Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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A Bloody Good Sicilian Feast

After several months of waiting impatiently for blood oranges to come into season and to get someone else to share the food with us, I finally had a chance to try some of the Sicilian cooking that I've been wanting to do. Which is to say, I spent half the day cooking.

The results were delectable. The Sicilian Blood Orange Duck turned out very well, and while it took some doing, was not much more trouble than any other duck recipe. It's reasonable for feast food, so I may well make that again someday. The Sicilian Blood Orange and Mozzarella Salad was tasty, and not all that difficult to make. That's useful if you want a fruit salad that is not too sweet. The Sicilian Blood Orange Soda Syrup -- and the Sicilian Lollipops we made out of it -- had a delicious, amazingly complex flavor, but required a tremendous amount of work for a very small yield. Very special occasion only; or if you're lucky enough to live in orange country and a friend brings you a boxful of oranges that you need to do something with quickly, oh heck yes. Also candying orange slices is harder than it looks if you want the blighted things to hold together like they're supposed to; I only got one to behave properly. Well, now I know why this stuff is typically restaurant food for celebrations. But it was sooooo good.

(I got the inspiration from the restaurant Home Sweet Sicily in Terramagne, and from some Sicilian cookbooks and recipes I looked up after that. I have no qualms about borrowing yummy ideas from other dimensions.)


Sicilian Blood Orange Duck


Ingredients:
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon rose baises peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed rosemary
1 tablespoon thyme
2 tablespoons smoked sweet paprika (pimentón)
1 whole duck (about 2 1/2 pounds)
1 blood orange (or rinds)
water


Directions:

Thaw the duck, if frozen.

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

In a mortar and pestle, grind 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, 1/2 teaspoon rose bises peppercorns, and 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper. Add 1/2 teaspoon crushed rosemary, 1 tablespoon thyme, and 2 tablespoons smoked sweet paprika. Stir to combine.

Remove giblets from the duck and reserve for another purpose. Rinse and pat dry the duck. Place it in a baking dish. Prick the skin all over to allow the fat to run out.

If you have already been juicing blood oranges, you can take several of the rinds and stuff them into the body cavity of the duck. Otherwise quarter a blood orange and stuff in as much as will fit.

Sprinkle the spices all over the outside of the duck. It will more or less coat the whole bird in bright red. Pour in enough water to fill the baking dish 1/4" deep.

Put the duck in the oven and cook for about 30 minutes per pound, or 1 1/2 hours for a 2 1/2 pound bird. The skin should be crispy and reddish-brown when done, and the internal temperature should reach 165ºF.

Remove the duck from oven and allow it to rest for 5 minutes before carving. For "Sicilian Blood Orange Duck" the sauce and knife are presented on the side. For "Sicilian Bloody Duck" the sauce is poured over the duck on its platter, and the knife is inserted upright into the bird.


Notes:

Duck is a dark, rich, fatty kind of poultry. You can trim some of the fat off to cook other things in if you wish. Once cooked, a whole duck has four portions if you simply cut off the two big breast pieces and the two thigh/drumstick pieces. The wings have so little meat that it's often easier just to save them for stock. Save the rest of the carcass -- and usually with a duck you get the neck, gizzard, and heart -- then put those in too. Duck stock makes a spectacular cooking liquid. If you don't have a whole duck, you can use the same spices with duck breasts.

Rose baises peppercorns are pink to red with a spicy-sweet flavor. They go very well with any fruity-savory dish.  However, people with nut allergies may have issues with them.  You can substitute white peppercorns for subtlety, or smoked black pepper for a smokier flavor.

Smoked sweet paprika has a very loud smoky note in the can and in the oven. However, it seems to mellow by the time the food is cooked. For about the middle hour of this recipe, it kind of smelled like the house was burning down and I wondered if the flavor would be overwhelming, but it turned out great. So if that happens to you, don't panic. The end result is spicy, a little sweet, with just a hint of smoke.

Blood oranges appear in Sicilian cuisine. They are similar to regular oranges but their color ranges from orange through red to almost purple. The flavor is sweet, tangy, and has a pronounced musky note that gets stronger the more red they are. This fruit performs well in both sweet and savory dishes. They are usually available in mid-to-late winter.

* * *

Sicilian Blood Orange Duck Sauce

Ingredients:
1 cup blood orange juice and pulp (about 3 oranges)
1 teaspoon blood orange zest
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon rosemary
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 cup duck drippings
1/8 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon tapioca starch


Directions:

Wash and pat dry the blood oranges. Zest the oranges until you have 1 teaspoon of zest. Use short criss-cross strokes with a zester, or use a grater, to make small shreds. Set the zest aside.

Cut the blood oranges in half and juice them. Make sure to keep the seeds out, but you can use the pulp for this sauce.

Pour the juice into a saucepan and turn on low to medium. Add the zest. Add 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon thyme. Stir to combine. Simmer for at least ten minutes to blend the flavors.

Add 1/2 cup duck drippings, 1/8 cup sugar, and 1/2 tablespoon tapioca starch. Stir to combine. Cook until it thickens to the consistency of sauce you want. It should come out a rich, slightly brownish red. You can serve it either on the side, or poured over the duck.

