Recipes from Marche, Italy

For this entry, I made two recipes. Neither of them were especially good, but I don't blame the people who posted the original recipes or any of the traditions they came from, I blame myself and my propensity for Googling things that might kill me.

Recipes from Marche, Italy: Brodetto

A seafood stew with mussels and clams, minus the Vibrio.

Recipes from Marche, Italy: Filone Casereccio

An Italian bread that will come out much better than mine did if you use fresh brewer's yeast and steam.

Recipes from Malta

This is actually the third time I’ve cooked a meal from Malta. The first time, I cooked the meal and then just did not write the blog post. Years went by.

Recipes from Malta: Imqarrun

Imquarrum (also called Imqarrun il-forn) is descended from a dish served in Sicily, but the Maltese have adopted it as a traditional staple. The key to making this dish is to be patient.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Recipes from Macau

I didn't set anything on fire this week, but I did cause a minor explosion. So you know, hopefully that will be entertaining reading.

This week were in Macau, which I have to admit I had not actually heard of until I made this meal. Strange, because I have of course heard of Hong Kong (who hasn't), and Macau is sort of a sister nation. Actually it's not really a nation at all, but a "Special Administrative Region" of China, which is the same status that Hong Kong has had since 1997 when the British colonists finally packed up and went home. Macau is across the Pearl River from Hong Kong, and it's actually a former Portuguese colony. In fact Macau was the last remaining European colony in Asia until it was finally handed back to China in 1999.

There are 636,200 people in Macau, and all of them live in an area of about 11 square miles. Yes, you read that correctly and it is not a typo. Macau is the most densely populated place in the world. Don't feel too bad for the Macanese people, though, because their densely-populated little corner of the planet also happens to be one of the world's richest cities, and despite the close quarters the people who live there have the second highest life expectancy in the world. So they must be doing something right.

Macanese cuisine is, of course, heavily influenced by its past association with Portugal. The result is a cuisine that's actually quite unique, because it's largely based on the only marginally-successful attempts of Portuguese settlers to replicate their traditional dishes with Chinese ingredients.

 Macau. Photo by Karl Pang.

Because Macau is so small, though, it wasn't that easy to find good collections of recipes. But I did find one that appealed to me almost immediately. My daughter loves duck, and I've actually had a raincheck to get one for $1.99 a pound for a couple of months now, so when I saw this recipe I knew I was going to have to make it:

Duck Rice 
  • 1 whole duck, cut into eight pieces
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloved, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 oz bacon, chopped into large pieces
  • 1 chorizo sausage, chopped into large pieces
  • 1/2 cup long grain rice, steamed
  • 1 3/4 oz Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, boiled, peeled and cut in two
  • 3/4 cup duck stock
Duck rice sounded like a meal all by itself, so the only other recipe I chose was a dessert:
Sawdust Pudding
(from Wendyinkk)

  • 4 1/2 oz Marie biscuits
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream 
  • 1/4 cup condensed milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
OK, we'll make the duck first. First you have to cut the duck up, which for me was a first. I don't think I've ever even cut up a chicken before.

Anyway you're supposed to cut the duck up into eight pieces: two breasts, two thighs, two legs and two wings. That leaves the back, which I used to make the duck stock. I just threw mine in a pot with some water and an onion and boiled it until the stock was nice and rich. 

While you're doing that, saute the duck pieces in hot oil on both sides until the skin is golden brown. Use a deep pot, because you'll be adding stock later. Remove the pieces from the pan and add the chorizo.

Oh, the chorizo. Here in California, the only kind of chorizo you can get is Mexican chorizo (at least until the week after I made this recipe, when I found Portuguese chorizo at the Grocery Outlet of all places). Anyway Mexican chorizo, if you're familiar, is really crumbly. As soon as you take it out of the package it just falls apart, which doesn't really mesh with the whole "cut into pieces" part of the instructions. So I thought I'd be clever and transfer all that crumbly sausage into a couple of casings and cook it up so it would hold it's shape and I could slice it.

 It doesn't look like an explosive ...
Now, if you know anything about sausage you are probably laughing at the notion. Me, on the other hand, well clearly I know nothing about sausage because I did all this, thinking I was very clever, and when I cooked the sausages they  exploded.

This is all that remained of my exploded chorizo.

Now granted, this was a minor explosion. But it was really messy and distressing, partly because after the explosion the sausage looked just like something you might get at The Chum Bucket, and partly because it was the only thing I had to work with and I'm pretty sure you can't do duck rice without sausage. So I ended up just throwing the remains of the exploded sausage into the pan with the duck and then calling my husband to get him to bring some linguica home from the supermarket. I know, it's not chorizo but it does slice and it is Portuguese, so I hope Macau can forgive me.

Anyway after your sausage explodes, fry the onion and garlic in the pan and add the duck pieces. Saute until everything is well-incorporated.

Now pour in the duck stock and add the bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the duck is tender and cooked through.

Take the duck pieces out of the stock, then debone them and set the meat aside. Drop the chorizo into the stock if you have some that didn't explode, and add the bacon, too. Let cook for a few minutes and remove with a slotted spoon.

Now spread half of the steamed rice out over the bottom of a casserole dish.

Spread the duck meat over the top, then cover with another layer of rice. Now scatter the bacon and chorizo pieces over the rice and add the boiled egg pieces.

Finally, sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over and transfer to the oven. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown. (I served mine with roasted asparagus.)

Now for the dessert.

First grind up the biscuits. Note that I got mine in the ethnic food section at Safeway, but they were called "Mary" biscuits, not Marie. They looked exactly the same, though. If you can't find either version, English "digestive" biscuits are also basically the same thing.

Now whip the whipping cream until you get some stiff peaks, then fold in the vanilla and condensed milk. Place the cream into a piping bag (I just used a ziplock with the corner cut off). Pipe a layer of cream into each of four wine glasses ...

... then top with the biscuit crumbs. Gently level out the crumbs with the back of a spoon, then add another layer of cream, followed by another layer of crumbs. Repeat until you've used up all your ingredients. Chill and then serve.

The duck rice was a lot of work, and I regret to say that it wasn't really worth the trouble. I think if the rice had been something other than just steamed, it would have been a different story--but there wasn't enough interesting flavor in the duck itself to make up for the fact that the rice was just plain white rice. There was no sauce or anything for the rice to soak up, so it was an unfortunately bland meal.

My kids all liked the sawdust pudding, though. It was quite fiddly to make but rich and refreshing, and fun for the kids because they got to eat it out of wine glasses. I'd make it again--it would make a particularly lovely summer dessert.

Anyway, I promise I will never again try to put Mexican chorizo in a sausage casing. Lesson learned.

Next week: Macedonia

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