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Duck Breast and Wild Mushroom Chili, con frijoles April 18, 2009

Posted by pcorcoran in Duck, Entree, Mushrooms, Recipe, Soup.
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Breasts from 4 Pekin ducks, boneless and skinless
3-1/2 lbs. tomatoes, chopped
1 lb. yellow onion, coarsely chopped
12 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp. Gebhardt chili powder
3 tbsp. Hungarian paprika
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. ground sumac
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. sesame oil

12 oz. fresh wild mushrooms *
3 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. cumin seed
1/2 tsp. coriander seed
1/4 tsp. dried thyme

1 lb. dried pinto beans
2 dried California chiles, shredded
1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 habanero pepper
2 qt. chicken stock
5 tbsp. sherry vinegar
juice of 2 limes
2 cups Italian parsley, coarse chop

Duck Prep:
Dice the duck breasts.  Heat sesame oil in large stock pot on medium-high heat.  Add duck and cook for 10 minutes, stirring often.  Add onions and garlic, cook for another 10 minutes.  Add tomatoes, chili powder, paprika, oregano, sumac, onion powder and garlic powder.  Stir, reduce heat to medium, cover.  Stir every few minutes and prepare mushrooms.

Mushroom Prep:
Clean and chop the mushrooms.  In a small skillet, toast cumin seed and coriander seed over medium flame until displaying first signs of smoking.  Remove from heat, let cool for a minute.  Grind the spices in a mortar and pestle, and set aside.

Melt butter over medium-high heat in large skillet.  Add chopped mushrooms; add dried thyme and toasted spice mix.  Cook mushrooms until they have released most of their moisture, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat; add mushrooms to duck and tomato mixture.

Add chicken stock and 2 cups water to main stock pot.  Bring to a boil at maximum heat, stirring often.  Once boiling, add dried beans, dried chiles, black peppercorns, bay leaf, lime juice, and 2 tablespoons vinegar.  Add one cup parsley.  Mix.

Reduce heat to medium for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  For spicy chili, chop habanero pepper finely and add to stock pot.  For a milder chili, place the whole habanero pepper in a tea ball or cloth spice sack.

Reduce to very low heat, cover chili pot, and let cook for 8 hours.  Keep covered.  Stir thoroughly every 30-60 minutes.  Add water as needed if chili becomes too dry.

After 8 hours, remove the bay leaf from the chili.  Remove the habanero pepper if steeping in a tea ball, squeezing the juices back into chili and stirring well.  Salt the chili to taste.

Remove chili from heat and let cool to room temperature for a few hours or overnight.  (It’s ok to let it stand covered overnight at normal room temperatures.)

Before serving, bring chili back to a boil and stir in remaining cup chopped parlsey.  Enjoy.


* For mushrooms, I used a combination of Hen of the Woods, King Oyster, and White Beech.  The White Beech retained their shape through the entire cook, so if you like seeing cute little mushrooms in your chili, this might be for you.  The other two varieties disappearing into the mix and therefore probably added more to the overall flavor.


Braised Lamb Shanks with Curried Lentils December 10, 2008

Posted by pcorcoran in Braising, Entree, Lamb, Recipe.
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3-4 lamb shanks (about 1 lb. each)
1 red onion
2 carrots, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
6 canned whole tomatoes
5 cups chicken stock
1-1/4 cups lentils (about 1/2 lb.)
1-1/2 tbsp. chopped thyme
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
2 bay leaves
1-1/2 tbsp. curry powder
2 tbsp. olive oil
fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Dust lamb shanks with salt and pepper.  Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven.  Brown the lamb thoroughly, about 6-8 minutes per side.  Cook in two batches to prevent crowding, if necessary.  Remove lamb and set aside.

Add onions, carrots, and celery to Dutch oven and cook until lightly browned, about 8 minutes.  Add garlic and curry powder and cook for 2 more minutes.  Add 1 tbsp. of thyme and 1 bay leaf.  Stir in tomatoes and 2 cups of stock.  Bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pot to loosen browned bits.  Boil for 5 minutes.

Return lamb shanks to pot.  Return liquid to a simmer.  Cover pot with parchment paper and close the lid as tightly as possible.  Cook lamb in the oven for one hour.  Turn lamb and cook for another hour.

While lamb is braising, parboil the lentils.  Bring 3 cups stock and 3 cups water to a boil.  Add lentils, 1/2 tsp. salt, and the remaining thyme and bay leaf.  Return to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.  Drain lentils and spread them evenly over a large plate, allowing them to cool to room temperature.

