Mack's Corner

This Week

Sunday Dinner

A few years ago I went to dinner one Sunday night at a new restaurant, Tony O's. A good friend of mine, a pediatric neurosurgeon and his daughter invited us to go. The food was great, Foie Gras with rhubarb jam, Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Shiitake mushrooms, Seared Scallops carrot mousse and candied bacon, Lamb sirloin with braised bok choy and fiddlehead fern and spicy plum sauce, Citrus Rice Pudding with Almond Tuile and Roasted Strawberries, Vanilla bean macaroon, lemon bar and a golden chocolate truffle..  This wasn't Burger King!  ….. The company was great too. We talked about duck hunting and how to cook it (See recipe below), Shakespeare, brain surgery, how important daughters are to keep their fathers inline so they don't embarrass themselves .. all kinds of things. Then we talked about the chef, Tony Oliveira. 

Tony was treated at St. Jude when he was 8 years old for a malignancy. Six years later, cured of the first malignancy, he had a second one. After a bone marrow transplant and lots of pain he was cured a second time. Voted most likely to succeed by his high school graduating class, he then attended Nichols State College in Thibodaux La and John Folse Culinary School. He went on to do a 6 month internship in Paris, France. The day he graduated from culinary school he was on a live television show with Emeril Lagasse. He was named executive chef at a new French Restaurant in Vail, Colorado moving there with his girl friend a pastry chef.  In 2008, now 26 years old, he developed his third malignancy, a very malignant tumor probably related to his prior treatments. He called my friend (the neurosurgeon) and had to come home because the tumor had spread to his brain. Tony continued to work part time at Restaurant Iris.  The doctors had successfully stopped the progression of the cancer but he was told at St. Jude that there was no longer hope for a cure and he had a very limited time to live. With this news he planned the last 6 months of his life. He married his girl friend and they went on a honey moon in New Orleans, from there they spent a week in Florida with his parents, sister and her new baby whose father is in Iraq. When he got home he planned this dinner to benefit St. Jude.  So they closed Restaurant Iris that Sunday and opened it back up Sunday night as "Tony O's".  Tony O's was open for 3 hours…..

God's like that: I'm sure the doctors felt like they had failed when they told Tony there was nothing else they could do, but Tony didn't think they failed. He got to live 18 years longer than he was supposed to, He got to marry his sweetheart, He got to Cook in Paris, He got to open his own restaurant, He got to thank a bunch of people who had loved him for a long time. He got to change people's lives …. We fail all the time. Our kids may not turn out the way we wanted, marriage didn't work, hate our job, maybe you just don't feel like you've really accomplished anything in your life…. God doesn't see it that way. He's got big plans for you. If he was finished with you, you would be gone!!! He's got lives to change and you get to be part of it.. Get ready!  The adventure starts today!


Cooking 220 - 2 pans, 2 burners, 20 minutes:

New Orleans Continued ….

Most duck hunters are good at hunting but they're not very good at cooking. They treat duck as if it something they have to choke down, so they wrap it in bacon or cover it in ranch dressing or marinate it in some weird liquid that seems to always include Coke… it's generally awful. Every time I see hunters cooking duck its cut up in to small pieces and cooked till it black. Maybe the small pieces make it easier to swallow? John Besh is a duck hunter so there's still hope for all that duck in your freezer….

Here's another John Besh recipe from his cookbook "My New Orleans"…

Seared Breast of wild duck with red wine and figs:

If you don't have any wild duck you can get duck breasts at the grocery store.

Also if you are a hunter, this works for almost all wild game. If you don't have an oven at your camp, a Dutch oven will work too. Just sear it in that and then put the top on … Be sure to take a meat thermometer. 

8 whole boneless duck breasts with all the fat still on them

Salt & pepper

2 pinches of sugar (about 1 tsp)

1 medium onion chopped

1 clove garlic minced

2 cups red wine

2 tbsp red wine vinegar (any vinegar will work)

1/2 cup fig or any other fruit preserves.. whatever you like

1 sprig of fresh thyme or rosemary or sage… any will work

Preheat the oven to 450

Season the duck with salt and pepper and the sugar..(only use a little sugar. It will burn if you get stupid with it.)

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Sear the duck breasts skin side down (you don't need any oil because the fat from the duck breast will give you plenty). Sear the breasts until the skin is golden and crisp, about 3 minutes..

Turn the breasts over and transfer the skillet to the oven and cook for 5 more minutes. The meat should be 130 degrees. After 4 min, check it with your meat thermometer. When it gets to 130, get it out of the oven and get the duck out of the pan..

Return the skillet (duck fat still in it) back to the stove. Add the onions and cook till golden, about 10 min, stir often.

Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 min. This flavors the fat in the pan. Don't let it burn. Burnt garlic taste terrible. Take it off the heat if you have to..

Add the wine, vinegar, fig preserves and thyme/rosemary/sage sprig and cook until the pan sauce is reduced by half, about 15 minutes…

Strain the sauce into a small sauce pan or bowl, discarding solids …. Taste it, re-season with salt and pepper, vinegar, sugar… A balance or hot(pepper), sour(vinegar), salty(salt), sweet(figs and sugar) is what you are going for. If you can't quit tasting it, stop! You're done.  

Return the duck breasts to the turned-off but still hot oven to just warm through.. if they are still warm, don't worry about it….

Slice the breast crosswise into 1/2 inch thick slices, fat and all. It should still be rare. Serve with the sauce…. You won't have to force it down…

Standard rules apply … this is best eaten with your fingers while the sauce is still in the pan.. Especially around a campfire with good friends or standing around the stove in your own kitchen with your family … This should never last long enough to get to a plate …



Posted by Mack Oates at 7:59 AM