Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Wild Duck Chase

Rarely does a grocery trip lead one over the river and through the woods. In pursuit of a particularly special ingredient, however, sometimes an adventure is in order.  Duck eggs fall into this category.  If given a choice, I choose to bake with duck eggs exclusively.  They can be difficult to track down even at peak production (laying).  After the autumnal equinox, when daylight becomes scarce, poultry lay less.  This is inconvenient for holiday cooks.  I had been able to steadily source duck eggs all summer.  I had monopoly on any and all eggs laid by my friend Elizabeth's ducks after October 31.  Her ladies quit laying when we had an arctic dip that brought snow and bitter cold.  Shit.  Right before Thanksgiving.
left: duck egg, right: large chicken egg

So the search was on.  Whole Foods, the Anderson's,  Raisin Rack,  Trader Joe's, and every other specialty or Chinese market I could find--no one had any.  So then I reached out to farmers in my area I found on the internet.  I then had to send my best friend a text making a vulgar joke about my wide-eyed search for duck on the internet.  Several of the farmers' phone numbers were disconnected,  websites defunct; a sad reminder that it's a very tough way to make a living.  Two got back to me and told me their ducks had also stopped laying.  I decided to nip my obsessive-compulsive search in the bud and go about my Thanksgiving prep. 
A few days later, I got a reply from a farmer about 45 minutes away.  She thought that with the size of her flock and the advanced notice, she could scrape together almost a dozen.  This was perfect because I only needed six, but a converted friend was also looking and could use the rest.  We set an appointment and I made sure I had $4 in cash.  It seemed silly that a dozen of such premium eggs would only cost $4.  I wanted to overpay, but didn't want to come off as pretentious either.  I just wondered if $4 covered the cost of what these eggs were worth?
Last Tuesday, the first morning of my self-appointed Thanksgiving break, I set out on my errand.  I was enjoying a certain weightlessness knowing that I had essentially seen every one of my clients in the past few weeks, or at least communicated with them.  Taking time off when you're self-employed is dicey because there is no income.  But with organization and communication, it is doable.  My cell phone is with me and answered at all times (unless I'm driving or with a client), because I do my scheduling mostly via text.  I used to use an automated booking software through a website, but it was prone to occasional glitches.  This way, nothing slips through the cracks and my clients are able to get exactly the times they want.  Anyway, having communicated with everyone, I knew my phone wouldn't be ringing.  I enjoyed the beautiful drive.
The shadows were long and spindly as they only are in November.  The sun was just rising as I started.  Barbie was in the backseat, excited that our morning drive started with a left turn instead of a right.  There was a striking juxtaposition between the eastern and western faces of hills.  The sunlight was so exceptionally gold and the darkness on the other side was icy blue on frosty brush.  Crossing one river and weaving along the banks of another, catching peek-a-boo vistas between trees, it was all very picturesque.  I got lost a few times--being confused by a road called Bells on one side and Wells on the other. 
I thought so much about being thankful on this drive.  The news from Ferguson had broken the night before.  I thought about the businesses being looted, the families ruptured, and childishly about the Thanksgivings that were ruined.  I realize how inane that must sound.  Nonetheless, I was grateful for my picturesque morning.  Excited to collect my duck eggs, turn off the news, turn on hours of Kygo remixes, and bake and chop, and enjoy my traditional prepwork cocktails.
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a few odds and ends from my non-blogging time.
a "Bon Voyage!" cake I made when my grandpa and love-her-like-a-grandma-but-not-my-grandma were going on a 25 day cruise

Martha Stewart's Blueberry Muffins from Entertaining 




these were for a visiting uncle/Memorial Day/you're pregnant! brunch

that black spot is a birthmark. It worried me when I first got Barbie.  My vet assured me it was perfectly normal


I've said it before, Barbie is a long way from her life in Amish Country 

I found these ferns and hydrangeas growing in the yard of the rental house in Hilton Head.  If anyone knows the type of fern, I would love to know. 


Last B-A-L-L ( a word one can't say in Barbie's presence) before a big storm

A man obsessed. On the left, my Goose Pot.  A birthday gift and  lifelong souvenir from Le Cookery . Doesn't everyone travel with their Le Creuset?
So, if you've made it through my drive with me (I didn't intend to write so much about it) and random photo stream, now we can talk about why I love duck eggs.  They are huge and gorgeous.  They have less white than chicken eggs and double the yolk.  Their whites are stronger, however, so they stand up beautifully to baking.  They are so creamy and buttery, they add a custard-like quality.  Because they have thicker shells, they stay fresh longer.  They have more albumen, the protein in egg whites, which makes for fluffier and more substantial pastries.  I substitute them 1:1 with chicken eggs.  I don't know if this is a by the book conversion, but it has worked for me.  If you are making a cheesecake, the effort is especially worth it to track them down.  Duck eggs take cheesecake to a whole other place. I always make a croquembouche at Christmas, and I am very much hoping to track down more duck eggs for that.  I think they will be wonderful in my Grand Mariner pastry cream. 