After lamb has braised for 2 hours, remove lamb shanks and transfer them to a plate.  Stir lentils into the braising liquid, mix well, and return lamb shanks to the pot.  Cover Dutch oven again with parchment paper and return to the oven to cook for another 30 to 45 minutes, until lentils are tender.

Remove dish from the oven.  Transfer lamb to a holding plate and cover with foil.  Taste lentils for salt and pepper.  Arrange a bed of lentils in a serving plate and nestle the lamb shanks into the lentils.  Sprinkle parsley over the dish and serve.

Time to Prepare: 3 hours

Level of Difficulty: 4/10

Serves: 3-4 people

Tunisian Lamb Stew with Quince November 10, 2008

Posted by pcorcoran in African, Braising, Entree, Lamb, Recipe.
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2 lbs. lamb shoulder, cubed
1 tbsp. coriander seeds
1/2 tbsp. caraway seeds
1/2 tbsp. cumin seeds
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 dried ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
6 oz. tomato paste (1 small can)
1 cinnamon stick
Small pinch of saffron
4 cups chicken stock
2 quinces
1 tbsp. honey

Time to Prepare: 3 hours + Overnight marinating.

Difficulty: 4/10

Serves: 4+


1. Toast coriander, caraway, and cumin in a small dry pan until they begin to release their aromas. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.  Crush seeds with mortar and pestle.  Tear chiles into coin-sized pieces.  Combine seeds with garlic, chiles, paprika, and cayenne.  Season lamb with spice mix and 2 tbsp. olive oil.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

2. Bring lamb to room temperature.  Using medium-high heat on the stovetop, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a medium dutch oven.  Brown the lamb cubes in batches until evenly browned, about 10 minutes per batch.  Set aside.

3. Cook onions with 1 tbsp. tomato paste in dutch oven until soft and golden.  Add a splash of chicken stock and deglaze the pot.  Add the remaining chicken stock and tomato paste to the pot, mix well, and bring to a gentle boil.  Add the cinnamon stick and saffron.  Add lamb, reduce to a low simmer, cover.  Cook for 90 minutes.  Check pot every 30 minutes, making sure that the liquid is not cooking off too quickly.  (Add water 1/2 cup at a time to replenish, as necessary.)

4. Wash quinces under cold water.  Slice into eighths and remove the cores.  Stir honey into simmering lamb stew.  Submerge quinces in stew liquid, cover, and cook for another hour.

5. Remove from heat.  Serve over cous cous.

This recipe is adapted from http://www.chow.com/recipes/11148.  Proportions and ingredients were adjusted to suit my whimsy.

Fettuccine in Butter, with Corn, Prosciutto, and Sage July 1, 2008

Posted by pcorcoran in Entree, Pasta, Recipe.
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1/2 lb. fettuccine
1-1/2 cups corn kernels
2 ozs. thinly-sliced prosciutto, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
1 stick (8 tbsp.) butter
5 fresh sage leaves, chopped coarsely
fresh ground pepper
Reggiano, shaved

Boil water for pasta in a large pot, lightly salted.

Melt 2 tbsp. butter in a large bistro pan or skillet at medium-low heat.  Add prosciutto, mixing evenly into the butter.  Using a wooden spoon or two, tease apart some of the more stubborn slices which might be stuck together.  Cook until pink throughout, about 4-5 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Stir in a tablespoon of water to relieve the prosciutto.  Add 2 tbsp. butter, sage, and a few twists of fresh ground pepper.  Mix contents agreeably, then let them rest to infuse melting butter.

Add pasta to boiling water.

A few minutes before pasta is finished, move skillet to burner at medium heat.  Add remaining 4 tbsp. butter.  Add corn and cook until warm throughout.  (Add a tablespoon or two of water from the pasta if the corn mixture seems too dry.)  When corn is warmed, reduce skillet to lowest heat.

Drain pasta when cooked and add to skillet.  Toss pasta with skillet mixture.  Salt to taste.  Serve immediately, offering Reggiano on the side.

Time to Prepare: 25 minutes

Difficulty: 3/10

Serves: 3-4 people


Easy to make and requiring very little time, this could be a “weekly” dish in late spring or early summer when corn is at is freshest.  Two or three ears of corn should be plenty.  (But it’s also fine to substitute quality frozen corn kernels at other times of the year, if need be.)

Though the Reggiano cheese is served on the side, without it the pasta lacks soul.

