Inexplicably, I ordered "Sense and Sensibility" from Netflix—forgetting that we've already seen it! Those of you who know me know that this is not like me. Andy was stunned. Luckily we had the last two episodes of "The Office" (Season 1) to watch tonight. It is one of the funniest things I've ever seen. I'll wait a few weeks and then order Season 2.
I forgot to take a photo, but trust me, this duck was GORGEOUS! I did the 5-hour version from Sally Schneider—it's so-so-so worth the time. (Update 2/15/09: Here's a photo!)
The Ultimate Roast Duck
Preheat the oven to 300°. Rinse a 5-lb. duck inside and out; pat dry. Remove the excess fat from the neck and hind cavity and discard. Cut off the wing tips. Sprinkle the duck inside and out with kosher salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity with 3 chopped garlic cloves and a small bunch of fresh thyme. With a sharp paring knife, pierce the duck skin without cutting into the flesh, by inserting the tip of the knife on a sharp diagonal almost parallel to the bird; make dozens of slits all over the bird.
Place the duck breast-side-up on a rack set in a roasting pan. Roast the duck for 1 hour. Remove the bird from the oven and carefully pour off the fat into a measuring cup,* making sure to hold the bird and rack securely with a kitchen fork. Pierce the skin again and turn the bird over. Repeat this process every hour. After 4 hours, increase the oven temperature to 350°. The bird, which should be breast side up at this point, should be golden brown. Season the skin liberally with salt and pepper and cook until the skin is browned and very crisp, about 1 hour longer. Remove from the oven and allow the duck to rest for 20 minutes.
Cut up however you want and serve with rice and Bigarade (bitter orange) Sauce:
Pour off the rest of the fat in the pan and deglaze with 1 cup chicken stock. Remove a little of the hot stock and mix in 1 teaspoon arrowroot or cornstarch, then add that to the pan and cook until thickened.
In a small saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar and 2 tablespoons sugar until light brown. Add the sauce from the roasting pan (strained, if desired) and cook for 5 minutes, then add 1/2 cup hot orange juice from blood oranges or Seville oranges. (I used 3 blood oranges and nuked the juice.) Add a splash of orange liqueur (Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Triple Sec) if you wish.
*Strain the duck fat and save it in the fridge for the next time you're frying potatoes—oh, behave!
For some reason,* several sheets of bubble wrap are lying around the hallway downstairs. I'm happy to leave them there, as I am getting an inordinate amount of pleasure out of stepping on them as I walk by: KRAK! KRAK! KRAK! It's a very satisfying sound, as first heel then ball then big toe blast the bubbles to smithereeens. Highly recommended.
*Read: I unwrapped our Italian pottery and let the bubble wraps fall where they would.
Andy and I had our long-awaited overnight getaway last night—first time in three years we've been away together alone! Everything was great. We spent the day yesterday strolling around Newbury Street, had lunch out, and even bought ourselves some lovely pottery at Bellezza. Then, when we went to check in at the Charles Hotel, we were told that there was a problem and we'd have to wait 30 minutes. So we waited, and when we came back, we were told we'd have to wait another 30 minutes! So we made a stink and got upgraded to a suite immediately! Yippee! Andy went for a swim; I was happy to stay in the room and burrow into a pile of fluffy pillows to read my book. Then we had some drinks at the hotel bar and went off for dinner at our favorite romantic special-occasion restaurant, Hamersley's Bistro. It was perfect, as always. The next morning Andy went to exercise at the hotel's health club while I enjoyed the fluffy pillows some more; then we had breakfast delivered by room service. We had planned to see "Mystic River," which was enjoying a brief re-engagement at our little art film house, but it wasn't there anymore, so we saw "Kill Bill Vol. 2," which we both liked a lot. Then we went home to our kiddies, who had had a lovely couple of days with Laura. Wheeeeee!
1. Enough with the rain, already. I'm threatening to buy rain boots. At least the weekend is supposed to be sunny and nice.
