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Home Cooking with Charlie Trotter

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Written by Carolyn Jung   

Image
Photography by Kipling Swehla © 2008
When I was a food writer at the San Jose Mercury News, I both loved and hated receiving new Charlie Trotter cookbooks in the mail from publishers.

I loved the books because they were always drop-dead gorgeous with show-stopping photos accompanying every recipe.

But I also hated them because the recipes were so long (two pages or more sometimes) and complex that I knew we'd never be able to use them in our food section, lest readers complain or simply ignore them all together.

So, we'd file them in our library at work, where they would gather dust like so many precious artworks to be admired only from afar.

When I heard that Trotter had written a new cookbook, geared toward the home cook, I was a bit skeptical. Did he mean a real home-cook like you and I, who are harried half the time, and truly value short-cuts that make sense? Or did he mean a Stepford-type one, someone who has all the time and money in the world to devote three days to whipping up a sous-vide dish with two homemade stocks and six garnishes?

Thankfully, he meant the former. "Home Cooking with Charlie Trotter'' is a nice surprise from a brilliant four-star chef. The recipes are definitely approachable, and don't call for a roster of hard-to-find ingredients or restaurant-style culinary equipment.

Included are more than 130 recipes, from Sweet Corn and Shrimp Chowder to Cantaloupe, Mango, and Asian Pear Salad with Key Lime - Vanilla Bean Vinaigrette to Cardamom Beef Stew with Potatoes, Celery Root, and Parsnips. Trotter also offers eight sample menus to create a whole dinner party using recipes from the book. Each menu comes with handy tips to guide you as to what can be made ahead of time, too.

I had my eye on Whole Roasted Duck with Red Wine-Braised Apples. At first glance, I was a little shocked that the sauce called for two whole cups of honey mixed with a bottle of red wine. But surprisingly, it wasn't too sweet. The honey softened the tannins in the wine. And after the mixture reduced, the sauce attained a subtle syrupy nature. It was sweet, fruity, and just superb. It was so good, in fact, that I drizzled the leftover sauce over slices of baked ham the next day to great effect.

The duck couldn't have been easier to make. Season with salt and pepper, prick the skin, and roast atop chopped onion, carrots, and celery. Slice Granny Smith apples, and bake them with some of the sauce in a separate pan.

The skin didn't turn out crispy, and not all of the fat had rendered out. But the flesh was moist and flavorful. And the sauce and apples really elevated the dish into something special.

The directions could use a little more precision at times. The recipe says to garnish the duck with fresh rosemary, but it never says to chop it, though I did. The recipe also never specifies what to do with the roasted vegetables after they're cooked, but I surmised they were there merely to flavor the duck and cooking liquid, rather than to be eaten.

Now, I find myself tempted by Trotter's Panko-and-Horseradish-Crusted Shrimp with Miso Broth; and Sauteed Sweet and Sour Cod with Oyster Mushrooms and Somen Noodles.

Thankfully, this is one Trotter cookbook that won't just be gathering cobwebs on the shelf.

Read more from Carolyn about Charlie Trotter on her blog foodgal.

Whole Roasted Duck with Red Wine-Braised Apples

Reprinted with permission from Home Cooking with Charlie Trotter by Charlie Trotter, copyright © 2008. Published by Ten Speed Press.

serves 4

  • 1 750-ml bottle red wine
  • 2 cups honey
  • 1 4- to 5-pound duck, excess fat trimmed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large yellow onion, quartered
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick rings
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary

To prepare the glaze: Cook the wine in a medium saucepan over medium heat for 30 minutes, or until reduced to 2 cups. Stir in the honey and cook for 30 minutes, or until reduced to 3 cups. Reserve 2 cups of the glaze for the apples.

To prepare the duck: Preheat the oven to 400º. Season the duck cavity with salt and pepper. Pierce the skin with a fork 10 to 15 times, to release the fat during cooking. Place the onion, carrots, and celery in a roasting pan and place the duck on top. Roast for 15 minutes. Remove the duck from the oven and brush the outside with the glaze. Decrease the oven temperature to 350º and cook, basting occasionally with the glaze, for 45 to 60 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy and the juices from the cavity run clear. Remove from the oven, let rest for 15 minutes, and then carve.

Meanwhile, prepare the apples: About 45 minutes before the duck is ready, place the apples in a small baking pan. Pour in 2 cups of the glaze, cover, and bake at 350º for 30 minutes. Uncover and cook for 15 minutes, or until tender. 

To prepare the sauce: Drain the cooking liquid from the apples into a small saucepan. Strain any pan drippings from the duck through a fine-mesh sieve, remove the fat, and add to the saucepan. Cook the sauce over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until warm.

Arrange apple rings in the center of each plate, sprinkle with fresh rosemary, and place sliced duck meat on top. Spoon the sauce over the duck and around each plate. 

If you have difficulty finding a whole duck, substitute breasts. Sear them, skin side down first, in a hot pan and brush often with the glaze during the remaining cooking time.

About Home Cooking with Charlie Trotter

Image Charlie Trotter's most approachable cookbook, "Home Cooking with Charlie Trotter" is designed for casual home cooks who appreciate top-quality cuisine. Trotter begins by discussing classic methods of preparing food, from braising to grilling to sautéing. He then presents a variety of uptown traditional--as well as an assortment of exotic--starters, entrées, and desserts that have been streamlined with an eye for readily available ingredients and straight-forward techniques, while still bearing the master chef's signature style.

Available at Amazon.com

Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.

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