Once, when I was traveling through Europe with some friends, we decided to have a cheap night in and make dinner in the hostel kitchen.
This was when I was twenty-two; I had already been living and cooking on my own (and running this blog!) for four years by then, but most of my friends were still in the “mostly takeout” part of life. As my friend was stirring the chicken in the pan, I said something about how it should be left alone to brown before being moved, that in stirring it, she was essentially steaming it. And because she was a close friend, and because close friends are allowed that brand of bluntness that I rather like, she turned to me and said, “Stop being such a food know-it-all.”
Actually, my know-it-all tendencies extend far past the kitchen, but that’s another story for another day. As far is cooking is concerned, I’ve managed through over ten years of trial and error (good grief) and probably around 3,000 dinners made (good grief, again) to learn some of the rules of the kitchen. And I’ve also managed to ignore quite a few of them.
So with that in mind, here are a few of the kitchen commandments that I never follow. (I do, however, always leave my chicken alone in the pan to brown.)
1. I don’t sift dry ingredients when baking.
2. I don’t know the difference between floury and waxy potato types. I use whatever potatoes I have for whatever I’m making (and then sometimes I get peeved with myself when a recipe I’ve made before doesn’t turn out the same way. [I’m also very stubborn.])
3. I don’t usually wash my hands after touching raw chicken. (The Country Boy eats raw bacon on the reg, so I feel like someone out there in the universe has smiled upon us.)
4. I don’t use chicken broth when it’s called for. France, oddly enough, is the country of the bouillon cube, and if I make homemade chicken stock, it’s going to be used for chicken and rice soup 90% of the time.
5. I don’t cook pork chops until they’re white inside. (I’m apparently also a serial undercooker.)
6. I don’t peel anything, pretty much ever. I was going to try to peel some carrots last weekend, and I realized I don’t even own a peeler. It’s been over a year since we moved out of our furnished place.
7. This is definitely a French commandment – not sure if American readers will relate – but I don’t keep bread in the house. In a country where it’s eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, that’s a decidedly odd choice, but every time I buy some, it ends up either going stale or being stashed in the freezer “for later.” (Spoiler alert: we have a freezer full of bread.)
8. I don’t sauté onions and garlic together. Pretty much ever. Even when the recipe tells me to. (I also rarely follow recipes, unless I’m testing a cookbook, and even then, it pains me.)
9. I use granulated garlic more often than I use garlic cloves. (And I ain’t bovvered.)
10. Oh, and I eat food out of cans.
Yes, reader, this duck confit is not a 12-hour investment, but rather something from right out of a can. It’s also one of my favorite comfort food dishes when the weather starts to get cooler and, last night, is the dish that made me realize that duck may well be my absolute favorite meat.
I think preferring duck over beef might be another broken kitchen commandment, but that’s fine by me.
Duck Confit and Potatoes (serves 4)
1 can with 4 confit duck legs (or make your own)
6 medium potatoes (I don’t care what kind you use, but after some research, the Internet wants you to use “floury” potatoes, so I say go for it), diced
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
salt, to taste
Preheat the oven to 390 degrees, convection.
Remove the duck legs from the can and place them directly into a Dutch oven, skin-side down. (Save all the fat for other recipes; the fat is pretty much the main reason I make this dish to begin with.) Heat the duck legs over medium-low heat until the skin is crispy, then flip over and cook on the other side for about three minutes. Remove and set aside on a plate.
Pour off any excess fat, leaving about two to three tablespoons in the bottom of the Dutch oven. Add the potatoes and toss well to coat with fat. Season with salt and place in the oven. Roast, stirring once, for 40 minutes, or until the potatoes are golden brown.
Add the granulated garlic and toss the potatoes one more time, then place the duck on top of the potatoes, skin-side up. Return to the oven for five minutes, just to heat the duck through once more.
Serve with a green salad with a very vinegary dressing.