Let’s Cook Ensemble

My last post was based on shared experiences.  I’m staying with that theme but moving away from the seashore and back to the kitchen.  When our friends the Hunters, and Anthea, arrived for New Year they came laden with edible goodies, remnants from their Christmas larder.  And what remnants:  homemade wholemeal bread, potted lobster, salmon, blinis, pots of dairy, salted duck joints destined for a confit.   And a bowl of potted shrimps, one of Dick’s specialities.  I served this as an extra starter for their welcome supper.

I’d found a sea bass at the bottom of the freezer for the main course.  Caught in late summer it looked fine.  Anthea said had I ever cooked bass in a salt crust.  Rick Stein has a recipe.  Fortunately I had the relevant cookery book out here and we tried it.  You need 4lb of coarse sea salt for a big fish.  It’s a lot of salt so the unrefined, cheapest variety is best.  I followed the RECIPE (this one is close) and added cooking time for my larger fish.  Too much, it only needed 40 minutes for a 4lb fish.   But it was great. You crack the crust, lift it off and remove the skin to reveal the moist fish inside.  Mrs Waste-Not that I am, I saved half the salt to see if I could reuse it, notwithstanding the crust is made by adding two egg whites.  It’s in an open bowl in the cold (no problem finding cold stores right now!) and seems fine for general cooking purposes.

Over the course of the long weekend Dick, Eileen and Anthea were with us, Dick finished his duck confit with garden herbs and Chinese Five-Spice and lathered it in goose fat.  Then cooked it in a medium-heat oven for 3 hours.  We shared one joint on their last evening with roast vegetables.  The shreds of duck and crisp skin were wonderful.  It was one of several small courses, Fuchsias-style.

I served two more when the Poulets came to dinner a couple of nights ago.  It is a great discovery for me, not only how to make it but also as the meat is cooked in goose fat (slowly in the oven) you only need to finish it on the night (7 minutes in the frying pan to crisp the skin) then shred it to serve.   No more knife-edge ‘will the meat be cooked in time, or too soon?’  The other thing I find is that GOOSE AND DUCK FAT are much better for me than other animal fats – fewer issues with the dreaded cholesterol.

During their stay we had smoked salmon and potted lobster blinis, poached salmon and home-grown lemon parcels.  I bought 4 dozen oysters and we cooked some with spinach au gratin under Dick’s guidance.  On the morning of their departure Nick and Dick went for a quick trip on Aroona to see what fish might be about.  They came back with lots of whiting some of which were turned into beignets.  I was rarely alone in the kitchen the whole time they were here.  It was great fun cooking ensemble.  You can’t have too many cooks in my kitchen!

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