So, last night I tried cooking something new – Duck a l’Orange. Sounds fancy, right? I signed up for one of those meal delivery services that sends you everything you need to make a complete meal plus instructions. Hello Fresh offers a discount and since Joe and I haven’t been to a restaurant since last March, not even for take-out, I thought a meal kit would be a good alternative. Besides, I’ve run through my entire repertoire of dishes several times over and wanted to try something new.
The first box arrived yesterday and I was excited. Inside were three big, glossy photos of what the meals should look like once prepared and on the other side of the photos were the step-by-step instructions. What could go wrong?
I laid out the 3 photos for Joe and asked him to pick one. He chose the duck. The kit included two plump duck breasts with skin on one side, small potatoes, arugula, an orange, a shallot, fresh thyme, a packet of sliced almonds, a packet of apricot jam, and a cute little bottle of red wine vinegar. The instructions noted that this was a recipe made popular by Julia Child.
I had never cooked duck before so I followed the instructions carefully. The trick is to cook the duck skin side down until it’s crispy while skimming off the fat as it cooks, then flipping it over to cook on the other side for “3 to 5 minutes”. You then remove the breasts to “rest” as you make the sauce in the same pan. Duck fat and thyme were added to the potatoes (yum), and orange zest to the sauce and the salad. I literally could not remember the last time I had zested an orange.
It was all going swell until I sliced into the pieces of duck. They were pink inside and the juice ran pink as well. Although I had never cooked duck before, I was pretty sure, like chicken or turkey, it should not be served rare. No matter, I thought. A quick stint in the microwave will finish it off. In two minutes the juice was clear and the slices were no longer pink. I arranged everything on the plates, drizzled the duck with the sauce, and everything looked perfect. Almost as perfect as the photo.
“Well, what do you think?” I asked Joe after a couple of bites.
“Very flavorful.” he said
Was that a compliment? I wasn’t sure. The potatoes were delish, the salad with the homemade dressing was remarkably good, and the orange sauce on the duck was indeed flavorful, but the duck…was chewy and the skin was practically inedible. I was, of course, disappointed. Joe was kind about it (he’s not stupid), but we agreed I should never have put it in the microwave.
As I took our plates back to the kitchen and put them into the sink that was already full of bowls and utensils that had been used to make this not-so-perfect meal, I heard him humming. He was humming the Sesame Street Rubber Ducky song!
I looked for something soft to throw at him, but I was laughing too hard to follow through.
I learned a few things making this first Hello Fresh meal:
- Pickling the shallots in wine vinegar and sugar before putting them in a salad is brilliant and I will definitely do that again.
- Mashed potatoes are always delicious no matter what you add to them.
- Never microwave the duck.
I vow to try this meal again and get it right next time. No rubber ducky; I want to make Julia proud.