2. I will never buy pork tenderloin again. Every time I make it, it gets dried out. Tonight I tried one last time, with a Cuban mojo sauce, and it was dried out again. There's maybe a nanosecond between undercooked and overcooked with pork tenderloin. Mark my words, never again!
3. What's the deal with charging my iPod? It says, "charging, charging, charging . . ." and then finally "charged," but when I remove it from the charger, the little battery icon is only half full. And when I immediately plug it back into the charger, it starts saying, "charging, charging, charging . . ." all over again. Anyone, anyone? (Ferris?)
4. We finally got caller ID. Fun! As it turns out, I know a lot of people named "Unknown Name."
5. A dad at preschool (who, in fact, I knew from Wesleyan) told me that his little daughter had the same eye surgery Julie might need—and by the same doctor! I found talking about it with him to be very reassuring. Julie is such an angel about wearing her glasses; he told me that his daughter hides her and they disappear for weeks at a time!
I finally bought a salt pig at Sur la Table. Cute, huh? The little information slip that came with it said, "The jars, known as 'salt pigs,' have a small knob for carrying, and a large hooded opening resembling the snout of a pig." However, someone else told me that "They are called pigs because they used to be made (as did many pots) out of an orange-colored clay called 'pygg,' so it was a salt pot made out of pygg. It's also where the term 'piggy bank' came from." I can't find any evidence to back up either claim. In any event, it came with a little white ceramic spoon, but I didn't like the feel of it, so I bought a small silver demitasse spoon instead.
I finally finished a non-book-group book, True Enough by Stephen McCauley. I liked it a lot, possibly as much as Object of My Affection, which was my favorite before this one. McCauley has such a flair for truly funny dialogue and dead-on descriptions—it's a pleasure to read his prose.
I haven't been having too much luck fitting in an extra book between book group meetings, but next up is You Shall Know Our Velocity by Dave Eggers. I'm prepared to be a bit disappointed because (1) I didn't love the excerpt in The New Yorker and (2) I don't think he'll ever top A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (if you haven't read that, do it now!).
Can it be heard? You said No, I say Yes.
Does it bring joy to people? You said Irrelevant, I say Yes.
Does it like to play? You said Unknown, I say Yes.
Does it have short fur? You said Unknown, I say No.
Is it soft? You said No, I say Yes.
Is it a herbivore? You said Unknown, I say Yes.
Here are the "e" entries from the Bush Dictionary:
embetterment (noun) -- The condition in which the lives of people is more good than before. Synonyms: disemworsenment, unimprovementlessness.
Enron -- never heard of 'em.
execution -- my job as president means I am chief executive (after Cheney.) Therefore, I will execute to the best of my ability and as often as possible, like I did in Texas.
exxonerate (verb) -- to go easy on a company for spilling oil all over the place.
Eye-rack -- a country over there somewhere in the Middle East that has a bad habit of threatening global stability just before national elections.
Eye-ran -- another country out that way which is located just below Eye-rack on the axis of evil.
Go check out the other alphabetical listings! You'll laugh, you'll cry.
The American Friends Service Committee has a traveling exhibit of some 800 pairs of combat boots, commemorating the American soldiers killed in Iraq so far—tragically, the number grows each week. Each pair has a white tag with a dead soldier's name, age, rank, and home town. Yesterday the boots were displayed on Capitol Hill.
What's On your "favorite summertime snacks" list Right Now?
This seems a bit lame. Do people really snack differently depending on the season? Regardless of the weather, I always head straight for the salty snacks: Cape Cod reduced fat potato chips, Pirate's Booty, and Spanish almonds with salt and oil are my current favorites. I do have a favorite summertime drink, however: Campari with orange juice.
Yesterday Nancy reached into the washing machine to pull out her clean clothes. In one hand she grabbed a sweater and in the other a dead mouse! Can you even imagine? I tried to make her feel better by telling her that at least he had been freshly laundered.
