Thursday, October 27, 2011

China - Day 2

Whew!  Day one is under out belts, so we should get to take a breather now, right?  Not-so-much.  I wanted to get more done the next day because it was Sunday and there would be some time.

Clearly I do not write these things as quickly as I cook them...

And no, Ryan, today's meat is not Panda.

It is, in fact, duck!  As soon as I saw this recipe I wanted to try it.  Something new and exciting, and yet not so new that I was scared of it.  A great combination.  Additionally, I wasn't going to let the Buddah's Delight get the best of me forever.  So I was off on a cooking journey for fewer people, but no less grand, let me promise.
Red-cooked duck is listed as being from Eastern China, which I hadn't hit yet.  The first thing I had to do was deal with the thing.  The directions on the duck told me to remove the neck and giblets - not my favorite activity.  Then I realized they were in a bag stuffed within the duck.  Woo!  I just had to quarter it.
Who knew ducks were so cylindrical?
Now what?
I have conquered the duck!
Next you are supposed to remove excess fat and marinate the duck for at least an hour.  Let me tell you -ducks are not trim creatures.  As for the marinade -
Yes, that's right, a dry ginger juice mixture.  I couldn't find anything else.  I'm not sure it was adequate for the job, but it was all I had.

Duck is sitting, and therefore it is time to play with the cats.  And hang pictures.  That's how life works, right?

Anyway!  To cook the duck, you brown it on all sides in a wok.
Then you boil a braising mixture and the duck together.  You add some other stuff, bring it to a simmer, and let it cook for over an hour or "until a chopstick pierces through the thigh easily."
There was also supposed to be a small red chile, but I didn't find that in the fridge for another week or so.  I substituted.
This was also supposed to include some things like green onions and star anise.  I believe there was some sort of controversy or mix up or something with the latter, but I honestly can't remember.  Just play along.

Star anise, in case you can't read the washed out picture...
Now that the duck is boiling, it is time for Buddah's Delight.  I was going to succeed if it killed me.  I started soaking the mushrooms again and gathering/chopping the veggies and other ingredients.  These included, but were not limited to: bamboo shoots, firm tofu, water chestnuts, napa cabbage, and gingko nuts.  All sorts of new ingredients for me!

Plus some "normal" stuff.
And thus my confusion begins.  I read this over and over and could not figure it out.  Maybe one of you could explain it to me.

It tells me to blanch all of the vegetables.  Fine.  Then later, it tells me to add the mushrooms, then all of the blanched vegetables.  That's it for ingredients.  Never tells me about tofu or gingko nuts or anything.  So, am I supposed to blanch them?  Are those considered vegetables?  What do I do?  I think some I blanched and some I didn't, because I was confused.  Also, blanching is annoying and takes a while.

I was supposed to heat some oil, add and remove garlic, and then add the veggies.  I just used some garlic olive oil from Vom Fass though.  :-)

Both recipes had me thicken up the sauce with some cornstarch.  Let me tell you - cornstarch + water = awesome.  I also added some sesame oil to the Buddah's Delight.
I bet you can guess what we were watching!
This stuff was a lot more work than the recipes would suggest.  At their core, they aren't too hard.  But there is a lot of chopping and even more blanching and it starts wearing on you.

So with that in mind, I was a little disappointed.  I was hoping for amazing duck.  What I mostly got was really fatty duck skin.  I don't think I was supposed to remove it, so I don't know.  Maybe it was just the piece I had.  I felt like I was mostly eating fat, with a little of meat thrown in here and there.  That may be fine for a bite or two, but not a whole meal.  The flavor did seem good.  And Kevin liked it.  You're also supposed to be able to serve it cold, which would be nice at times.  I don't know if I would go through the effort again.

The Buddah's Delight was similar.  It wasn't bad, but not so great either.  It felt like it was missing something, maybe to tie it all together?  I'm not sure.  It was a lot of work for not a lot of reward.  I also think we messed up the gingko nuts.  Perhaps you can get some soft canned ones?  Ours were hard.  It was like eating vegetable stir fry with rocks in it.  They didn't do anything.

So this time was not as much of a success.  Perhaps too ambitious.  But there was one more chance.  And while it was still not panda, there were still some new things ahead...

Next time: China, Day 3

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