Sea Scallops w/Tarragon Butter Sauce June 28, 2008

Posted by pcorcoran in Entree, Recipe, Seafood.
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2 lbs. large sea scallops
1 stick (8 tbsp.) butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tbsp. fresh tarragon, finely chopped
1 tsp. Kosher salt

Wash and dry scallops.  Rub scallops with salt.

Melt 1 tbsp. butter in a large skillet over high heat.  Sear scallops, turning once on each side to prevent sticking.  Cook until lightly browned on both sides, 3 to 5 minutes.  Transfer to a plate, cover, and set aside.

Add shallot to skillet and saute at high heat for one minute.  Add vinegar, wine, and any juices drained from the cooling scallops to skillet.  Deglaze, and reduce liquid at a controlled boil for 3-4 minutes.  Reduce skillet to low heat and add 3 tbsp. butter.  When butter is melted, add another 4 tbsp. butter and stir until butter in melted and creamy.  Turn off heat.  Stir in tarragon and salt to taste.

Arrange scallops on serving plate(s) and top with tarragon butter.

Time to Prepare: 20 minutes

Difficulty: 3/10

Serves: 4-6 people

Risotto with Morels and Asparagus June 28, 2008

Posted by pcorcoran in Entree, Mushrooms, Recipe, Risotto, Veggies.
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2 cups dried arborio rice (risotto)
1/2 lb. fresh morel mushrooms
1/2 lb. asparagus
5 cups vegetable stock
1 tsp. fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups boiling water
4 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup grated Reggiano

Pour boiling water over morels and stir gently.  Set mushrooms and liquid aside covered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove mushrooms from liquid broth with a slotted spoon, reserving liquid.  Pat mushrooms dry, chop into quarters lengthwise, and set aside.  Remove grit and solids from the broth, straining through a cheesecloth if necessary.  Set broth aside.

While mushrooms are soaking, cut asparagus in half lengthwise, then slice into 1/2 inch pieces on the diagonal.  Bring a small pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Blanche asparagus in boiling water for 4 minutes.  Drain.  Run cold water over asparagus until cool to the touch and set aside.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large heavy stock pot over high heat.  When foam subsides, add shallot and thyme.  Saute for several minutes.  Chop finely 1 clove of garlic.  Add morels and chopped garlic, and saute for 3-4 minutes.  Add asparagus and mix well.  Transfer contents of stock pot to a bowl and set aside, covered.

Deglaze stock pot with 1/2 cup white wine.  Add mushroom stock to pot and bring to a boil.  Add vegetable stock and 2 cloves coarsely sliced garlic.  Bring liquid to a boil, reduce to a simmer and keep covered.

Heat olive oil in a 5-quart heavy pot over high heat.  Add arborio rice and stir well.  Add 1/2 cup white wine and stir until absorbed.  Reduce heat to medium.  Add 1 cup stock and stir until absorbed.  Cover.  Add another cup of broth every minute or two, stirring to ensure an even coating, then replace cover.  Repeat until risotto is tender and creamy, about 20 to 25 minutes.  (Some broth may be left over.)

Melt 2 tablespoons in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add mushroom and asparagus mixture and heat it just until it bubbles slightly.  Pour mixture into risotto and mix well.  Stir in Reggiano cheese and serve immediately.

Time to Prepare: 90 minutes

Difficulty: 4/10

Serves: 6 to 8 people

Moroccan Chicken Tagine December 30, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Chicken, Entree, Recipe.
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4 lbs. various chicken pieces, bone-in
1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight
(or substitute 2 cans chickpeas)
3 cups couscous
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tsp. paprika
small pinch of saffron threads
2 onions, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
2/3 cup golden raisins, soaked in warm water
24 pitted Kalamata olives
2 preserved lemons*, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
black pepper

Time to prepare: 3 hours + overnight prep.

Difficulty: 4/10

Serves: 6-8


1. Drain the chickpeas and rinse under cold water. Boil chickpeas vigorously in fresh water, about 10 minutes. Rinse again under cold water. Bring to a boil again in fresh water, and simmer, covered, for 90 minutes. Remove from heat and salt lightly. (You can skip this entire step if you use canned chickpeas, though the texture of homemade is preferable.)

2. In a large bowl, combine half of the olive oil with the sugar, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, paprika, and saffron. Add a teaspoon of salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste. Toss the chicken parts in spice mixture and set aside for 20 minutes.

