November 08, 2006

Low Tidings

My friend Mary Graves thinks I should write more columns featuring my recipes because she really likes my cooking. My mother says the same thing, but she's probably afraid I'll write something bad about the Catholic Church instead that will compromise her chances of getting through the pearly gates.

St. Peter: Mrs. Murphy, what do you have to say for yourself?

Mom: I've led a virtuous life, I go to church every week, I pray every day, and I sponsored a Maryknoll orphan from Kenya.

St. Peter: And you want to live in heaven?

Mom: Yes — when does the bingo game start?

St. Peter: There is a problem . . .

Mom: How can there be? I'm almost a saint. In fact, my son says I'm a martyr.

St. Peter: That's the problem.

Mom: I'm a martyr?

St. Peter: Your son. He's a heathen, and he has a poison pen. (Raising voice) NOW YOU MUST FRY! AH HA HA HA AH HA HA HA!

With that, his halo turns into horns, he sprouts a tail, and fire engulfs the room. Eternal damnation.

In order to save my Mom, then, here is my recipe for duck. I guarantee it will be the best you've ever tasted.

Have your butcher cut a fresh duck in half (well, not too fresh — it should be dead and de-feathered). It doesn't have to be a Long Island duck, either. In fact, I like the D'Artagnan brand better. Discard the innards unless you really know what you are doing, then make a paté.

In a (preferably) big, old, cast iron roasting pan, place the duck halves breast side up. Limit one bird per pan, so if you're cooking for guests make it an intimate gathering or buy a very big oven.


1 cup teriyaki sauce

1 cup soy sauce

3/4 cup dry white wine

3 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

3 tbsp. plum vinegar

1 cup of water

Cover and put in oven at 275 degrees for 4 hours.

Meanwhile, thoroughly clean a couple leeks and a scallion or two (you have to really wash these — remember, the demon e-coli lurks everywhere, especially in third-world countries like California). Chop up the inner stalks and leaves and save a handful of the pointed ones for garnish.

Cut up a couple peeled carrots. After about three-and-a-half hours, skin off a few tablespoons of fat from the duck mixture, pour into a small baking dish, and add carrots. Place in oven. Remove when soft.

After four hours open the pan. The duck should be in the beginning stages of the browning process. Jack up the heat to 375 degrees and return to oven with top off. When the duck is crispy brown, baste with duck sauce (the standard stuff you get from the Chinese take out will suffice).

Meanwhile, wash and clean a bunch of watercress, and weed out and discard the ugly leaves, much like a mother does to her children.

Then, take some Oriental plum sauce and heat it in a small pan.

Turn the oven heat to broil and let the duck sauce on the bird start to blacken, then remove.

You can serve the whole half-duck on a bed of watercress and brown rice with the scallions, leeks, and carrots on top and a ramekin of the plum sauce on the side (apricot also works but avoid prunes unless you plan on enjoying the rest of the evening in the john).

The presentation is even better if you cut and pile the duck pieces (it should be falling apart) on a plate in a mound along with the watercress and carrots, the leeks and scallions sprinkled amidst the veggies and duck pieces. Place a couple shoots of leek and scallion sticking up from the center of the pile to affect a perfect dose of pretentiousness. This is the kind of pointless touch that allows the trendy restaurants to charge $14 extra for every dish they serve.

Carefully spoon the plum sauce around the pile. Garnish with a couple orange slices.

You must serve this with an extremely dry, white wine like a Pouilly Fume, and don't scrimp on the price — after all, we are not savages, even if we are eating a dead bird.

You'll also want a snifter or three of a garishly expensive Cognac or brandy after dinner to, um, aid in the digestive process.

Do this. Not for me, but for my Mom, teetering on the very edge of ultimate damnation but defiantly clinging to the fading hope that the Sacred Heart of Jesus will call to her and she will hear the angelic choir singing the song of Our Savior forever:

B-14 . . .

I-28 . . .

N-33 . . .

G-47 . . .

O-64 . . .

Someday, I will stand before the gates of heaven and St. Peter will call my name. Maybe, if he's tried this recipe, I get in. If not, I'm surely headed south.

Ma, send money.

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