The latest post at Suburban Bliss got me thinking. Next fall Julie will start preschool, which means that every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I will be all alone from 9:00 to 1:00! Initially, I thought, "I'll do yoga! And some kind of aerobics class! I'll read novels while sipping Chai Latte at Starbucks! I'll learn how to garden! I'll see the morning movie at the indie film house! I'll bake bread! I'll update the photo albums (which currently give the impression that Stephanie is a 2-year-old only child)! I'll start doing some more freelance work! I'll take piano lessons! I'll read to the blind! What won't I do?!" Then, reality set in. Three mornings a week really isn't as much time as it seems, once you figure in volunteering at school and errands. It'll be interesting to see how it turns out.
When I got Julie up this morning, I went to put her glasses on her, and she got upset. "I don't want my gyasses!" (I have a feeling she thought that it was just a one-time thing yesterday, like getting a shot.) I managed to distract her with the forbidden combo of a Pop-Tart and a TV show, and that was that! She wore them all morning without complaint, then I took them off at 1:00 for her nap. She was up again around 3:45, and she actually asked for them! I put them on her and waited a while before adding the patch. Now that's a look I'll need some time getting used to. Sigh. Especially when she wandered into the mudroom and added her new bike helmet and Pete's froggy rain boots (on the wrong feet) to the ensemble. But she wore the glasses until bedtime, so I'm very proud of her.
We got Julie's eensy-weensy glasses today at about 4:00 and she wore them straight until bedtime at 7:00! She complained a couple of times but never actually took them off. I was very surprised and impressed. (We took a day off from Eye Patch Hour—how much can we expect from her??) We'll see how her tumbling class goes tomorrow with her specs bobbing up and down on her nose with every jump on the trampoline. Sigh.
Seems like only yesterday I was sitting around on campus shmoozing with my friends. Oh wait, it was yesterday! The reunion was great. The weather was horrible—it was supposed to be 80° and wet; instead it was raw and freezing. We all ended up buying ridiculous $50 sweatshirts we'll never wear again. But, but, but . . . I had such a very warm and pleasant time chatting with people I'd been friendly with way back when (some of whom I'd lost touch with) as well as people I hadn't even known in college. I ended up regretting acutely that I didn't expand my horizons a bit more in college. There were so many people I didn't give the time of day to back then—not that I was necessarily rude or excluding, but I just never entertained the idea of being friends with so many different kinds of people. And that's saying a lot, because Wesleyan has always been famous for its extremely diverse student body. What an amazing experience it was—and I guess I realized how much more amazing it could have been, although I am aware that we all do the best we can at age 18, right? I even turned into a boring grown-up at the banquet when I started lecturing my wait-person (class of '05) on how she should take advantage of every opportunity Wesleyan has to offer, because she'll never have that kind of luxury again. Sigh.
Oh, and what was I so frenzied about? I forgot, you can wear anything you want at Wesleyan. Anything at all, and you'll always fit in.
Do you have the guts to take the honest bloggers-only quiz?
1. Which political party do you typically agree with? Democrats
2. Which political party do you typically vote for? Democrats
3. List the last five presidents that you voted for: Gore, Clinton, Clinton, Dukakis, Mondale
4. Which party do you think is smarter about the economy? Democrats—it's enough for me to see the budget surplus that Clinton left behind him, and the budget deficit Bush will leave behind him.
5. Which party do you think is smarter about domestic affairs? Democrats
6. Do you think we should keep our troops in Iraq or pull them out? Get out. We don't belong there, and people are just dying for no reason.
