It’s been a minute since I’ve written. I know. Is anyone else feeling the lingering busy effects of 2020 well into 2021? I feel like I kicked life into a higher gear around this time last year (hint: around the time the pandemic hit) and I haven’t really let off the gas since. Working at a grocery store has it’s benefits and its drawbacks. I went from working 2-3 days a week very part time to being considered a “full time” in my department working 4- mostly 5 days a week. Which means that while I get paid to shop all day, I’m constantly on the go on my feet all day. So if I’ve neglected this space a little, it’s because… well, frankly I’m worn out and creating something new every day has become more like 3 days a week. Max. I miss it and I miss this space terribly, but as the saying goes, “we do what we have to do now, so we can do what we want to do later.” The extra cash is certainly helping towards our financial goals!
One of the serious advantages of working around food all day at a specialty grocer is that I’m constantly discovering new products and ingredients weekly. Things you wouldn’t ordinarily find at your average grocery store. Things like New Zealand pasture-raised rack of lamb or whole free-range duck… I recently snapped up a whole duck at my store on impulse. Sometimes I feel guilty about my impulse purchases, but then when we have things like pandemics and freak blizzards in Texas and that’s when it pays off. Both times, I’ve had a decent couple weeks’ worth of staples/meat backstock in my pantry/freezer to carry us when panic buying sets in. We were blessed to not lose our power being so close to a police station, fire station, and hospital; so we were then able to open our home and pantry to those more directly affected by the recent controversial overarching power outages and subsequent water outages. I was able to throw a hearty meal together on the fly for ourselves and a family we hosted who’d lost power.
In the aftermath of the extreme winter weather that overtook the entire state of Texas, many people were left needing to restock their fridges due to lost power causing the contents of their fridges to spoil. The store not only saw an influx of business; but due to its own power outage, many if not a solid 50% of the perishable products had to be thrown out. If you’re worried about waste, don’t be too worried. We already had a food composting program at the store in place that we divert items that are going bad or on their way out all the rest of the 364 days a year to help reduce waste in general, so waste will inevitably find purpose. Perishables, save produce, were hit-or-miss in the following week so my pantry staples came in clutch and all I had to do was snag a few little things here or there to make good food while waiting out the temporary shortages. (I don’t work for Whole Foods, but this is a great article on what stores are doing to reduce waste in the United States.)
One morning before heading out to work, I pulled out my duck from the freezer to make a delicious Ginger-Glazed Duck from my copy of The Good Housekeeping Cookbook. It may have seemed “bougie” for a weeknight meal, but honestly that’s what it’s there for. It’s there to enjoy. No matter what day of the week. Plus it saved me the hassle of trying to plan a menu for the week hoping I can find the ingredients at the market. This whole shortage/panic-buying situation spurred me to do something that I haven’t done in years and that’s inventory and shop my pantry first, then make a weekly meal plan based on that list. I used to do this regularly, but somehow got out of the habit somewhere along the way. This is something called “Shelf Cooking” you may have heard from Jordan Page from FunCheapOrFree.com.
When I explained the process of the recipe to The Mr, he was initially incredibly skeptical. Typically, when you order duck at a restaurant, you receive it more medium-rare than fully cooked. This is totally acceptable despite its being poultry. This recipe, on the other hand, roasts the duck for a full 2 hours prior to glazing and crisping the skin in a hot oven for 10 minutes. This is where The Mr wasn’t sure whether he was getting dinner or not. Roasting duck for 2 hours might seem excessive; but what you’re left with after roasting and then crisping the skin is a tender, yet honey-umami dish that definitely delivers on flavor and absolutely no dryness. The duck cooks through, so you don’t get that delicate pink you may be accustomed to if you were to order it at a high-end restaurant, but it definitely wasn’t dried out. That’s a win by itself! Good Housekeeping made a believer out of The Mr after all.
So let’s take a moment to talk about Peking Duck – the original inspiration for me for attempting this dish. I was describing my dish to a foodie friend at church. This friend happens to be Asian and she was telling me how when you order Peking Duck at an OG Chinese restaurant, you first get served slices of the crispy, sticky-sweet duck. The unserved meat is then chopped up and made into a decadent Duck Fried Rice. Lastly, the remaining bones/carcass is boiled down into an exquisite Duck Bone Broth. You obviously wouldn’t be served a bone broth from your own duck since bone broth is a labor of love; but the whole meal progression is thoughtful, simple, and elegant This is the true context of not letting quality products go to waste.
What I loved most about this dish was that it proved The Mr wrong about how a duck should “always” be served. What wife doesn’t love being right after all?! Kidding! In all seriousness, it was just as much an adventure for me as it was for him and it expanded my culinary repertoire exponentially. I thought I had it going on with my Maple Vinegar Roasted Thanksgiving Turkey spinoff from my recent foray into Mahogany Chicken. That one dish has been a game-changer for me in terms of roasting poultry ever since! I’m now brave enough to try the accompanying recipe for Chipotle-Glazed Duck… so much so that I asked my butcher to order me one on his next order! Not bad for my first run at duck.
I served the luscious bird with sticky rice that I cooked in Better Than Bouillon Roasted Garlic Base with a bit of grated fresh ginger stirred in prior to serving. A scattering of freshly torn cilantro and lightly toasted sesame seeds finished the dish off. Good Housekeeping was even kind enough to offer that Chipotle-Glazed rendition in case you wanted to go that separate route. It too would be well-supported by a richly flavored cooked rice, but I think I’ll try that one with more of a whipped mashed potato sidecar instead… I saved the backbone, neck, and giblets to long simmer into a nice, rich bone broth for the next day’s rice cook and it was just as amazing as I thought it would be. Tip: You know it’s a good bone broth when it JIGGLES!
What are some of your culinary tips and tricks for coming through adverse weather circumstances?
Currently Reading: A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
Scripture of the Day: Genesis 1:20-23 “And God said, ‘Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.’ So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.’ And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.”