Archive for the slow cooking Category

Duck Confit

Posted in duck, entrée, french fries, slow cooking on 19 November 2009 by restaurant refugee

There is a very short list of culinary things more satisfying than duck confit.  And when I say very short list, I mean I can’t think of anything but I am allowing for the possibility.  It is “low and slow” at its finest and the kind of dish that people believe to be far more difficult than it actually is.  Sadly, most grocery stores no longer carry duck on a regular basis (and almost never carry just the legs) so you need to contact you local butcher or specialty shop.  If you live in the DC area, Wagshall’s is the best around.

Duck Confit

4 duck legs including the thighs (skin off is optional but so much better – reserve the skin to make duck cracklings*)

8 medium shallots

16 cloves of garlic

4 cups of duck fat

Kosher Salt – yes I am being very specific because large grain sea salt will not work properly; kosher salt has the perfect texture.

Freshly Cracked Pepper

Two strips of thick cut bacon


Lay your duck legs on a large slice of aluminum foil and coat each side liberally with Kosher Salt and Freshly Cracked Pepper**.  Slice two shallots on your mandoline (seriously, you don’t have one of those yet?) and separate the rings by hand placing them on each side of the duck legs.  Smash and dice six cloves of garlic.  Sprinkle the legs with on all sides with the garlic bits.  Arrange the duck legs as closely as they’ll go and wrap the foil around them as tightly as possible.  Refrigerate for at least 24hours but preferably 36.

When ready to cook, melt the duck fat in a sauce pan over a low flame – if you cannot find duck fat, you can use a vegetable oil.  The purists might protest this substitution, but I have made it both ways at the same time for a taste test.  While the duck fat is better, the oil confit is pretty damn tasty too.

Slice and separate the remaining shallots on the mandoline and set aside.  Smash – but do not dice – the remaining cloves of garlic, and set aside.

Remove the duck legs from the refrigerator and brush off the salt and pepper.  A bit of it will still stick to the meat and that is as intended.  Arrange the duck legs closely together, but not touching, in a Pyrex pan.

Pour the melted fat over the duck which must be fully covered for proper cooking.  If using oil rather than fat, heat the oil over a low flame until warm but well below the flash point.  If you have a candy/fry thermometer, use it to get the oil to about 200 degrees.

In one corner of the pan, add the smashed garlic; place the shallots in the opposite corner.  Think little piles of each.  They are intended to flavor the fat/oil and become a dish unto themselves.

Cut the bacon strips in half and place the four pieces them in the fat/oil.  Put the dish in an oven that has been pre-heated to 225 degrees.  Cook for three hours.

Using a slotted spoon remove the garlic and drain any excess.  Remove the shallots and drain excess.  The garlic and shallot confits can be used as a garnish, refrigerated for another time, or my favorite use, spread on toasted baguettes and served as a canapé.  Yes this part is optional but you might as well.

Remove the duck and let it drain/cool just bit before serving.  By the by, this is nearly impossible to over cook which is among the reasons it works so well as a main course for a dinner party.  You should also save the old fat/oil because it can be reused many times over.

I love serving this with Potatoes Escoffier, or the Truffled French Fries from this dish.


* a recipe for another day

** this is a really good reason to have a spice mill or coffee grinder dedicated exclusively to grinding pepper.



Sunday Dinner Part II – Tagliatelle with Pork Ragu & Tomato Cream Sauce

Posted in pasta, pork, slow cooking on 5 October 2009 by restaurant refugee

Tagliatelle with Pork Ragu & Tomato Cream Sauce

The first time I had a tomato cream sauce was more years ago than I care to recall while I was doing a three month stint in Boca Raton, Florida.  I worked 90 hour weeks, had a barely-existent social life, and generally hated my time down there.  Among the few highlights were a bartender who was particularly nice to me, and a semi-regular lunch at a little café a few blocks from my office.  At least once a week, I would watch an incredible sauté cook produce pasta after pasta in a postage stamp sized kitchen.  My favorite was the Linguini Beanie, the signature dish of Beanie’s Café.  It was sautéed veggies with a simple tomato cream sauce.

Since that summer I have made countless versions of that dish.  This recipe bears almost no resemblance to the initial but it is very much the product of those brief lunches watching the kitchen.  It continues to evolve and I may never stop making this pasta because it brings me so much joy and still reminds me of the sliver of light it brought to very dark times.  I show my love through food and this dish shows more than most.  It was a natural choice for the second course for Sunday dinner.

Tagliatelle with Pork Ragu & Tomato Cream Sauce

Serves 4-5 entrée sized portions or 6-8 midcourse portions.

1 pound ground pork – 80/20 is preferred but any with a fat content greater than 10% will work

10 cloves of garlic

1 dozen fresh basil leaves

1 shallot thinly sliced – have you purchased a mandoline yet?

1 tablespoon fresh oregano

½ cup of sherry

¼ cup of olive oil

30 ounces of tomato sauce

½ cup of half and half

6 ounces of Parmigianino Reggiano cheese

1 pound of Tagliatelle

1 stick of salted butter

Kosher Salt to taste

Fresh Pepper to taste

I used a slow cooker to make this dish but you can also do this in any pot that conducts heat well if you have a burner with a consistent and low flame.  Start the slow cooker on low and add the olive oil. Smash the garlic cloves with a knife Pork Ragu 1or other implement and add to the oil.  Roll the basil leaves into a finger and slice into ½ inch strips and add to the oil.  Add the oregano and a sprinkle of salt to the oil.  Let it cook for about 30 minutes while the meat comes to room temperature.  Failing to cook meat at room temperature is among the most frequent mistake people make with food.

