WORKING REPORT – DRAGON’S RETURN

It seems like I can’t please everyone. Either people write and ask to ask why I’m ignoring knitting, or people write to ask if I’m still working on the crocheted dragon panel. I am – and here are my results to date:

I’m chugging along through the right hand border, still not quite sure how I’m going to manage attaching the top and bottom strip. I have however gotten several notes of encouragement, not the least of which was from my old friend (and crochet expert) Kathryn Goodwyn. I’ll keep plugging along and report what tangled thought processes I encounter along the way.

Ugly Ducks and Eye Candy Avalanche

Other questions have come in about my needlework and my duck confit. A couple of people have asked when I get all of this done. I point out that I’ve got the advantage of being able to dig up stuff I’ve done over many years. You see it all tossed up here now, but much of what I’ve shown isn’t recent production. The red yoke is from the mid-70s. The strip sampler is about 10 years younger than that. The blackwork sampler is from 1983. The putter cover is from the late ’80s. The lobster sweater is three years old now. Eventually I’ll run out of this type of stuff and things to write about it all, but for now I’m still armed and dangerous.

On the duck, we’ve done it several times now. Usually some time in the spring or summer we’ll stumble across a special on fresh ducks. We’ll bring two home and plan our Ugly Duck Dinner. Why Ugly? Because we take the brace of ducks and remove the thighs and legs, leaving ugly, partially hacked carcasses. We heavily salt and pepper the lower extremities and put them in the fridge for a day or two. Meanwhile, we cook the rest of the duck. Depending on the season and what we feel like doing, we either leave the hacked carcasses whole, steam them then roast them tofinish; or we split them, steam them, then barbeque them. The steaming serves two purposes – first, it’s a great way to melt off tons of fat. If you didn’t steam them first, barbequeing would end up as a general invitation for the fire department because all that fat would lead to severe flare-ups and burned meat. Second, it makes the ducks – usually not as tender as chicken – meltingly soft.

Once the fat is steamed off the ducks, we save it for the confit. To do this right, we usually end up using all the fat from the two ducks, plus a bit renderedfrom previous ducks or geese that we’ve stored in clean jars at the back of the fridge. We take the legs and thighs and pat off some of the salt. Then we put a little bit of fat in a cast-iron Dutch oven, and lightly brown them in a single layer, skin side down. After that we completelycover them with the reserved fat, turn down the heat and let them simmer in the barely bubbling fat for about an hour and a half, until they are soft. While they’re still warm, we put the legs and thighs into scalded jars (dried off, off course), then pour in the fat to cover.

The resulting jars of duck and fat then sit in the back of the fridge (or freezer) until mid-winter. Some time in the cold months we get a yen for cassoulet, which is nothing more than a fancy version of beans and hot dogs. In our case it’s small white beans, tasty smoked sausage, and some of our preserved duck. Add friends, a crusty crumb topping, some crunchy bread, and several bottles of wine and I guarantee you’ll find the effort well worth the trouble. This year we’ll be toasting to Julia, without whom we would never have attempted such nonsense, nor have learned how much fun it can all be.

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