Monday was a busy, stress filled day but it really doesn’t matter. What matters is how I dealt with it.
A few months ago I would have taken a Xanax on top of my daily dose of Prozac. Or, I would have just climbed into bed feeling debilitated and ordered a pizza for my family. I certainly would have whined and moaned until I successfully ran everyone off.
But on Monday, I didn’t allow such. I didn’t allow it for several reasons.
I quit Prozac a month ago when I realized I wasn’t even depressed. Then I stopped using Xanax when I figured out the stress I was feeling was simply energy guised as anxiety. Annie (my therapist) suggested I use the energy instead of stuffing it with food, wine and pills.
Cooking keeps me out of trouble so I committed to a recipe.
Let me back up to the events leading up to my decision to cook duck on a Monday night after a grueling day at work.
My friend, Dave, gave me a package of wild duck after one of his hunting trips last fall. I’ve never cooked duck. I had never eaten wild duck. It was exciting to think about cooking something that a friend shot from the sky.
When I discovered the duck breast was skinned, I felt intimidated. I had read at least a dozen recipes for preparing duck. Cooking duck had been on my radar for a very long time. I understand scoring the skin in a criss-cross fashion and rendering the fat. But, I had no clue how to prepare it without the skin. I’d never seen such dark red meat before.
So, I froze it and avoided doing anything with it for as long as I could. After several months the duck in the freezer started annoying me. Dave’s duck was taking up precious space and often prevented me from closing the freezer drawer without making adjustments. Worse, every time I looked at it I was reminded that I was afraid. I have the same fear of the pressure canner I ordered last summer and still haven’t used.
Fortunately, I found inspiration and guidance when I searched wild duck on the internet. As luck would have it, Hank Shaw has a new cookbook called Duck. Duck. Goose. I’ve followed Hank’s award-winning blog Hunter, Angler, Cook since 2010. He writes for Field and Stream, Fine Cooking, Organic Gardening and many more magazines. After discovering Hank’s recipe for Thai Red Curry Duck, I was ready to thaw out Dave’s duck.
On Sunday, I set the package on the lower shelf in the refrigerator. I wasn’t sure how long it would take to thaw. By Monday morning it was almost ready but thanks to a hole in the bag, blood ran out into the refrigerator.
In addition to trying to quickly prepare steel-cut oats, I had to clean the tray in the refrigerator. John was already freaking out that he would be late for school and James wanted a cup of coffee and kept getting in my way.
We have a corner in the kitchen that seems to attract everyone, including the dog, at the same time. Ringo is always at my feet hoping to catch remnants of food that fall from the cutting board. The coffee maker and cups are there as is Big Red, my mixer. This corner is so popular I’m going to give it a formal name.
Yes, she is showing off the bird she caught.
While I’m thinking about it… Let me give you some advice on steel-cut oats….don’t believe the directions on the box. They take longer than 30 minutes to make and microwaving them is a joke. I know because I tried the suggested shortcut and trashed the microwave when the oats blew up.
Anyway, we had breakfast. I raced John to school and hurried to work. My lunch hour was spent at the grocery store where I was able to get all but two ingredients. At the office, I put the groceries in the company refrigerator. At five, I was in a hurry to get home because I wanted to exercise. Thankfully, I remembered the groceries! On the way home I stopped at Whole Foods to buy lemongrass and cilantro. By the time I got home I was starting to feel tense.
The kitchen was out of order from the morning chaos. Laundry was piled up, waiting to be folded. The dishwasher was packed with dirty dishes and there were more in the sink. Someone forgot to replace the toilet paper on the holder and I was caught with my pants down.
James got home just in time to be accused of not being very helpful around the house. I barked at John because his teacher emailed me about a poor grade. There was homework to supervise and a weeks worth of household chores. But, I was hell-bent on making Thai Red Curry Duck.
Sweet James. He sensed my tension and invited me on a walk and reluctantly, I went. Walking was the last thing I wanted to do. What I wanted was a bottle of wine. By the end of the walk he had me laughing at myself. Though he gives it very little merit, he let me blame my behavior on hormones. I love it! It’s times like that when I am happy to be a woman with a built-in excuse for being a bitch.
Even though James offered to get take-out, I would not bail on my mission to cook the duck. Earlier in the day, I posted on Hank Shaw’s Facebook that I was using his recipe. Yes, that’s right. I announced to his 20,000 followers and my group of 600 very close friends, that I was setting up the the wok and cooking the duck.
To my surprise…Hank responded! HANK SHAW RESPONDED TO MY FACEBOOK POST. More pressure. I was that close to fame. I had to do it.
I started a pot of brown rice, knowing it would take about 45 minutes. Hank’s curry would only take 25. I began laying out the ingredients. That’s when I found that I had left some of the groceries at the office. I didn’t have the potatoes, ginger, chili peppers or limes.
James had already refused to go to the liquor store for the Hank’s recommented Riesling to pair with the dish. It was to be an alcohol free night and James was busy packing for his trip to Bahrain.
When he saw how upset I was, he offered to go to the store. While he was gone (it felt like an hour) the rice cooked, then became lukewarm and dry. I tossed it and started another batch. John came in and wanted me to make him a grilled cheese sandwich. Making the sandwich, I knew, would be easier than getting him to eat duck. So, I called him sweetie and made the sandwich.
James finally returned with the items I needed. And, when I quizzed him about what took so long (yes, I am a bitch)he informed me he went to two grocery stores because one didn’t carry fresh ginger. What a man! The ginger root was the size of my lower arm. He bought a bunch of peppers and limes. He scored some really fancy new potatoes. And…he went to the liquor store for the wine.
I kept notes as I prepared the dish and I growled a lot while cooking.
Note to self: Don’t buy tiny new potatoes when they will be peeled and diced. Note to Hank: What kind of hot chili pepper and when do you add them to the dish?
It came together nicely, in spite of four trips to the store, and the dish was full of flavor. The Riesling worked, though I had my doubts at first. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in love with the flavor of wild duck. Justin, a friend of mine who is an accomplished CIA trained chef, says I probably cooked it for too long. I’ll probably try it again. Or I might not. I might just go to my friend Darrin’s restaurant, Doc’s, the next time I crave duck. Or better yet, ask Justin to make it!
As for Hank, I will continue to follow his blog. I’m going to attend his book signing when he visits Ludvine in Oklahoma City. Someday I might sign on for one of his excursions and learn how to shoot a duck myself. I might even bravely invite him and his partner to join us when we go handfishin or to the rattlesnake roundup.
I’ll stay on course, seeking culinary adventure and hopefully expand far beyond my kitchen. Next week I’m going on vacation.
In Amsterdam, we are going to at De Kas, a greenhouse sited restaurant, for dinner. In Berlin we will explore authentic German food. In Warsaw, we will try Polish Cuisine. I’ll try Zubrowka, which is vodka infused with the Bison Grass that grows in a primeval forest which straddles the borders of Poland and Belarius. When I get home, I’ll give my friends salt from my tour of the 13th century Wieliczka Salt mine. And, I will post my experiences and pictures.
I’m excited to go and I will enjoy the time with James. But I will truly miss cooking in my kitchen….with Kitty in the window, Ringo licking the floor, and John asking for a grilled cheese sandwich.
Duck. Duck. Goose. Mom on the loose!