The letters have been pretty good here in the Pan lately—oftentimes way more interesting than what I come up with myself. So I thought I would air out some particularly choice specimens, followed by my own two cents, of course.
This first letter came from a guy who obviously read the recent Flash installment, “Around the world in a duck.”
Chef: Here’s the only way to prepare a wild duck without resorting to alchemy. Skin the duck. Peel an orange. Save the peel, eat the fruit. Cut the peel into long thin splinters. Find a long, thin-bladed knife, like a stiletto or a fruit knife. Pierce the flesh of the duck with the blade, then give it a half turn. Insert the orange peel slice into the cut and close the wound by turning the knife back the way it came. Do this about every square inch or so all over the duck. Then bake. Glaze if you must. What emerges from the oven is a delicacy fit for a maharajah! A delicate citrus whisper eliminates all of the objectionable flavors of your true mallard. As for the tenderness problem…wrap the bird in a couple of breadsacks and back over it with your car a couple of times. —AdBuster
You are not alone in objecting to the flavor of wild duck. With all the fishiness of the wetland and twice the gaminess of internal organs, wild duck is a culinary force to be reckoned with.
The French especially, I’m told, like to hang their ducks for days, or even weeks, before gutting them. This gives the guts and bloodshot areas, aka the gamiest parts of the animal, time to diffuse their aroma throughout the meat.
Before you scoff, remember: these are the folks who perfected moldy cheese. I bet those ripened ducks go well with wine. Maybe the festering juices do some tenderizing.
Anyway, AdBuster, I recommend the crispy duck at Thai Spicy. Meanwhile, I’m going to try your non-alchemistic approach to flavor management.
Yo Chef, I love eggs. Always have. Over the years my preference in styles has changed on a regular basis. Like the change from bourbon to scotch, I felt the move from poached to soft-boiled marked an important step in my life.
These days I’m eating fried egg sandwiches. Runny yokes make a mess, hard fried is gross, and plain scrambled is painfully bland. O.K., I start like good ol’ sunny-side-up, then once the white has formed and there’s a solid base, I lightly scramble. Wow: the perfect balance of white and yellow, the sophisticated dichotomy of yolk and albumen.
Chef, please help. Do these eggs have a name? —Wamest Regards, John Thomas
Dear Mr. Thomas,
Yes, yes, yes. The “perfect balance of white and yellow.” I, too, know the pleasure of the “half-scramble,” or whatever you call it.
The take-home lesson, dear reader, is that with eggs, each one of us has our own personal balance, as unique as a fingerprint. Some are so afraid of the white slime that they like their eggs well-cooked. For me, there is only one rule: It’s better with mayo. As for you, Mr. Thomas, it sounds like you know what you want from an egg. That’s healthy.
In Peter Matthiessen’s novel At Play in the Fields of the Lord, there is a soft-boiled egg scene that could pass for soft-porn. Is that healthy? You decide:
Padre Xantes put his knife aside. He cleared his throat, gazing at the soft yolk with intent pleasure. As usual, he began salivating, and he was obliged to swallow several times before daring to pick up the elegant spoon. He wiped his lips with his napkin, then wiped his palms, which had begun to sweat again in the humidity of the evening.
With ceremony, he took up the spoon and lifted it with utmost care into his mouth. First placing the bowl of the spoon upon his tongue, he managed to slide the yolk into his mouth undamaged; holding his breath, he replaced the faithful spoon upon the table.
Padre Xantes sits like that for a long moment, dear reader, gently fondling the almost raw cojone in his mouth. After ascertaining that there are no imminent disturbances or witnesses, he presses up with his tongue, “…savagely, uttering a tiny squeak of pleasure; the yolk exploded in abandon, mounting deliriously toward his sinuses, then sliding past the roots of his tongue into his throat.”
After reading that for the first time, I ate very many Padre Xantes-style eggs. You should too
E-mail Chef Boy Ari: email@example.com