29 August 2012

Duck Ragout with Corn Fritters

Some people are afraid of corn. These people, many of whom I know personally, don't even like the mention of it. In fact, the thought of preparing corn on the cob or corn pudding or corn bread sends them into convulsions having nothing to do with their distaste of this starchy veg, and everything to do with the politics of corn and it ubiquity as an ingredient in everything from cereal and soft drinks to plastic, penicillin and industrial glue.  

I feel the conversation around the over-production of corn and all the ways its by-products are making us fat is a separate one from a discussion of me enjoying a few freshly plucked ears every summer. The corn controversy can also do little to disturb happy childhood memories of me and my three siblings being given the task of being sent to the front yard to shuck a few dozen ears of corn to have with our BBQ chicken. 

At the same time, there is Gwyneth Paltrow, who inexplicably, also seems to stir strong feelings of dislike, or general annoyance amid the general populace.  I can understand this, given the slightly self-delusional posts to her website that feature her in a First Class seat flying across the country/ocean from house to house, movie premiere to Oscar ceremony to photo shoot, with a sympathy-inducing caption about her being just another working mother. We get it Gwyn, you're every woman. 

All this aside, when I found myself at a friends' house a few months back and saw a copy of Ms. Paltrow's cookbook sitting nearby, I couldn't stop myself looking through the thing with fascination.  What do "A-listers eat" when they aren't having their meals prepared by A-list chef's or dining at Valentino's Chateau?  Salads mostly.  But also, duck, as it turns out.  Below is my use of Ms. P's Duck Ragout. 

Duck Ragout with Corn Fritters
Serves 4 - 6

Duck Ragout, Adapted from My Father's Daughter, GOOP,

1 large duck, washed and dried well
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 slices duck or turkey bacon, finely diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and finely diced
2 medium stalks celery, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, stems discarded and leaves finely minced
3 14-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes with their juice
1 cup Italian red wine
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons tomato paste

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Trim off excess skin from the opening to the duck’s cavity and rear and then rub the entire duck with olive oil and sprinkle genrously with salt and pepper, inside and out. Place duck breast side down and roast for 1 hour, then flip it carefully so that it is breast side-up and let roast for another full hour until skin is golden colored and crisp. 

Let the duck cool in the pan until you can handle it. Drain off the fat, strain and reserve for another use. While the duck is roasting, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the duck or turkey bacon. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until starting to crisp. Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, and rosemary. Turn the heat down to low and cook, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes, or until softened. Add the tomatoes and their juice and 1/2 cup water. Add wine, pepper, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down very low and let simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes until reduced slightly and thickened.

After the duck has cooled down a bit, remove and discard the skin and bones and shred the meat. Fold the duck meat into the ragu along with the tomato paste and cook on very low heat, uncovered, for at least 1 hour (and up to 3), adding splashes of water if necessary to keep it from drying out (continue to season with salt and pepper).

Corn Fritters, Adapted from Joy of Cooking

2 1/2 cups corn kernels (from about 5 ears of corn)
2 large eggs, separated
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
3 scallions, whites and about 2 inches of green, chopped
2 tbsp heavy cream or half and half
2 tbsp butter or vegetable oil (or combination of 1 tbsp each)

Place the corn in a bowl along with any additional pulp or juices that come from scraping the corn from its cobs. Stir in egg yolks, flour, sugar, salt, pepper, scallions, and cream. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites till stiff. Fold egg whites gently into corn mixture.

Heat butter or oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Drop batter in a heaping tablespoon, enough to fit in pan with a bit of room around each to spread out. Immediately turn heat to medium and cook until browned on one side, 2-3 minutes. Turn and cook on second side until browned.

To Serve:

Plate 2 fritters per person with a generous mound of duck ragu on top and along side. Sprinkle with finely chopped parsley.

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