Spicy Thai Pumpkin Soup with Crab And Cilantro
The preparation for a weeklong "off site" cooking class in Vietnam brought me to this recipe, which has become a school and family favorite, with the fragrance and flavors of curry paste, ginger, coconut, and citrus.
Equipment: A blender or a food processor; 8 warmed, shallow soup bowls.
3 shallots, peeled and finely minced
2 tablespoons Thai yellow curry paste, preferably organic
3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 pound (500 g) pumpkin or butternut squash, cubed (or 2 cups; 500 ml canned pumpkin puree)
One 28-ounce (765 g) can peeled Italian plum tomatoes in juice
3 cups (750 ml) Homemade Vegetable Stock (page 285) or Homemade Chicken Stock (page 283)
1 cup (250 ml) coconut juice, preferably organic
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
1 tablespoon Vietnamese fish sauce, preferably Red Boat brand (see Note)
7 ounces (200 g) fresh crabmeat
Fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
- In a large saucepan, combine the shallots, curry paste, and ginger and cook over low heat until the shallots are soft and the mixture is well combined, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside 1 tablespoon of the mixture for garnish.
- Add the pumpkin, tomatoes (with juices), and vegetable or chicken stock and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender. Transfer to the blender or food processor and puree.
- Return the mixture to the saucepan and add the coconut juice. Stir to blend. Bring back to a simmer. Stir in the lime juice and fish sauce.
- Place several tablespoons of the crabmeat in the center of each soup bowl. Pour the soup all around the crabmeat. Garnish with the reserved curry-ginger mixture and a sprinkle of cilantro leaves.
Make-ahead note: Complete the recipe through step 2. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Complete at serving time.
Note: Red Boat fish sauce can be found in Patricia's Pantry at my Amazon Store, accessed via her website.
Seared Duck Breast with Fresh Figs and Black Currant Sauce
This is a "Monday night special" in our cooking class in Provence. Our local butcher supplies the most delicious, meaty duck breasts, and a variety of fresh figs are in season from June to October. This super-easy all-purpose sauce could also be used on any grilled or roasted poultry. I use a good-quality balsamic vinegar here, but nothing super-thick or aged. Two brands that I most respect are Rustichella d'Abruzzo and Leonardi.
Equipment: A warmed platter; 4 warmed dinner plates.
16 fresh figs
2 fatted duck breasts (magret), each about 1 pound (500 g)
Fine sea salt
Coarse, freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (125 ml) best-quality balsamic vinegar (see Note)
1 cup (250 ml) crème de cassis (black currant liqueur) or black currant juice
- Stand each fig, stem end up, on a cutting board. Trim off and discard the stem end of the fig. Make an X-shaped incision into each fig, cutting about one-third of the way down through the fruit.
- Remove the duck from the refrigerator 10 minutes in advance before cooking. With a sharp knife, make about 10 diagonal incisions in the skin of each duck breast. Make about 10 additional diagonal incisions to create a crisscross pattern. The cuts should be deep but should not go all the way through to the flesh. (The scoring will help the fat melt while cooking and will stop the duck breast from shrinking up as it cooks.) Season the breasts all over with salt and pepper.
- Heat a dry skillet over medium heat. When the pan is warm, place the breasts, skin side down, in the pan. Reduce the heat to low and cook gently until the skin is a uniform, deep golden brown, about 3 minutes. Carefully remove and discard the fat in the pan. Cook the breasts skin side up for 10 minutes more for medium-rare duck, or cook to desired doneness.
- Remove the duck from the skillet and place the breasts side by side on the warmed platter. Season generously with salt and pepper. Tent loosely with foil and let the duck rest for at least 10 minutes, to allow the juices to retreat back into the meat.
- In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar and crème de cassis and warm over low heat.
- In a saucepan that will hold the figs snugly, arrange them tightly in a single layer, cut end up. Pour the warm vinegar mixture over the figs and cook over low heat, basting the figs with the liquid, for about 3 minutes.
- Cut the duck breasts on the diagonal into thick slices, and arrange on the warmed dinner plates. Spoon the sauce over the duck slices, and arrange the figs alongside. Serve.
Wine suggestion: Almost any good southern Rhône red would be perfect here. Cassis is an overriding flavor in the wines of the region; try the Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages Cairanne from the Domaine de l'Oratoire Saint Martin, the Réserve des Seigneurs, loaded with the spice of red and black currants as well as kirsch.
Variation: Substitute cherries for the figs and cherry eau-de-vie for the crème de cassis.
Note: Leonardi brand balsamic vinegar can be found in Patricia's Pantry at my Amazon Store, accessed via her website.
From The French Kitchen Cookbook, reprinted with permission from William Morrow. Copyright 2013 by Patricia Wells