As I write this and perhaps the next paragraph, she is winging her way south between Belize City and Dangriga on Tropic Air. (No one over 4'8" who respects their body and can afford it rides the retired school buses that pass for public transportation in Belize.) Soon she'll be back into the whirlwind that is an innkeeper's lot in Belize. Manager, Concierge, Accountant, Laundrywoman, Groundskeeper, Troubleshooter, etc. It's truly not a job but a lifestyle.
The tranquility of Calderitas allowed her to rest, recuperate, and even have enough energy to host a long overdue gathering of friends. We had three kinds of duck (of course, but no more!), juicy grilled chicken and vegetables, Doug's famous Potato Salad, Derrin's beans and tortillas, and delicious postres (desserts) from Rosa and Anna. A fine afternoon and evening of conviviality it was.
This time I roasted one duck with Spicy Chinese sauce, grilled one with BBQ sauce, and a made a Duck Pate in its skin (recipe below). The general consensus was my Orange Duck was the best but the pate was excellent too. I should learn to stick with what works but on the other hand, experimentation is fun! I will continue to experiment with the pate albeit in other flavours...
Our first crop of bananas is starting. The plants have grown from 5 feet to over 20 feet tall since they were planted in April. Banana plants are the largest plants on earth without a woody stem. They are actually giant herbs of the same family as lilies, orchids, and palms. Now you know. One "banana heart" has emerged and will be a full hand of bananas in about two months.
Beyond the bout of flu, my trip to Belize last month resulted in a fractured wrist (trapezoid), dislocated carpal, and associated nerve and ligament damage. My orthopedist wasn't pleased that I took so long to see him but it's started to heal. Meanwhile, manual labor is only single-handed these days. The "other" reason for not building the chicken coop.
That's right, I have decided not to raise chickens. Beyond the wrist limitation, fresh eggs and chicken abound and we've been here long enough to learn who has the best and freshest. Instead, I'm giving consideration to a pair of geese. I haven't asked the dogs how they feel about it. I'll let it be a surprise!
This morning my friend Derrin brought me some Cochinita Pibil, a local dish of pork and spices that many enjoy for Sunday morning breakfast. It was delicious and I will research more fully and see what comes in the way of recipes. But first I must close the duck recipe series and so, I leave you my dear readers, with my recipe for duck pate in skin (thank you Julia Child for the inspiration!)
1 lb lean pork, ground (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 lb pork fat, ground
1 lb duck meat, ground
3/4 cup onions, sliced, softened in butter or pork fat
1/4 cup Cognac or Armagnac Brandy
1 TBS Kosher salt
1/2 tsp thyme, ground
1/2 tsp black pepper, ground
12 (or so) peppercorns (optional but I like the surprise!)
1/4 tsp allspice, ground
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup cognac
Fatback (pork fat, unsalted, sliced 1/4 inch thick and cut to size to cover your terrine or bread pan). This is a small amount of fatback so, instead, you can use about a 6 or so fatty bacon slices that you have first blanched 3-4 minutes in simmering water.
1 tsp shallots
3 TBS cognac
Pinch of salt
1/4 tsp black pepper, ground
If you have a terrine (glazed ceramic pate dish with cover), great! Otherwise you can use a bread loaf pan.
Carefully bone* duck to keep skin intact except for the small holes that come from the wing and legs. Remove all the duck meat from the skin and grind it for the pate except for the breast meat which you slice into thin strips and marinate with the chopped gizzard and liver (if you want) for at least one hour or overnight.
*Despite the fact many will allege you must get engaged to the chicken when you were finished boning it, I side with that term rather than "de-bone". After all, we shell eggs, pit cherries, and husk corn, yes?
Mix all your ground meat, fat, eggs, and spices. Saute a spoonful then taste for seasonings. Adjust as necessary.
Line terrine or loaf pan with duck skin leaving excess outside terrine. Put in meat mixture to about halfway then add marinated strips of duck meat and fill the rest of the terrine with remaining ground meat mixture. Excess meat mixture can be frozen for later use or simply sauteed. Goes great with eggs!
Put a sprig of fresh thyme or three bays leaves atop. Fold skin over and add piece of fat back or slices of bacon as the skin will shrink as it cooks exposing meat. Cover with aluminum foil, a thin baking sheet or similar, and a weight (I use a foil-wrapped brick).
Cook in 350 degree oven, sitting the terrine in a pan of water about 2 inches deep for about 2 hrs or thermometer reads 165F. Here you will need a piece of wood or heat proof plastic that fits just inside the terrine. Add the board and about 4-5 lbs of weight to press the meat down to avoid holes and help ensure the sliced pate holds together. After cooling, chill in refrigerator (keep the weight on!) at least overnight. It's a dish that is much better two days after it's made.
You can serve from terrine or unmold it by warming it slightly over heat to loosen fat then turn upside down over serving dish. Scrape off jelly and serve in slices with tiny French cornichons and a nice wine.
Return leftovers to terrine and pour on melted fat to cover. You won't need the weights. Good for 10 days if you don't eat it all first!