The first Valentines Day that I spent with the man I ended up married to was, not to put too fine a point on it, awkward and uncomfortable.
It was fairly early days in our relationship, and we had not said â€œI love youâ€ yet. We were 19 year old cynics. And this left us with a problem: to observe Valentines would be odd, but not to observe it would somehow be even more pointedly odd.
Valentines day arrived and Jon handed over a classic red card reading â€œBe my Valentineâ€. Cleverly, no mention of the L word, yet still highly appropriate for the occasion. Good choice.Â I presented him with a green envelope containing a purple note card. The sentiment had taken soul searching and a thesaurus to put into words; â€œI appreciate you.â€
Luckily, Jon burst out laughing at the expression of my lukewarm feelings and the rest is history. The fact that I could cook probably helped.
Roast duck breast with red cabbage puree
This recipe comes from a cafÃ© in Paris called Brasserie des Deux Palaisâ€™. I came upon it in a wonderful book by Daniel Young, who noted that because it is situated opposite the Palais de Justice, â€œthe cafÃ© counts among its regulars some of Franceâ€™s most distinguished judges, lawyers, politicians and career criminals â€¦ Due to its central and therefore neutral location between two river banks and four arrondissements, the cafÃ© is a diplomatic rendezvous for estranged partners in love, business or crime.â€
I have spent longer than I like to admit daydreaming about sitting at a white tablecloth-ed table, drinking lillet and watching the clientele of Brasserie des Deux Palaisâ€™ go about their lunches.
This red cabbage puree is classic French cooking – the perfect side dish for a Valentines steak dinner or alongside of piece of duck breast. A bonus, of course, is the color; the addition of crÃ¨me fraiche or sour cream turns the purple cabbage vivid pink.
For the Cabbage2 tbsp butter 1 small onion 2 strips of bacon Â½ red cabbage (about Â½ lb) 1 small apple Â¼ cup dry white wine Â¼ cup chicken stock Â¼ cup hot water 1 tbsp crÃ¨me fraiche or sour cream Salt and pepper Â
- Get prepared: slice the cabbage, peel and slice the onion, core, peel and slice the apple, dice the bacon
- Heat Â½ tbsp of the butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they brown â€“ about 5 Â minutes. Itâ€™s important that they really do become sweet, golden and translucent because they are an important flavor in the dish
- Add the bacon and cook for a few minutes until starting to crisp, then add the cabbage and stir fry for another few minutes until starting to color
- Add the apple, the water, wine and stock. Season well and simmer for 35 mins on a low heat
- Drain the cabbage and put into a processor. Add the remaining butter. Pulse to blend. Stir in the crÃ¨me fraiche
The cabbage can be made in advance and kept warm or heated up gently just before serving â€“ add the crÃ¨me fraiche at the last minute
For the Duck2 duck breasts (5oz each ish) Salt and pepper Vegetable oil Â
- Wipe the duck with kitchen towel to dry. Take a sharp knife and slash the skin in a diagonal cross hatch â€“ youâ€™re trying to cut into the fat, but not to touch the meat. Season the duck well, especially salting the skin. Let the duck sit to come to room temperature
- Preheat the over to 400f and prepare â€“ duck is going to render fat, fat = smoke. Open the window
- Warm a couple of tsp of oil in a heavy pan â€“ ideally one that can go in the oven. Put the duck into the hot fat, skin side down. Let it cook for 5 minutes, pressing down on the meat occasionally to render out more fat
- If a lot of fat pools in the pan and starts to spit, spoon it out as you go â€“ save it in the fridge for roast potatoes
- Turn the duck and cook for 1 minute. Flip it again, skin side down, and put it in the oven for 7 â€“ 9 minutes depending on the size of the duck until medium rare.
- Take the duck out of the oven, wrap in foil and rest for at least 5 mins
- (heat up the cabbage)
- Slice the duck thinly on the diagonal, and serve over the bed of cabbage puree
To turn this dinner into a Valentines feast, consider making this easy pot au chocolate for dessert.