I think that I am making myself physically ill through a combination of not enough sleep and stress. I don’t necessarily have anything to be stressed out about. I’m a very lucky, privileged, middle class white woman, so yeah, I’m far from being in any kind of situation that warrants sympathy. I can afford to buy all of the ingredients I want to cook with and go out to eat at my favorite restaurants, I can go out for drinks without worrying about my account balance, I can buy a new piece of clothing here and there, save up and go on fun vacations…all of it. But at the end of the day, I still feel this crippling anxiety about absolutely nothing. I think it’s just the way things are now. There’s pressure to do well, look good, work hard, maintain some sort of social life, and try to do all of the other little things that you need to do in order to keep on going, like, you know, laundry and regular showers. I guess I feel like I’m not doing everything that I can and I worry about disappointing people or things that shouldn’t make me crazy but they do, like not taking beautiful enough photos for this little blog. Thankfully my husband is incredibly patient and understanding. There are days where I pile too much on for myself, like this past Sunday where I shot three or four recipes for the site, cleaned, worked on the website, met friends for dinner, and before all of that, I tried to teach myself how to shuck a clam by watching YouTube videos for 5 minutes and getting incredibly frustrated when I wasn’t immediately fantastic at it, all while knowing that I was starting to get sick but wanting to push myself anyway. It’s so dumb, isn’t it? I feel like I am living in this world where I believe that I don’t have enough time and it’s just not true. I need to work on that. I need to prioritize and know my limits. I didn’t post yesterday to just give myself a break, especially considering I have yet another upper respiratory infection. SIGH. Sometimes I tell myself that it’s a New York thing and we just love to be miserable out here, but of course, that’s not true and I’m sure you can tell me all about it. Anyway, I’m figuring it out.
I talked about spring garlic last week, and now I will regale you with the wonders of spring ramps. I love to use ramps in sauces, dressings, and spreads, because you really get the full flavor of the ramps, and you can add it to a number of different dishes instead of just eating it one way. Last year I did ramp pesto, which I put on everything from salads to sandwiches, so I wanted to go the other way this year and do a chimichurri. A chimichurri is almost like an Argentinian pesto, if you think about it. It’s got lightly sautéed ramps, raw garlic, and olive oil, but it has a smoother texture than pesto and is used as more of a sauce than as an accompaniment. Chimichurri is excellent on burgers or steaks, but I had some beautiful duck breasts, so I used those. I got my cast iron pan incredibly hot, salted the breasts, then threw ’em in the pan for 6-7 minutes until the skin was a deep, golden brown. I then finished the duck off in the oven with my sweet soy butternut squash and spread some of the chimichurri on top. The dish came together so well and I was really happy with the result! I added some ginger and rice wine vinegar to the chimichurri for a more Asian twist, because when I think duck I always crave Asian flavors along with it. We had a bit of leftover duck and plenty of extra chimichurri, so the next few days we were happy to have duck salads with ramp chimichurri vinaigrette on top; it’s really the dish that keeps on giving! Don’t be afraid of duck – it will take you 10 minutes to make and you get to keep all of that incredibly duck fat to cook potatoes or Brussels sprouts in later, and go out and find some ramps! You may have to search a bit, but they’re only around for a few weeks a year and isn’t it fun to try something new?
A beer tasting, bourbon mint juleps with rosemary, Kramer being pensive, and the giant jar of pesto I made for my demo.
Roughly chop your precious ramps.
Saute your ramps in a little oil, just to wilt them a bit, then set aside to cool.
Place your ramps in a food processor or blender and pulse along with the ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, vinegar, olive oil, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.
Now, for your duck. Cut a criss-cross in the fatty side of the breast, just shallow enough to not actually cut through to the meat, then salt and pepper the breast, place it in a super hot pan with a little oil, and cook for 6-7 minutes, until the fat has mostly rendered and is golden brown. Flip and cook on the other side for an additional 3-5 minutes.
I roasted some vegetables in the oven, then placed them underneath my duck so that they got some of the tasty fat as the duck finished. This is totally optional, but highly recommended. Place your duck in a 450 degree F oven for 5 minutes to finish it off.
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 bunch ramps, cleaned, trimmed and roughly chopped
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 1-1inch piece of ginger, roughly chopped
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- two or three twists of freshly ground black pepper
- zest of 1 lemon
- scallions, for garnish
- 2 large duck breasts
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- In a heavy bottomed pan, add 1 teaspoon of olive oil and heat over medium. Add in your roughly chopped ramps and cook for 5-6 minutes, until just lightly wilted. Set aside to cool.
- In a food processor or a blender, add together your sautéed ramps, olive oil, rice wine vinegar, garlic, red pepper flakes, ginger, salt, pepper and lemon zest. Pulse the mixture until it is mostly smooth but not totally pureed. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Set aside until ready to use. As a side note, you can add a bunch of olive oil to this to create a lovely vinaigrette for your favorite salads. Either way, this chimichurri will keep well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 8 days.
- Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F and prepare to be amazed at how easy this is. First, take your breasts, and on the fatty side, slice two criss-crosses in the fat, but be careful not to cut through to the meat. Rub generously with your salt and pepper.
- In heavy bottomed pan, like a cast iron pan, heat your olive oil over medium-high heat. When the pan is nice and hot, place your duck breasts into the pan, fatty side down. A trick to be sure that the duck doesn't stick to the pan is to drag the breasts along the oil a few times to make them hot before placing them in the pan (putting something hot into a hot pan makes it not stick - cold will stick to hot, like when you put your tongue on a pole in the middle of winter). Either way, fatty side down, cook the breasts for 6-7 minutes, until the skin is a deep, golden brown. Flip and cook on the other side for 2-3 minutes.
- Flip your breasts again and, fatty side up, place them in the oven. You can put them on top of previously roasted vegetables, if you like, or serve the duck alongside a salad or noodles or whatever you prefer. I put my duck on top of roasted vegetables so that they would sizzle in some of the duck fat (I have no shame). Cook the breasts for an additional 5 minutes or so in the oven, then let them rest, covered, for 5-8 minutes. Slice and serve with the chimichurri.