Thursday, July 27, 2006

Gertrude, Alice, and Duck.

Today, July 27th …

Day 4 of “Duck and Dessert”.

Today was very nearly a ducky disaster when a little last minute fact-checking revealed that the planned and written story for the day – featuring Dorothy Wordsworth, sister of William – actually happened yesterday. Luckily for us - but not for her - this day in 1946 was the day that Gertrude Stein died. As the maximum allowable number of degrees of separation between any person and any food item is three, we just make it thanks to her life partner, Alice B. Toklas, who, luckily for us, wrote a cookbook containing several recipes for duck (but only one for Haschich Fudge).

Alice’s book is fascinating as much for the anecdotes as for the recipes, and she describes how “murder in the kitchen” (i.e the killing of the main ingredient for the next meal) had to be done before Gertrude got home, “for she didn’t like to see work being done”. They were both spared the ordeal when their pet Barbary duck Blanchette was mauled by a neighbour’s dog, and the cook, anticipating that the poor thing was going to die of fright, administered three tablespoons of eau-de-vie (to flavour her flesh) and then put her out of her misery. Blanchette was cooked with orange sauce, but we have had a recipe for that this week, so today we will have duck prepared from another recipe in Alice’s book, with figs and port.

Duck in Port Wine.
Put 24 figs in a wide jar to marinate for 36 hours in an excellent dry port wine and cover hermetically. Put the duck in a preheated 450 degree oven. After ¼ hour commence to baste it with the port wine in which the figs have been macerating, and which has been heated. Continue to baste every 15 minutes. Turn the duck on each side so that the legs are browned. When all the port has been used for basting, put the figs around the duck and baste with veal bouillon. Continue to baste. The duck will be cooked in an hour unless it is a very old duck indeed.

And for dessert:

Flaming Peaches.
Fresh peaches are preferable, though canned ones can be substituted. If fresh, take 6 and cover with boiling water for a few minutes and peel. Poach in 1 ½ cups of water over low flame for 3 or 4 minutes. Place in a chafing dish, add ¼ cup sugar and ¾ cup peach brandy. Bring to the table and light the chafing dish. When the syrup is about to boil light and ladle it over the peaches. Serve each peach lighted.

Tomorrow: Duck at Sea.

Quotation for the Day …

What is sauce for the goose may be sauce for the gander but is not necessarily sauce for the chicken, the duck, the turkey or the guinea hen. Alice B. Toklas; The Alice B Toklas Cookbook.

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