Sunday, November 30, 2008

duck, duck, turkey

Survived another Thanksgiving! No travel, no relatives, no turkey, no black friday mall shopping and no college sports!
Yes Miles home from college - with girlfriend Shiori of course, and yes mu-shu duck! I'm sure their blog posts 20 years from now will read pretty much the same, but for the "no mu-shu duck and no scrabble!" But that's their problem. Hopefully they will still appreciate the duck and the day-after duck soup. Don't think they'll ever forget the drying ducks - or the crispy skin for that matter. At least they know what was hanging in the window, unlike what I saw in Shanghai last february. What exactly was hanging out to dry there??? Pork maybe in one picture, but a bear? I think the animal control or the FDA would be on our doorsteps immediately. We did have pumpkin pie. Spiced up with cardamom, heavy on the ginger and a delicious crust made by Gus and assistant Shiori. (Recipe and picture below - sorry no picture of the prepared mu-shu duck due to ravenous customers.)

the mu-shu duck:

1 duck
3 tbsp malt sugar
2 tbsp rice vinegar

11/2 tsp five spice powder
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 small shallots
8 pieces star anise
2 shallots

Start preparing the night before: 

Wash and dry the duck. Bring a kettle of water to boil. Heat the malt sugar and the vinegar until the sugar has dissolved. 
Pour the bowling water over the duck. This will contract the skin and helps it separate from the flesh for crispy skin. Rub the duck all over with the malt sugar mixture. Stuff with five spice powder mixture and sew up the cavity. Hang duck to dry by it's feet. Be careful, it drips.

Next day:

Preheat oven at 375ºF. Roast duck for 1 hr, or until reddish brown and crispy!

Meanwhile prepare the pancakes:

2 cups plain flour
11/3 cup boiling water
1 tbsp sesame oil plus more

Stir all ingredients rapidly together until you have a pliable ball. Divide dough in 4 equal parts. Roll each out in a log about 2" by 4". Cut into 4 pieces. On a lightly floured surface roll each into a 6" circle. Heat quickly on both sides on a very hot cast iron pan or griddle. Brush thinly with more sesame oil to prevent them from sticking together. Keep warm.

Prepare the stir-fry veggies:

bean-sprouts, washed
napa cabbage or bok choy, shredded
shiitake mushroom, sliced
scallions, white part sliced, greens chopped
1 tbsp soy sauce

Heat a wok, add pan dripping from the duck. Quickly stir-fry the scallion white parts with the shiitake mushrooms. When the mushrooms are soft, add the cabbage for a minute, the soy sauce and remove from heat. Remove to serving dish. Just before serving stir in the bean-sprouts, cilantro and green scallion parts.

Time to serve:

stir fry
hoisin sauce

Carve the duck and slice thinly. Each guest will spread a tsp of hoisin sauce on a pancake. Add a few slices of duck meat and skin and a spoon full of stir fry. Pick up and eat like a taco.

That night I start the duck soup with the bones and left-overs. While certain other family members await their share of left-overs. (Don't worry, we had plenty - even enough for "duck-pot-pie" on the 3rd night.)

Recipe to follow. First the pumpkin pies!

The Pumpkin Pie:

fresh sugar pumpkins

Roast in a 400ºF oven until soft. Scoop out seeds, peel and reserve meat.

pie dough:

21/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks cold butter, in cubes
1/4 cup ice-cold water

Combine all ingredients except ice water in food processor and pulse until coarse but well blended. While the machine is running, slowly but QUICKLY add ice-water through the feed tube until the dough holds together. Divide dough in 2 pieces. Flatten each into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hr.


4 cups fresh pumpkin meat
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cardamom
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ginger
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cloves

Mix all in food processor and blend well.

Preheat oven at 425ºF

Roll out dough to line two 9" pie pans. Pour in filling and decorate with dough scraps. Bake for 15 min at 425ºF, then lower temp to 350ºF for an additional 45 min or so. Until a knife comes out clean.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

first kiln, first wheel, first sale!

First: I sold my first pot! Thanks to my dear friend and painter Holly Collins it was less traumatic than I thought. I was not all too ready to part with my favorite piece, but I'm happy it's found a new home with my friends in Vancouver. Holly just opened an ETSY store herself. You should check out her colorful and sparkling pique-assiette christmas trees and other treasures in Holly's store at ETSY  She was in town to attend a glassblowing workshop - who knows what she'll do next - and visiting old Bainbridge friends Trudy and (incumbent - soon to be re-elected - congressman) Jay Inslee. Great to see them again too. Jay just got back from campaigning in Spokane. Not for himself - I'm sure his seat is safe - but for our governor, Christine Gregoire. I think he gave it all he got - he was as hoarse as Bill Clinton on the stump. So, we missed him for dinner, but us girls had a pretty good meal, with a lot of laughs at the "Four Swallows" on Bainbridge. Maybe a few too many and certainly way too loud. Our waitress commented on how nice it was to have some noise in the restaurant, quite unlike most nights after 9 pm on a  Saturday on Bainbridge!? Shows you how "exciting" this town is and why we never bother to eat out. Didn't quite know how to take her comment either. We took it as a clue that, since we were the only ones left beside the staff table, we should maybe clear out. My mussels were cooked fine, but the taste of the broth was overwhelmed by canned tomatoes.

Second: I bought an - electric - kiln and wheel today!!
Yeah, the mudslinging at home can start in earnest now - after I get the kiln hooked up to 240 volts that is. I can't tell you how excited I am. Of course I'm still thinking about the gas kiln too . . . Maybe if I sell a few more pieces next weekend in - oh I had not mentioned - a show I've been invited to join by my instructor Sherri Grossbauer. It's the "Art in the Woods" self-guided studio tour on November 7, 8 & 9. You can find a brochure online at Sherri has offered to "host" my work in her studio space: Mud Club Pottery and I couldn't be more thankful. 
Pots ready for the show!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

gas or electric?

The day has finally come to acquire my own kiln. No, the gas or electric question has nothing to do with my kitchen. That was an easy choice made years ago: out! with the electric coils and in! with the 6 burner, griddle and 2 oven Viking gas stove. No, it's time to set up a ceramics studio at home. With x-mas break looming - 8 long weeks until the Eagledale Art Center opens up again - panic has set in. I will no longer put up with pottery withdrawal syndrome. Off to craigslist it is then. Thankfully there are plenty potters who dabble in muck and mud for a while only to realize that you can't strike it rich being a potter and eventually give up. Today's CL has no fewer than 8! kilns waiting for new owners. That's not even counting the one (electric kiln) I'm going to look at tomorrow - guess they think they've sold it to me already. Maybe, maybe not. I looked at a gas kiln last week, but I'm sitting on the fence. Up till now I had fired all my pots in a cone 10 gas kiln, with great results. But a handbuilt piece - I call it the "are-you-coming-or-going?-goat", had me worried that it wouldn't survive the gas kiln. My incredibly resourceful instructor Sherri Grossbauer suggested I fire it in the electric kiln. I knew that I didn't like the way the glaze (Pinell Strontium Blue, aka Weathered Bronze) turned out in cone 5, so we tried cone 6. To great result! So here we go with my dilemma. To gas or to electric? The gas firing process seems daunting, but I love so many glazes that need the reduction you can only get in a gas kiln. On the other hand, this glaze is beautiful in either kiln AND my pieces will shrink less. I guess I will make up my mind tomorrow!