If you're local, this is the farm where I found my Thanksgiving duck eggs.  They were gorgeous!

Have you ever cooked with duck eggs?  

40 comments:

  1. No but now I want to!
    Lovely dishes of things you've made, you are such a generous cook, and the presentation! Thanks for sharing, this post was 11/10.

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    1. Thank you so much! I am exceptionally flattered to have the FF measure of excellence bestowed upon me. Let me know if you find duck eggs!

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  2. You are pretty amazing with your discovery and sourcing of duck eggs. I am going to keep my eye out, never cooked with them before. Love all the food photos and the dramatic beach shot.You have got the knack of platter presentation down, they are all perfect!

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    1. Thank you so much, Cindy! Catering will whip anyone into a platter designer. I very often do the same designs. And always keep an axis in mind with how I arrange things. Barbie LOVES the beach! I think it's because she gets so much attention from strangers!

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  3. I was relieved to get to the end of the story...I was worried you were going to tell me you overlooked a client's appointment!!!! Fabulous array of foods! And I love hydrangeas. Barbie is gorgeous. Wish our dog and cat got on so well. We have a French bulldog and he is pretty zany!

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    1. Thank you so much! Ooh Frenchies are so cute! AH! Forgetting a client appointment is a nightmare of mine. It ony happened once. And I'm still haunted!

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  4. First, Stephen Andrew....you write beautifully. It was fun to ride along in the car with you and Miss Barbie. I've never experienced anything with duck eggs but I believe everything you say about them. The foodie photos are spectacular and it ticks me off that you have been keeping them from us. You are one exceptional cook and baker. Carry on!

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    1. Thank you so very much, Lori! What a nice thing to say. I really appreciate it.

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  5. I love duck eggs!! WE get them at the Stockton Farmers Market in Stockton NJ. They are really great, and Iove that dog and cat it reminds me of my Remy and Dakota who often hang out on the couch together too!

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    1. What do you like to do with your duck eggs? They're such a great ingredient. My cat and dog were so sweet together. I miss having a cat!

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  6. What a wonderful post! My man travels with his Le Creuset and, of course, his knives. @the relished roost: my bro-in-law is a cabinet maker/custom furniture builder in Stockton, NJ. I only mention this because it's such a small community.

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    1. Hello, Mara! And welcome. Your husband/boyfriend sounds like someone who gets me! Haha. Knives are too personal to share! I feel like an idiot when I try to use someone else's knives.

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    2. Thank you for your welcome. I feel like an idiot because after I posted, I realized I didn't spell my name right. Doh! Don't ask -- it's been a tough 2 months. My name is actually Marla. I just can't type and think sometimes!

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    3. Haha you'll hear no judgment from me. The other day I signed my name and dotted an imaginary "i" over my last name.

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  7. I love this post! I really enjoyed following along on your adventure :) I've never tried duck eggs, or perhaps I've had some before and I just don't remember it... I definitely haven't cooked or baked with them myself. Baking a cheesecake with duck eggs sounds great. I might have to try that! xx

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    1. Thank you, Yuko! I'll bet there are a lot of wonderful farmers around you. Look for some in the spring! You could make a birthday cheesecake in May!

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  8. As much as I love lime you love blue Le Crueset....
    Had a duck egg once and it was a Very Big Egg...no one tells you!

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    1. So true! I love the lime/kiwi too. I agonized over which color LC to buy. Talk about a first world problem. I would have preferred white, but opted not to because LC only makes every product in their line in four colors: flame, soleil, marseille, and cherry. It was important to my little neurotic brain that all my pieces match! Haha. So I opted for marseille. I love it so much.

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  9. So good to visit you once again! The gorgeous food displays are far too pretty to eat. Such talent you have. :-) Barbie is looking fantastic as usual, too, and that was some storm coming in, very scary! I have never had duck eggs, but they sound wonderful. We do have a few jumbo laying hens here that have completely stopped their aforementioned laying and I'm missing the eggs something awful. Our cold weather came on very suddenly here and they haven't recovered from the shock, either.

