Pumpkin and Politics

Pumpkin is to fall what politics is to Washington DC. And that is why I made pumpkin cupcakes and brought them to a debate watching party. Because it's fall already, and because this Washington DC. 

My friends and family back in Spain will find it weird to hear that I meet with my friend's at someone's house to watch the presidential debate. Probably a lot of Americans would also think it's kind of weird, or boring, or even lame. However, in this city, politics are a huge part or everyday life as so many jobs here are directly or indirectly related to government. Most of my friends here are lobbiests, lawyers, senator staffers, engineers that work for government contractors..so since I moved here I have had to get used to have politics be a really frequent conversation subject. I guess in Spain we don't really talk about it that much among friends as it is impossible to do so and have a good time.

But I am not as much into politics as I am into food, so I had to bring something to eat to this debate watching gathering. I made Martha Stewart's pumpkin cupcakes recipe. I had tried these cupcakes last year at a Halloween party, and after eating like four of them I had to ask the host where she got the recipe from. 

I used a one bowl approach for this recipe. Sometimes I like to get my hands dirty and my arms tired instead of using the stand mixer. This recipe was simple enough for it, as no whipping or beating was required.

For the icing I used the recipe from Patent and the Pantry and from now on I tell you that this is going to be my go to cream cheese frosting recipe. So good that when I was done covering the cupcakes, I had to pipe some of the leftover icing directly into my mouth. I also think it sounds gross, but it tasted like heaven. 

Obama did a terrible job in that debate, but the cupcakes were the touch of fall that we all needed.

Pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting
Adapted from Martha Stewart, makes 12

For the batter:
1 cups (128 g, 4.5 oz) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick, 110 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 can (210 g, 7.5 oz) pumpkin puree

For the frosting:
8 oz (220 g) cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup butter (1 stick, 110 g), room temperature
3 cups (385 g) confectioners sugar, sifted
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Make the batter and bake the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C)

In a medium bowl mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. In another bowl mix the sugars and the butter until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at at time and mix until well incorporated. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture gradually and mix well. Mix in pumpkin puree.

Line a cupcake pan with liners and fill each one about halfway with batter. Bake until tops spring back when touched and a cake tester comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and let cool completely before icing.

Make the icing and finish:

While the cupcakes are cooling down, beat butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and sugar and mix until incorporated. 

Spoon the icing into a pastry bag with a star tip and pipe the frosting on top of the cupcakes starting on the edges and forming a spiral towards the center. 


Hi five duck

When it comes to food, some people are very easy to please. They are happy with every homemade food you give them and almost never complain. They like, almost, everything. Examples of that kind of people are my mom, my sister and myself. Scott is not one of those. He is much more demanding, he loves to eat, but he won't eat anything. He is much harder to please, much more sophisticated. So when I put food on the table, he tries it and says: "Oh my...this is just perfect!", and he gives me a high five, then, guys, I have cooked something really awesome.

That is exactly what happened when he had his first bite of this duck confit. And when that happens, I smile, mark the recipe as a good one, and share it on spoonglish with you.

So what is duck confit? Duck confit is a french recipe for cooking duck legs in duck fat at a low temperature for a long period of time. After it's cooked, the duck can be stored in the fat for a long period of time before it's eaten, so it is some kind of preserve. I had eaten duck confit many times at home, but always from cans. However, since I have an obsession for making things that most people buy already made (ice cream, baguette, burger buns), I also felt that I had to make this delicious french specialty from scratch; and so I did.

Duck Confit
Makes 6, adapted from Bon Appetit and French Cooking

So this recipe has 2 parts. In the first part, I explain how to make the duck confit. It is extremely easy to make, it just takes time. The second part of the recipe is just an idea of what you can make with duck confit. I like it pan seared because the skin gets crunchy, and it is delicious served with a sweet sauce. However, you can also serve it cold in salads, with pasta, with rice or pretty much anything you can imagine.

6 duck legs
3 tbsp coarse kosher salt
1/2 tbsp dried thyme
2 tsp ground white pepper
1 bay leaf, chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled
4 8oz containers of rendered duck fat
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Mix salt, bay leaf, thyme and white pepper in a bowl. Pat dry the duck legs and rub the mixture on both sides. Put them in a plastic bag with the garlic cloves and refrigerate overnight. 

Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C).
Melt the duck fat with 1/2 cup of water in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Keep cooking until simmer slows and the water has evaporated, about 20 minutes. 

Rinse the duck legs to get rid of the salt mixture and pat dry. Arrange the legs in a baking pan, on one layer. Pour the duck fat over the duck legs. Cover the pan with foil. Place in oven and let it cook until the meet is tender and falling of the bones, about 3 1/2 hours. Let it cool slightly and transfer to the fridge for at least 4 hours. 

The confit can be stored in the fridge for up to 1 month. Make sure it is always completely covered in the duck fat. The duck fat can the be reused for other recipes, like potatoes baked in duck fat.

Pan seared duck confit in red wine sauce with duck fat baked potatoes
Serves 2 hungry ones or 4 not so hungry ones

For the potatoes
3 yukon gold potatoes, thinly sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp duck fat melted
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

For the sauce 
1 cup of red wine
1/4 cup (50g) sugar
2 tbsp honey
1 clove
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 container concentrated gelatine-like beef stock (like this)

For the duck 
4 duck confit legs
2 tbsp olive or vegetable oil

Make the potatoes
Preheat the oven to  425° F (210°C). Put the oil and the melted duck fat in a big bowl. Add the potatoes and onion and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. In a baking dish layer the potatoes and the onion. Bake for 45 minutes.

Make the sauce
In a medium sauce pan heat the wine with the sugar, the honey, the vinegar and the clove. Add the concentrated stock and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Let it simmer, stirring frequently, for about 45 minutes or until desired consistency.

Sear the duck.
Preheat the oven to 400° F (200° C).
Take the duck legs out of the fat and clean to get rid of most of the attached fat. Heat oil in a sauce pan on medium high. Add 2 duck legs skin down and cook for 1 minute. Transfer to a baking sheet. Cook the other 2 legs and transfer to same baking sheet. Place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes. 

Finally, serve the duck legs, skin side up, with some sauce and potatoes. Enjoy, and expect high fives!