simmer.
  • In a deep pot, heat the canola oil to 375 F. Shape the forcemeat into 4 meatballs, and deep-fry until brown.
  • Take the meatballs out of the oil, dry on paper towels, and add to the red pepper sauce. Simmer for 45 minutes, then let cool and reserve.

Corn and zucchini
Yields 4 servings

1 corn ear, in husk
4 oz zucchini, small dice
1 oz butter

  • Cook the corn in its husk in salted boiling water for 20 minutes. Let cool and cut the kernels off the ear.
  • Cut the zucchini into small dice, roughly the size of the corn kernels. Sauté in a saucepan with the butter, season with salt and pepper, and cook until it starts to brown. Dry on a paper towel.
  • Mix the corn and zucchini, and reserve.

Yields 4 servings

partridge meatballs in red pepper sauce
corn and zucchini
1/2 oz butter
canola oil (for deep-frying)
3 oz flour
1 egg, beaten
6 oz breadcrumbs
partridge breasts
black pepper, ground
1 oz brown butter, warm
4 lemon segments, membrane removed

  • Reheat the meatballs in a saucepan.
  • Reheat the corn and zucchini with a little bit of butter in a saucepan.
  • Heat the canola oil to 375 F in a deep-fryer. Place the flour, egg, and breadcrumbs in three separate bowls. Season the partridge breasts with salt and pepper. Dredge each piece with flour, then coat with egg and cover with breadcrumbs on both sides. Deep fry in the oil until lightly golden, then drain on paper towels. It’s important to remove the schnitzels before they get too dark. I find that partridge is best eaten medium. You definitely don’t want to overcook it, or it will get dry. Brush each piece with brown butter.
  • Dress the plates as pictured, including lemon segments on top, and serve immediately.

Red Alert: Smoked Trout at Telepan

Red Alert! Eastern European dishes are invading random Western restaurants! Should you duck and cover, or welcome the enemy?

M. Wells Diner, with its salmon coulibiac, may be no more, but here’s another Russian-inspired dish to sink your teeth into: Telepan‘s House Smoked Brook Trout, with corn blini and green onion sour cream. The fleshy cubes of trout, piled high on the pancake, were delicate and lightly smoked, a welcome change from more traditional sliced fish. The green onions furiously looked and tasted like chives, but I don’t complain. My main criticism would be that the sour cream mixture was too lemony and masked some of the subtlety of the other ingredients. The corn blini managed to taste like corn and remain airy — well done! The whole meal was very market-oriented and well executed. (Telepan used to be the restaurant that consistently snatched the duck eggs at the Union Square Market before I even had a chance to get there.)

On a different topic, we were back at Hospoda tonight, and if the menu layout has changed, the food is still outstanding. Some of the dishes have benefited from further tuning, too!