Garden Diary - December 2013

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Tuesday, 31 December 2013
Dinner, New Year's Eve
Duck and Mushroom Strudel

Possibly one of the best meals I have ever cooked.

I had bought a whole duck for our Boxing Day dinner. Had the very accommodating butcher trim the breast meat off the carcass and also take the legs off. We had one half-breast and a venison steak (but that's a different meal.) Froze the other half-breast for another occasion. Then made stock from the carcass. Which left me with the legs. I was thinking about turning them into confit, then cassoulet. But cassoulet for two is an impossibility. What to do . . . .

I had one of those Eureka! moments. Strudel! Perhaps you are only familiar with dessert type strudels, like the iconic apple version. But savory strudels are also a possibility. After all, the defining aspect of strudel is the wrapping.

Step one: Poach the two duck legs in the broth made from carcass, together with onion and thyme. When tender remove from broth and chill. Note: You'd have to be crazy to attempt to pour hot broth from a large skillet. I used a turkey baster, repeatedly, to suck it up. Worked like a charm. When ready to assemble the strudel, skin, bone, and dice duck meat. Set aside.

Dice a couple of shallots, then saute in butter and some good quality olive oil over medium heat until they begin to soften. Next, the mushrooms, a generous 225 grams. I used a combination of cremini and shiitake, and added some braised chicken of the woods mushrooms from the freezer that I'd foraged previously. Coarsely dice, saute in butter and olive oil. Add some thyme, salt and black pepper to taste. Saute until the mushrooms have rendered their juices, which are then reduced to a couple of spoonfuls. Add the duck meat to the pan, together with 56 grams of soft goat cheese. Stir everything together until well combined. Set aside.

Now comes the fun part, preparing the phyllo pastry. The thin sheets are as fragile as wet tissue paper, and can dry out in no time. So. I used the commercial Athena filo pastry. Defrost, separate off 5 sheets, lay them on a damp kitchen towel and promptly cover with another damp kitchen towel. Rewrap the remaining pastry and put back in the freezer. Have melted butter and a pastry brush on hand. Take a rimmed jelly roll pan and butter the inside / bottom. Flip the top towel off the sheets of phyllo pastry, get one into the pan and cover the remaining sheets with the damp towel. Don't worry if the sheet tears. They do that. Brush with melted butter. Repeat until all the sheets are now buttered and stacked up. Flop filling in center, push into a log-like shape. Fold in ends of pastry, roll sides over filling. Turn over so edges are on bottom. Brush top with melted butter.

Bake in 350 degrees Fahrenheit oven for 25 minutes, turn temperature up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit until nicely browned, about 10 to 15 minutes more.

Delectable, delicious, delightful. The two of us ate the whole thing. Suggested accompaniment was a bed of field greens. Since I didn't have any I made braised Savoy cabbage which was an excellent choice. Wine was a Cotes-du-Rhone Village. Pleasant, not fabulous. And of course my white fruitcake for afters.

The strudel was absolutely stupendous. Happy me. Happy New Year.

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