Once the garlic and other spices has had a chance to soften and get to know each other, add the sherry and the ground pork.  You will need Pork Ragu 2to use a wooden spoon to separate the meat but wait just a minute until everything has come back to temperature.  Stir the meat around until it has the ground meat texture.  It will take about an hour to mostly brown and cook.

After the meat is mostly cooked, add the tomato sauce and the half&half.  Add a healthy sprinkle of salt and pepper and let cook for another hour.

The sauce now needs to be transferred to a stock pot and the temperature brought to a low boil.  Grate in the parmesan cheese but leave enough cheese to finish the bowls tableside.  Once the cheese is incorporated, lower the heat and return to the slow cooker.  Place the slow cooker on the Low setting for another 30 minutes.

The sauce is done at this point and the slow cooker setting should be set to warm until serving.

None of you need me to explain how to make al dente pasta or serve from this point, right?  OK, good, let’s move along.

A couple of things to note about this dish:

  • There are a few things that are on my Not Worth the Effort to Make from Scratch List, and unless you’re expert chef with an hankering to make your own pasta, Tagliatelle is on that list.  I am in love with the pasta from Severino.
  • Also on the aforementioned list is Tomato Sauce.
  • I am really sorry that I forgot to take a picture of the final product.
  • This dish can be condensed into a 30 minute cooking time by not using a slow cooker and doing all of the steps at higher heat.  It will still taste good but not nearly as good.
  • One really good time saver is to swap the ground pork with oven roasted sausage.

Slow Roasted Pork Cigars with a Warm Apple and Spinach Salad and Reduction of Braising Jus

Posted in apples, pork, slow cooking, spinach on 17 August 2009 by restaurant refugee

Slow Roasted Pork Cigars with a Warm Apple and Spinach Salad and Reduction of Braising Jus

There are few flavor combinations as natural as pork and apples, and this dish brings together some of my favorite elements of those flavors.  Total cooking time is 10-11 hours, but only requires about 2 hours worth of active work, assuming you use a slow cooker.  This can be done in a regular oven using a small dutch oven, but a slow cooker is easier. Makes 10-12 cigars.


1 Small Pork Picnic (aka Pork Shoulder, aka Boston Butt) bone in is always better but boneless is fine too

1 medium shallot thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic thinly sliced, or run though a garlic press

¼ of a red onion thinly sliced

¼ cup of carrots thinly sliced

32 oz of booze for braising (I have made this with sherry, brandy, and full bodied red wines.)

2 apples peeled and diced (whatever is in season will be fine)

1 bunch of fresh spinach cleaned and dried

2 tablespoons of pine nuts

2 tablespoons of wildflower honey

Salt and pepper

One package of wonton wrappers

1 egg

1 stick of butter

A splash of half and half


Medium to Large cast iron skillet (any large pan that is shallow and conducts heat very well)

Slow Cooker (if you don’t have one, go buy one.  The number of things you can do with a slow cooker are too varied to list and they’re cheap.  My travel slow cooker was less than $20, and the one that I use at home was less than $75)

A mandoline will save you time but is not required

A good set of tongs

The Pork

If your pork picnic comes with the skin (a good thing,) score the skin (make deep cuts in the skin down to the meat and one inch apart.)  Liberally coat the skin and other surfaces in coarse salt and fresh pepper.

Place half a stick of butter in the cast iron skillet and melt over medium–high heat, but do not reach the flash point.  Once fully hot, sear the picnic on each side – the thicker the crust the better.  You will need the tongs to hold the picnic to sear all sides of the pork.  Once fully seared place the pork in the Slow Cooker and cover, but do not turn on the heat.

Turn the heat down to medium, add the garlic, onions, shallots, and carrots to the cast iron pan, and deglaze with Sherry.  Let the vegetables simmer until the onions and shallots become translucent.

Add the vegetables and the liquid to the slow cooker and add enough Sherry to cover the picnic at least two thirds.  Turn the slow cooker to low and cook for ten hours, turning once anytime after the third hour.

Once the shoulder has finished cooking remove from the slow cooker and let cool a bit.  Remove the skin and bone if applicable and use a fork to shred the meat into strips. Set the meat aside and let cool further.

Using a ladle, remove about 1 ½ cups of the braising liquid and add to a small sauce pan.  Over low heat, add a healthy pat of butter, and whisk in some half and half. Let simmer until slightly reduced, and add salt and pepper to taste (probably not necessary.)

With the pork no hotter than warm to the touch, spread out the wonton wrappers on a cool dry surface – I prefer wax paper.  Add enough pork to one end of the wonton wrapper for the “cigar to have the diameter of a $1 coin.  Spread room temperature mascarpone cheese on the wonton, roll it, and brush the end with egg-wash to bind the wrapper.  If you have a sushi rolling pad, feel free to use it to get your cigars perfectly round.

In a sauté pan, melt a healthy pat of butter over low to medium heat.  Place the cigars seam side down in the pan and cook on each side until golden brown.

Spinach and Apple Salad

In a large sauté pan, warm a healthy pat of butter, and add the diced apples with a dusting of cinnamon and a tablespoon of honey.  Before the apples are completely cooked, add the spinach, pine nuts, and more honey and salt to taste.

Putting It All Together

One cigar per plate with a drizzle of the braising reduction over each and a small mound of salad on the side