7. Who, or what country, do you think is most responsible for 9/11? I don't know. Perhaps Saudi Arabia?
8. Do you think we will find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? No
9. Yes or no, should the U.S. legalize marijuana? Yes
10. Do you think the Republicans stole the last presidential election? Yes
11. Do you think Bill Clinton should have been impeached because of what he did with Monica Lewinski? No
12. Do you think Hillary Clinton would make a good president? Yes
13. Name a current Democrat who would make a great president: Kerry
14. Name a current Republican who would make a great president: McCain
15. Do you think that women should have the right to have an abortion? Of course!
16. What religion are you? Jewish
17. Have you read the Bible all the way through? No
18. What's your favorite book? Impossible question! How could there be just one?
19. Who is your favorite band? I don't really listen to bands—mostly just lone singers.
20. Who do you think you'll vote for president in the next election? Kerry
21. What website did you see this on first? Rox Populi
I'm not positive, but I might have overheard Andy tell someone he "felt badly" about something tonight. YOWCH! The only way you can "feel badly" is if you burn your fingertips. You would never say, "I feel happily" or "I feel sadly" or "I feel well about this meeting" (although "I feel well" is OK if you are using well as an adjective meaning healthy), so don't say "I feel badly." It makes me feel bad when you use an adverb with feel.
I can no longer come up with five theme-related questions every Friday, just like that. The pressure is killing me. From now on, I will just give five little tidbits from my day:
1. I ordered Julie's little tiny glasses today. I kept choosing different frames off the rack, and the optician would say, "No, those are too big." I couldn't believe it! There were only a few small enough for her. I ended up going with a coppery-brown frame. They'll be ready on Monday.
2. I got a pedicure today so my feet will be sandal-worthy for tomorrow's Reunion in the Rain. I didn't make an appointment so I ended up with the Dreaded Vivian. Ouch!
3. I also got a compact folding umbrella for tomorrow's Reunion in the Rain. It appears to be somewhat over-engineered, but it is indeed very small and lightweight.
4. I've left numerous little notes for Andy for tomorrow: "Put sunscreen on Pete's scar." "Give Stephanie her pill after lunch." "Make Julie wear her eye patch for an hour." "Buy eggs." "Remind Pia to pick up Stephanie for Sophie's birthday party (and bring her home afterward)." You know, the sort of details that make up my life—and that he doesn't usually have to worry about!
5. The IRS caught an error in our favor and sent us $1200! Imagine that!
Did you read Jon Stewart's commencement address at William & Mary?
I know there were some parents that were concerned about my speech here tonight, and I want to assure you that you will not hear any language that is not common at, say, a dock workers union meeting, or Tourrett’s convention, or profanity seminar. Rest assured.
Use fewer when you're talking about items that can be counted individually: fewer pomegranates, fewer dirty diapers, fewer indie films.
Use less when you're talking about something that can't be counted: less cash, less saliva, less wear 'n tear.
If your supermarket still has a sign up that says, "Express Lane: 12 items or less!" it's just plain wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
I can't believe what a tailspin I've worked myself into over the reunion on Saturday. Well, the outfit has now officially been chosen: the Naot sandals, the black J. Jill pants, and the hibiscus J. Jill blouse. The Flee bag is ready. Tomorrow I have to buy a tiny pop-up umbrella and get a pedicure. I'm getting excited!
Julie has accomodative esotropia. That means that she is farsighted, so she compensates for this by crossing her eyes. She needs to get glasses! And wear a patch for an hour a day! And possibly still end up needing surgery! Ay-yi-yi.
You know how when you see a really little kid with glasses, it just looks strange? That's going to be my Julie.
Dr. Bhatt was the nicest, kindest, gentlest, sweetest doctor in the world. I feel so grateful that we found her! She made it so easy—and even fun!—for Julie to get a full eye exam.
Tonight I made Broiled Bacon-Basted Salmon with Mushroom-Oyster Sauce. It was absolutely delicious, but I was very glad I wasn't serving it to guests. The recipe said to peel off the bacon after broiling, but it stuck like glue to the salmon and pretty much ripped the salmon apart. Plus, I had never broiled such a thick fillet and was worried that it wasn't cooked through, so I hacked it up pretty good while checking for doneness. So it wasn't lovely, but the flavors were wonderful.
2 1 1⁄2 pounds skinless salmon fillets (one inch thick)
10 slices of bacon, 6 left whole and 4 cut into 1-inch pieces
3⁄4 pound mixed mushrooms, such as oyster and cremini, thinly sliced
1⁄4 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
1⁄4 cup finely chopped chives
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1⁄2 cup hot water
1⁄4 cup Chinese oyster sauce
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
Preheat the broiler.