* * * * *

Sicilian Blood Orange and Mozzarella Salad


Ingredients:
1 teaspoon blood orange zest
2 blood oranges
2 tangerines
8 oz. mozzarella pearls
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon full-flavor olive oil


Directions:

Wash and pat dry all the fruit. Zest the blood oranges into a small bowl until you have a teaspoon of zest. If you have oranges with a red blush on the skin, use the reddest part for the zest because it has more color and flavor. The darker skin usually indicates darker pulp, too, and this salad looks best with very red oranges. Set aside the zest.

Peel the fruit. Separate the sections. Slice each section into bite-sized pieces. Put them all in a big bowl.

Unwrap the mozzarella pearls. Gently separate them from each other and add them to the fruid salad. Toss to combine.

Into the bowl with the blood orange zest, add 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon full-flavor olive oil. Taste for flavor. You can add more sugar if you want it sweeter, more vinegar if you want it tangier, or more olive oil if you want something closer to a classic vinaigrette.

Drizzle the dressing over the fruit salad. Toss to combine. Serve immediately. Makes 4-6 servings.


Notes:

This recipe makes a sweet-sour-savory salad more robust than most fruit salad. It lives or dies on the quality of its ingredients. You need fresh, sweet citrus to make it work. Get the best mozzarella, vinegar, and olive oil you can.

Blood oranges appear in Sicilian cuisine. They are similar to regular oranges but their color ranges from orange through red to almost purple. The flavor is sweet, tangy, and has a pronounced musky note that gets stronger the more red they are. This fruit performs well in both sweet and savory dishes. They are usually available in mid-to-late winter.

If using a zester, then zest the oranges using small, criss-cross motions. That way you get small bits of zest rather than long solid curls so they will mix well in the salad. Alternatively you can zest with a grater.

If you don't like or find tangerines, you can use regular oranges, clementines, or similar citrus instead.

Mozzarella pearls are little marble-sized balls of fresh mozzarella. You may find them packed alone or floating in olive oil or vinegar. The 8 oz. package I bought was about the size of an orange. For a non-dairy option, consider substituting an almond 'cheese' or white grapes.

Balsamic vinegar has a very complex flavor and dark color. It makes the white mozzarella balls less white. So if you don't like balsamic vinegar, you can use something else here such as red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or white vinegar.

Olive oil comes in pretty bland kinds for cooking in and rich complex kinds for putting on salads or other places where you want the flavor. Try for one that has fruity or nutty notes.

* * *

Sicilian Blood Orange Soda Syrup


Ingredients:
1 tablespoon blood orange zest (about 2 oranges)
2 1/2 cup blood orange juice (about 8 oranges)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon orange flower water


Directions:

Scrub all the blood oranges with a vegetable brush and pat dry. Zest the blood oranges into a small bowl until you have a tablespoon of zest. If you have oranges with a red blush on the skin, use the reddest part for the zest because it has more color and flavor. The darker skin usually indicates darker pulp, too, and this syrup looks best with very red oranges. Set aside the zest.

Cut the oranges in half and juice them. If you want to candy a few orange slices, cut them about 1/4 inch thick and put them in the saucepan with the juice.

Into a saucepan put the orange juice, zest, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Turn the heat on low to medium. Simmer for 5-10 minutes to merge the flavors.

Take the juice off the heat and strain it. Discard the pulp.

Put the juice back on the stove. Add 1/2 cup sugar. Cook until the juice reduces to a syrup that will coat a spoon. If you're making candied orange slices for garnishing, watch for them to soften but take them out before the pulp liquefies; if you're going to put them on a cake, you can leave them in longer. Candied orange slices may be solidified by putting them on a sheet of waxed paper and setting them in the refrigerator.

Let the syrup cool. When it gets down to lukewarm, stir in one tablespoon of orange flower water. Then the syrup is ready to use.

The usual proportion is 1/4 cup soda syrup to 8 oz. of soda (ginger ale, club soda, seltzer, etc.). You may find that you want more or less syrup than that, so taste carefully the first time you mix it up. This recipe cooks down to less than a cup of syrup by the time it thickens, so it doesn't make much, but the flavor is spectacular: sweet, a little sour, with a rich array of subtle bitter and aromatic notes underneath. It comes out a bright red to reddish-purple in the glass.


Sicilian Lollipop: Based on the classic Shirley Temple, this uses blood orange syrup instead of grenadine. 1/8 cup soda syrup, 4 oz. ginger ale, and it's garnished with a ginger matchstick stuck into a slice of candied blood orange. (The Shirley Temple has a maraschino cherry garnish, so you can tell them apart at a glance.)


Notes:

Blood oranges appear in Sicilian cuisine. They are similar to regular oranges but their color ranges from orange through red to almost purple. The flavor is sweet, tangy, and has a pronounced musky note that gets stronger the more red they are. This fruit performs well in both sweet and savory dishes. They are usually available in mid-to-late winter.

Orange flower water is used throughout much of Mediterranean cooking. So is rose flower water, which you can use if you don't have orange flower water.

You can zest in long curls for this recipe, since you'll be straining them out later anyhow. Ideally the syrup should turn out smooth and translucent red. The more zest you put into the syrup while it heats, the more of the bitter and aromatic notes you get. If you candy orange slices in the syrup, that adds more too. If you want a shallower, sweeter flavor then you can leave out the rind.

Although primarily intended as a soda syrup, you could also use this to pour over ice cream or snow cones, soak sponge cookies in, or whatever else you like to do with flavored syrups.
Tags: ethnic studies, food, recipe
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