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    1. Hello, Karen! Thank you so much. I wish I thought my food was too pretty to eat! Haha would make getting dressed a lot more fun! I've been surprised how cold Wisconsin and the UP have stayed this fall. We warmed back up about a week after the snowfall in mid November. Which came just early enough to kill all my herbs I was hoping to keep until Thanksgiving. I need a greenhouse! Glad to hear from you. I always love seeing your spectacular garden flocked with snow.

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  10. Thank God you are back Stephen...did not comment on your last post because I did not want to get too excited lest you disappeared again. I have not even read this post yet - I am at work - and am going to save it so I can savour it at leisure.....
    I have been quite frustrated because no sooner had I discovered you - and recommended you to all my friends - than you went MIA. I know it must be hard to keep up with the blogging - especially given you busy life and the fact that you are obviously such a perfectionist - but try to hang in there because like our dear FF you bring such happiness and colour to the world that it would be a shame for you to stop.

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    1. You are so sweet! Thank you so much. FF attracts the most wonderful readership and I am glad that people find me through her! I'm also glad that I could appear as a perfectionist! I was raised by a consummate perfectionist, thankfully she only demands perfection from herself, not her children! Anyway, I try to keep moving with things rather than hunker down until everything is perfect. I'm proud to usually serve meals within 15 minutes of my personal deadlines. Which sometimes means details must be scrapped at the last minute. Thanks so much for your kind comment.

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    2. Your mother sounds like a very wise woman.
      She must be very proud of all you have achieved. It is all very well to be a perfectionist but as you have found it it also healthy to be flexible when necessary. Would love to see what is going on in the salon.

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  11. You are such a source of information! Just love that you share your knowledge and expertise. Also, you are one funny, genuine person, who brings lots of fun to blogland.
    Yours in pinot grigio.

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    1. Thank you! I'm glad my droning on about duck eggs wasn't prohibitively boring! Cheers! I'm enjoying a lot of prosecco with it being the holidays. But PG always has my heart!

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  12. My neighbor across the street has ducks and offered me some. We stared at them in our fridge for a week but just couldn't bring myself to cook with them!...LOL... oh, how I wish I had tried them atleast in the baking!... BUT.. perhaps I should ask for a few for my canoli cheesecake this Christmas.

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    1. Oooooh yes! Definitely try to source them for your Christmas cheesecake! It'll be worth the effort! I know--I was intimidated to use them at first, too!

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  13. Your luggage must be very heavy!!! Please come visit me in DC (with your Le Creuset) and teach me to cook :) I promise to have duck eggs ready. Wonderful post, Stephen. We all have much to be thankful for. And I just called my family to say we're on for Christmas.
    Ciao ciao

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    1. Haha my luggage is an adventure. It's a good thing I hate air travel, because I would need about seven tickets. I like to travel like it's 1900 and bring every convenience of home! Haha. I'm so glad you're hosting Christmas! I can't wait to see your lovely home decked for the holiday. I will write that sous vide post ASAP so you can study! :) do you know your menu yet?

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  14. luff all the food- I have that le Crueset- so chic. Barbie is indeed far from Amish land !!! xxxx

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    1. Thank you! Iove my LCs so much. They are in constant use.

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  15. I've looked in over here a few times when you were on sabbatical but now you're back. I'm not a cook in any way (although currently making cabbage soup which I do once a year) but love hearing about all the prep work and ins and outs of those who do it well. Your Thanksgiving table was gorgeous and interesting to hear about the differences of duck vs chicken eggs. Love your Barbie!

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    1. Thank you! I think if one can make cabbage taste good, he can't be that bad of a cook!

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  16. Wonderful post, loved going on this virtual drive with you, it sounds so beautiful there. And of course your food presentation is amazing. I have often wanted ducks because their eggs are so fabulous, however they are just SO noisy, especially first thing in the morning! Good watch-animals, however. Did Barbie get to see any of the ducks, and if so how did she react?

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    1. Thank you! It really is. Can you get Muscovy ducks out there? I know they are considered to be very quiet. Barbie didn't see the ducks. She was too busy locking eyes with the gorgeous Australian Cattle Dog! He wasn't keen on me being in his driveway, so he and Barbie had a stare down with about 40 feet between them. I would love to have ducks, too!

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  17. Wow - your food presentation is just exquisite. No other word for it! Snap with the Le Creuset too, I have the blue as well.

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    1. Thank you thank you! I had a quick look at your blog, and WOW you have wonderful taste. So it means a lot to me! I just love my LCs. They are the most versatile and easy I use and wonderful pans.

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  18. Looking at these photos is like going on a little retreat, just lovely! Awww, Barbie and the cat...

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  19. What you're saying is completely true. I know that everybody must say the same thing, but I just think that you put it in a way that everyone can understand. I'm sure you'll reach so many people with what you've got to say.

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