Lightly season the salmon fillets with kosher salt and pepper. Wrap 3 slices of the bacon crosswise around each salmon fillet, spacing the slices 1 inch apart. Place the salmon fillets in a medium roasting pan and broil 13 minutes, shifting the pan halfway through or until the salmon fillets are just cooked through.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the bacon pieces over high heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and slightly crisp, about 4 minutes. Pour off all but 2 teaspoons of the bacon fat and reduce the heat to moderately high. Add the mushrooms to the skillet and sauté them until they are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to moderate and stir in the chopped parsley, 2 tablespoons of the chopped chives, and the minced garlic. Cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.
In a small bowl, whisk the hot water with the oyster sauce until blended. Add to the mushrooms and cook over moderately high heat, stirring until the sauce thickens slightly, about 1 minute. Stir in the nutmeg, then whisk in the butter and cook until just melted. Remove mushroom sauce from the heat.
Remove the strips of bacon from the salmon fillets and cut each fillet into 3 pieces. Save the broiled bacon slices for another use. Transfer the salmon to a large platter. Spoon the mushroom sauce over the fish and garnish with remaining 2 tablespoons of chopped chives.
What's On your "I always put this off" list Right Now?
Oy vey, where to begin? I guess the #1 answer would always have to be cleaning out the humidifiers. That has to be the worst job in the house. I've also been putting off dragging down the hand-me-down boxes from the attic to see what warm-weather clothing awaits the kids from their cousins.
OK, now I'm really in a tizzy. They're predicting rain for Saturday, the day of my much-anticipated, much-dreaded, much-fretted-over 20th (yikes!) college reunion. I hope you all bought stock in J. Jill recently, because this week I purchased everything they sell in hibiscus (dark reddish-pinkish) and black—but have yet to decide which permutation of pants and top will be the winner. And I also bought new sandals, which will probably get ruined by wet grass. And now I need to worry about a rain jacket? Please. At least a small umbrella will fit into my lovely new toile Flee Bag. Ah, phooey.
Just as we were putting the kids to bed for the night, we lost our electricity for no apparent reason. Julie freaked out, because her humidifier (white noise) went off. Steph and Pete were weirded out even though they (sort of) understood what was happening, but we were finally able to get them back to bed. Julie, on the other hand, was a basket case every time we tried to put her back in her crib, so we let her stay up until the power came back on, about 2 hours later.
I've been lusting after this bag since I saw Rachel's last year, but I couldn't seem to let myself get one, and then I couldn't make up my mind which one . . . but I finally did it! I love it! There are lots of different patterns and sizes—go see for yourself at the Flee Bag site. And tell Suzanne I sent you!
1. The whole comprises the parts; the parts compose the whole:
The U.S. comprises 50 states. Fifty states compose the U.S.Don't ever use is comprised of. And I mean never! If you can't keep it straight, avoid comprise altogether; try, "The U.S. is made up of 50 states."
2. anxious = nervous, with anxiety. So you would probably not want to say something like, "I'm so anxious to see your new baby!" or "I'm anxious to check out your blog." The word you want is eager, or looking forward to.
3. aggravate = to make worse, exacerbate. It's not correct to say, "That traffic jam got me so aggravated!" or "Her nit-picking aggravates me to no end." Try irritate or annoy or piss off instead.
If we didn't have the Internet, we wouldn't have this service offered by Snoop Dogg. Here's my most recent post as translated by the Shizzolator:
This morning we took da kids da Museum of Science. We happened be watching da baby chicks 'n eggs when one hatched! I can remember other times when we watched da poor things peck 'n peck fo' what seemed like hours 'n still make no progress n' shit. But this time, peck-peck-peck, 'n then suddenly da gooey little chick just tumbled right out! It wuz breath-taking, in its own little way, know what I'm sayin'? The poor thing wuz so exhausted, that shiznit wuz just lying in a heaving little pile of sweaty feathers 'n shell remnants n' shit. Amazing n' shit.Surely Deb said it best: "This is politically incorrect on so many levels, I can't help but recommend it."
