A Leg Up

Among the many pleasures of spring are the season-straddling meals, which retain some of winter’s rich comfort quality while opening up to the verdant splendor of new growth. And morels. Lots of morels. Throw in a duck leg, some transformed leftovers, and kumquat/absinthe marmalade, and you’ve got yourself an exemplary dinner.

The morels are local, but not alas foraged by me. I haven’t found any yet. The pile of them on the plate is exactly the same as in the previous post’s crostini, but using sherry instead of wine. The duck legs were browned and braised in yogurt whey and herbs. The leftovers—the brown croquette—were chick peas from the day before: I fermented them in yogurt whey for a couple of days, then cooked them with they whey, preserved lemon, Moroccan spices, and lots of garlic. For this, I turned the richly flavored peas into falafel, essentially, adding some flour and blending them, only I didn’t deep fry them. This is an idea that bears further exploration; why should falafel only ever be flavored the same way? And in place of tahini, or in addition, the sauce could go a million different ways to complement the change in taste—either geographically or poetically. A harissa aïoli, for example, would have been mighty with these, nestled down into a fresh-made pita with wild garlic and something pickled.

The kumquat marmalade is something I invented years ago, and it absolutely kills with duck. It couldn’t be simpler: kumquats, maple syrup, a bit of absinthe, a pinch of salt. This version also included black pepper and green onion.

Last year’s green onions have been the special treat of the season so far out of the garden. They’re indestructible, and charring them in a pan after the main component is cooked is my new favorite thing to do to them. They go with everything; the following evening we had pasta sauced with morels and charred scallions cooked with homemade bacon and cream. Freaking incredible. The pan sauce here was whatever was left in the duck pan reduced for a bit; it was a nice mixture of duck fat and juices, made nice and tangy from the whey. I added a little maple syrup to balance it, and dinner was served.

It’s an exciting time of year, and I’m finally inspired to cook again, so maybe there will be more to read about around here.

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