3. Heat remaining olive oil in a large pan. Fry chicken parts in batches until well browned. Set aside.

4. Add the onions to the pan and stir constantly until golden. Stir in garlic, tomatoes, and one cup water, scraping the bottom of the pan to release browned bits.

5. Combine chicken, onions, garlic, and tomatoes in a large casserole. Add enough water to just cover, then bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about 1 hour.

6. Drain the chickpeas and add to chicken with about 1 cup of water. Stir in raisins and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in the olives and preserved lemons and simmer for 30 more minutes. Stir in cilantro, remove from heat, and serve over couscous.

*Preserved lemons: I never make these the real way, which takes weeks. Instead, prepare a bowl of heavily salted water. The water should be as salty as sea water, of perhaps even more. Add 1/2 tsp. sugar per lemon. Slice lemons in thin wheels and let soak for 24 hours.

Duck Legs braised in Port-Soaked Cherries October 17, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Braising, Duck, Entree, Recipe.
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6 large duck legs, including thighs
1 tbsp. coriander seeds, lightly toasted
1-1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
1 tsp. allspice berries
1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 tsp. fleur de sel (or coarse salt)
1 cup tawny port
1/2 cup dried cherries, unsweetened
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
2 cups chicken stock

Time to prepare: 3 hours + overnight prep.

Difficulty: 6/10

Serves: 6


There are five general steps to preparing this dish:

1. Prep – Duck is coated in a dried spice mix and refrigerated overnight. (Overnight)
2. Sear – Duck is browned in a hot pan. (30 minutes)
3. Prepare Braising Liquid. (10 minutes)
4. Braise – Duck is cooked in braising liquid, covered, for two hours. (2 hours)
5. Finish – Duck is dry-cooked, and sauce is made from braising liquid. (20 minutes)

Step One – Prep

Duck legs: Without cutting into skin, trim off excess fat. Place legs in a shallow bowl or sealable plastic bag. In a spice grinder or a mortar, combine coriander, peppercorns and allspice, and grind until coarse. Mix in thyme and coarse salt. Rub mixture evenly over duck legs. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Cherries: Soak cherries in port, covered, for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Step Two – Searing

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Heat a shallow braising pan or skillet to medium-hot. (I have made this dish using only a single shallow braising pan or bistro pan for steps 2 through 4. Some people prefer to use a separate skillet and braising pan, for the searing and the braising, respectively.) Sear 3 duck legs, skin side down for 8 minutes. Leave them undisturbed, checking only to ensure that they are not aticking and burning onto the pan. There is no need to add oil or butter to the pan before searing — enough fat from the duck will coat the pan suitably within seconds. Turn legs over and sear for 4 minutes. Remove duck legs and drain excess fat from pan. Repeat process for the other 3 duck legs. Reserve one tbsp. of duck fat after searing.

Step Three – Braising Liquid

Return searing pan to medium heat with 1 tbsp. duck fat. Add sliced shallots and cook for 2 minutes. Add cherries and port-soak to pan and reduce by half. Add stock and bay leaves and simmer until reduced by half.

Step Four – Braising

Arrange duck legs flat in the bottom of a shallow braising pan or bistro pan. Pour braising liquid over duck. Cover pan with parchment paper and close lid. Cook in the oven for 1 hour. Turn duck legs over and cook for 1 more hour. Reduce heat to 275 or 300 if liquid appears to be evaporating rapidly.

Step Five – Finishing

Remove braise from the oven. Turn on broiler. Remove duck legs from liquid and transfer to a baking sheet, skin side up. Broil duck legs on middle rack for 8 to 10 minutes, or until skin is crisp. Remove duck legs from broiler, cover, and keep warm until served (holding warm duck no longer than 15 minutes.)

While duck is broiling, prepare a sauce from braising liquid. Using a gravy separator or a large flat spoon, remove as much fat and oil from liquid as possible. “Hammer” braising liquid in a sauce pot at highest possible heat until thick and saucy, adding salt and pepper to taste if needed. (Do not over-reduce sauce or it will burn.)

Serve duck leg, accompanied by sauce.

If holding for one or two days, store duck legs and sauce separately in refrigerator. Skim fat from sauce before reheating. Gently re-heat duck legs in sauce, adding 1 or 2 tbsp. of water if needed. Finish duck legs under broiler, as above, and serve immediately.

