Greetings, faithful readers!
A few weeks ago we had the privilege of attending a vertical wine tasting at the home of some good friends. The experience is even better than it sounds. Several years ago they purchased V Madrone’s 2006, 2007, and 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, and they cellared it for a special occasion to share with good friends.
Well. Lucky us.
At the risk of sounding incredibly pretentious, let me set the record straight. These are Mr. Musky’s college friends, and they’ve seen one another at their worst. Their very worst. Their wives attend my girl’s weekend trips. And let’s just say…
…we’ve seen one another at our best. Our very best.
And that “cellaring” bit? Well, they store their wine in their unfinished basement on the floor. As their Napa Valley tour guide admonished, “You don’t need a fancy cellar! Just place the stuff in a cool, dry spot and walk away.” Those are encouraging words for us plebeians who can’t afford custom built, temperature controlled, mahogany wine racks in fancy cellars.
In leading up to this event, I must admit that I more thoughtfully than usual considered what to offer as a food contribution. I wanted my concoction to be higher-brow than normal while not competing with the wine; rather, it needed to complement it without being fussy. I also wanted to ensure I could make it ahead of time, it would contain protein, carbs, and a vegetable, and it wouldn’t require gymnastics to get it on serving plates and in front of us.
I backtracked two years to something I made as a direct result of our 20th anniversary celebration at The Immigrant Room in The American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin. Normally against the salad course at a four-star restaurant, I insisted we try one to see if it was worthy of foregoing the appetizer. And besides, we hadn’t really filled our annual quota on smoked duck, so that was a no-brainer. So I ordered the Smoked Duck and Wild Rice Cake. With every bite, I committed the flavors to memory in an effort to recreate the single best salad I ever ate.
Chock full of perfectly smoked duck breast and wild rice, these little nuggets pack a flavor and texture punch made in heaven. Smoked any meat is delicious, but smoked duck is tender, juicy, and full flavored. It reminds me of ham, but better. Slightly reminiscent of bacon, but with a chicken-like texture. I could eat this stuff like potato chips – it’s that good, salty, and addictive.
Wild rice grown in the northern midwest compliments the duck. Throw in some nutty parmesan cheese, a few eggs as a binder, and a little sautéed onion and garlic to bring it all together. Then lay the little cakes atop some fresh arugula drizzled with lemon vinaigrette and shavings of extra parmesan.
Oh mama. The only way to make it better is to sip on some ridiculous Cab with five of your best friends on earth.
I will never eat these again without remembering our anniversary and our best couple friends. The kind who love you for you, through the years, boating and fishing shenanigans included.
Check your local specialty food stores for smoked duck, or if you’re a purist like me then buy some from Nueske’s. I had to call the retail store in Wittenberg for the smoked breasts, but it was worth it. If you can’t get your hands on smoked duck, give ham or smoked pork a whirl.
And as for the wine?
We all loved it. My personal favorite was the 2006, but others preferred the 2007, and some liked the 2008 best. It was interesting to taste the differences in the vintages and to see who liked what best. Lucky for me Mr. Musky liked 2006 the least and promptly passed his glass to me. I savored every sip, every bite of the duck cakes, and every nibble of smoked stuffed pork tenderloin prepared by our hosts. The baby bundt cakes for dessert ended the evening with perfection, and we all returned home fully satisfied with our friendship tanks filled.
There’s a certain Hallmark sponsored holiday on the horizon. Be on the lookout now for some high end smoked meat to surprise your honey. And…don’t forget the Cab – it pairs beautifully.
- 1 cup wild rice
- 1 T butter
- 2¼ cups chicken bone broth
- Salt and Pepper
- 2.5 t butter
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 4 eggs, whisked
- 2 cups (about ¾ lb) smoked duck pieces
- More butter and/or bacon fat
- 2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 t dijon mustard
- ¼ t salt
- ¼ t cracked black pepper
- 5 T extra virgin olive oil
- In a rice cooker make the wild rice using the brown rice setting. Alternatively, in a saucepan over medium-high heat bring the rice, butter, and bone broth to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and continue cooking for 45-50 minutes. This step can be completed a day or two in advance.
- Meanwhile, sauté the onion in butter in a medium pan over medium-low heat until translucent, about 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Remove to cool.
- In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and add the parmesan cheese. Add the cooled onion / garlic mixture and cooled rice. Stir in the duck.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-heat. Add the butter and/or bacon fat (I use a mixture) to coat the pan (about 1 T total).
- Pack the duck mixture into ⅓ cup and carefully dump it into the hot grease. Repeat three times, leaving plenty of space in-between each cake.
- Gently press the mound down with the back of a spatula and cook for three minutes, adjusting the heat if necessary.
- Carefully flip the cake after 3-4 minutes and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
- Remove the cooked cakes to a platter and repeat until all the mixture is gone.
- Make a Lemon Vinaigrette by combining the lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper. Whisk to combine, then gradually add the olive oil in a stream while you continue whisking.
- Toss the arugula with the vinaigrette. Mound a bit of dressed arugula on each serving plate, then top with 1-2 duck cakes.