This morning we took the kids to the Museum of Science. We happened to be watching the baby chicks and eggs when one hatched! I can remember other times when we watched the poor things peck and peck for what seemed like hours and still make no progress. But this time, peck-peck-peck, and then suddenly the gooey little chick just tumbled right out! It was breath-taking, in its own little way. The poor thing was so exhausted, it was just lying in a heaving little pile of sweaty feathers and shell remnants. Amazing.
Tonight Andy made his specialty, courtesy of Jacques Pépin:
Duck with Parsnips and Shallots
1 duck, cut into 12 pieces, neck skin reserved (We usually do 8 pieces.)
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 large parsnips, peeled, ends trimmed, sliced into chunks (about 1 1/2 lbs.)
2 cups large whole shallots, peeled (about 10 oz.)
2 heads garlic, cloves (about 30) separated but unpeeled
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
Set a large pan over moderate heat. Slice the reserved neck skin into 3 or 4 strips and put them in the pan to begin rendering fat. Season the duck pieces with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and the 1/4 teaspoon pepper. When there's enough fat to film the pan bottom, lay in all the pieces, skin side down (you can push aside the strips of neck skin, but leave them in the pan).
Raise the heat to medium-high, and cook skin side down and uncovered. The duck skin will shrink and color, and lots of fat will accumulate in the pan. Check the underside of the pieces once or twice to make sure they are not burning; lower the heat slightly if necessary. Fry until the skin on all the pieces is well browned and quite crisp; the whole process should take 20 to 25 minutes.
Turn the heat down to low. Leave the duck pieces on their skin—they should be half submerged in fat—and strew the parsnip pieces, shallots, and garlic cloves all around them in the pan. Add the rosemary and bay leaves, and sprinkle over 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cover the pan, turn down the heat to low, and cook for 30 minutes. Check occasionally to make sure that the duck is gently steaming; adjust the heat as necessary.
When the duck and vegetables are tender—pierce with a sharp knife to check—turn off the heat. Immediately lift the duck and vegetable pieces from the pan with a spoon or skimmer, allowing the fat to drain, and arrange on a serving platter.
Pour off the clear duck fat from the pan—you will have 1 1/2 cups or so—and save for other uses. Add 1 cup of water to the pan, bring to a boil, scraping with a wooden spatula to melt all the solidified juice, and pour over the duck. Serve!
Andy and I have planned an overnight away from the kids! This will be the first time we've ever been away since Julie was born (and you could count on one hand—even a hand that was missing a finger or two—the number of nights we were ever away from Stephanie and Pete). We decided just to go into town rather than waste any precious time driving somewhere far. We plan to shop, eat out, see a movie, perhaps get a massage, go for a swim, sleep in . . . you name it! Laura will stay with the kids. She's leaving at the end of July (sob, sob!), so this will likely be our last chance for a long while. Yippee! Oh, and we made a dinner reservation at our favorite restaurant of all time, Hamersley's Bistro.
We're having some fun now, at the Dead People Server. So, here goes: are they dead or alive?
Click on the Comments to see the answers. How'd you do? This has the makings of a regular feature, dontcha think?
I can't seem to get the Friday Five thing out of my system, so here's another original:
1. What's the last book you finished reading?
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. See my post on Wednesday's book group.
2. What's the last book you read any part of?
I'm about halfway through True Enough by Stephen McCauley. He just tickles me to no end.
3. What author have you read the most books by? (Ouch, parse my sentence, please!)
Probably Anne Tyler, or maybe Barbara Kingsolver.
4. Do you ever flip to the end of a book to see what happens?
5. What's the last magazine you read any part of?
The May issue of Gourmet. Every month I read it, tear out all the interesting recipes, and then toss the rest. So sue me!