Braised Chicken with Wild Mushrooms March 25, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Braising, Chicken, Entree, Mushrooms, Recipe.
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6 large whole chicken legs
zest of one lemon
3 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
3 tbsp. chopped Italian parsley
4 tbsp. butter (1/2 stick)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped (white and pale green parts only)
1 cup wild mushrooms1
2 bay leaves
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup dry Sherry
1 qt. low sodium chicken broth

Put chicken pieces in a large bowl with lemon zest, thyme, and chopped parsley. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

Remove chicken from refrigerator. Sprinkle with salt and freshly grated black pepper. Let stand for 15 minutes, until room temperature. Preheat oven to 325° F degrees.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large skiller over medium-high heat. Add 3 chicken pieces, skin side down, and sear for five minutes. Turn chicken over, reduce heat to medium, and cook for another two minutes. Remove chicken and place it in a large broiling pan or pot. Repeat process for the other 3 pieces of chicken.

Spoon half the drippings from the skillet and discard. Add onion, leeks, mushrooms, and bay leaves to skillet. Saute over medium heat until onions are golden, about 7 minutes. Add wine and sherry. Increase skillet to high heat, and boil liquid until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil. Add a handful of fresh parsley sprigs.

Pour vegetables and liquid over the chicken in the braising pot. Cover the pot with aluminum foil, and place the lid over the aluminum foil, to seal as tightly as possible. Cook at 325° F until chicken is very tender, about 90 minutes.

Increase oven temperature to 400° F. Add 1 millimeter of chicken liquid to a large flat baking dish. Transfer chicken pieces skin side up. Strain mushroom and vegetable solids from chicken liquid, surrounding the chicken legs with them in baking dish. Roast in oven until brown, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, transfer remaining chicken liquid into a medium saucepan. Boil liquid gently to reduce, about 15 minutes or until thickened slightly. Optionally add 1 or 2 tbsp. butter if it looks like it needs more essence. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve whole chicken legs with reduced juices spooned over, accompanied by browned mushrooms and vegetables.

Time to Prepare: 4 hours marinating + 3 hours total cooking time (90 minutes baking).

Level of Difficulty: 6/10

Serves: 4 to 6


1 Any type of wild mushrooms can be used, dried or fresh. Morels are nice, as are Yellow Foot Chanterelles. It is best to use whole mushrooms, so don’t use anything too large.

This dish is more work than I would ever commit to on a weekday. But as a special-occasion chicken it’s a winner.

The browning at the beginning is crucial. I have skipped the marinating step without disastrous results, but it’s really better if you can commit to it.

Braised Swordfish in Saffron Sauce January 22, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Braising, Entree, Fish, Recipe, Seafood.
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2 tbsp. olive oil
4 tbsp. finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp. finely chopped peppers *
4 tbsp. finely chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf *
3 tbsp. brandy or cognac
1/2 cup strong chicken stock
1/4 tsp. nutmeg powder
small pinch of saffron threads
black pepper
salt (to taste, after cooking)
1-1/2 lbs. swordish steaks

Heat olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and peppers, and cook until soft. Add tomatoes and bay leaf. Cook 5 minutes. Add brandy, stock, nutmeg, and saffron. Mix well. Add black pepper, to taste. At this point the sauce is finished and can be set aside for a few hours or refrigerated for a few days.

Bring sauce to a simmer. Add swordfish cubes. Cover and cook for 10 minutes on low heat.

Serve in a decorative communal bowl, accompanied by buttered garlic toasts or crostini.

This is a delicious tapas recipe. Like much of Spanish cuisine, this dish has an exotic, don’t-taste-this-every-day flavor for those of us who didn’t grow up on the stuff. It’s also very easy to make, almost foolproof. And since the sauce can be made in advance, it can be a 10-minute dish with a little planning.

Time to prepare: 15 minutes prep + 20 minutes cooking stovetop.

Difficulty: 2/10

Serves: 4


* You can use any fresh peppers you like for this dish. I used yellow chilies, which are slightly spicy when raw but cook down to virtually no spice. Bell peppers of any color would work fine, and you could also bump up the spice by using poblanos or even jalapenos if you’re into heat. (Spicy peppers will bury the subtle flavors of this dish, but we spice fiends sometimes make this trade-off to get our kicks.)

I didn’t need to add any salt, because my stock was salty enough. If you’re in any doubt, hold off on deciding on the salt until after the fish is cooked.

The sauce is best after it has had a few hours to come together. But regardless of whether you are holding the sauce for a few hours or refrigerating for a few days, the bay leaf should be removed after cooking or the flavors will fall out of balance.