By Mike Pound
JOPLIN, Mo. —
The great thing about talking to food people is, no matter how much you think you know about cooking, you can always learn something new.
This past Thursday, as I strolled through the line of vendors at the Flavor of the Four States, I chatted with a couple of chefs from Downstream Casino. The Downstream group was one of about a dozen area restaurant teams who were passing out small plates loaded with creative creations.
The Flavor of the Four States is an annual celebration of the local culinary scene. Each year restaurants and food and beverage vendors from around the area gather to hand out samples of products. The money raised from the event is used to fund scholarships for local students who are seeking a career in the restaurant and hospitably industry. This year the event was held in conjunction with downtown Joplin’s Third Thursday event.
As I watched hundreds of folks wind their way through the long double line underneath the tent that housed the Flavor of the Four States participants, I noticed that many of the people walking away from the Downstream table were carrying plates filled with what appeared to be miniature barbecue sandwiches. When I asked Jordan Burgess, a Downstream chef, about the sandwiches, he told me they were barbecue duck sliders.
When asked how the duck was prepared, Jordan said it was “confit duck.” Not knowing what confit duck was, I asked Jordan to elaborate, and that’s when I learned something knew.
See, confit duck is not just a dish, it is a style of cooking. Jordan told me that confit duck is basically duck cooked in its own fat, which actually tastes much better than it sounds. As Jordan explained it, a duck is cooked slowly over a low heat for several hours -- a method that yields a moist and incredibly flavorful meat.
The food website Food Republic (www.foodrepublic.com) describes duck confit as both a dish and a cooking technique that was developed by the French in the days before refrigeration. The confit method allowed duck to be preserved in its own fat. According to the website, harmful bacteria can’t thrive in dense fat, and the confit duck did not have to be chilled to stay fresh. Included at the end of this story is a recipe for making confit duck.
For the Downstream duck sliders, Jordan said the duck, after it cooks for several hours, is allowed to cool. Then the duck’s skin is removed and the meat is shredded much like pulled pork. While the pork is being shredded, the skin is fried until it resembles small pieces of bacon. The fried duck skin is added to the shredded duck meat, along with a healthy dose of barbecue sauce. It is then spooned on to small slider-sized buns.
Jordan said the Downstream sliders are available at the casino’s Buffalo Grille and also on its banquet menu. At the Flavor of the Four States, the sliders were served with a cilantro coleslaw, a fruit tart and, as an added treat, a cookie that chef Ed Baker (that’s right, the guy who makes the cookies last name is Baker) calls Mexican wedding cookies
“They’re basically pecan sandies rolled in powdered sugar. It’s a recipe I’ve had forever,” Ed said.
In addition to a recipe for Confit Duck from www.foodrepublic.com we have also included Ed’s Mexican Wedding Cookie recipe.
4 whole duck legs
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 juniper berries, crushed
4 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
4 cups duck fat, melted
Mix all of the seasonings together and coat the duck pieces with the mixture. Place in a container or zip-top bag and put in the refrigerator for 24 to 72 hours. Brush off the excess seasonings. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Place the duck legs in a single layer, skin side down, in a large pot. Pour the melted duck fat over top and place in the oven for 3 to 4 hours until the meat can easily be pulled from the bone. To preserve, pour fat over cooked duck to submerge completely; allow to solidify and refrigerate.
Ed Baker’s Mexican wedding cookie
1 pound box margarine
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 cups pecan pieces
Cream together the butter and powdered sugar and then add the salt and vanilla and mix well. Then add the flour and the pecans and mix. Spoon dough in to cookie sized balls and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges start to brown. When cooled rolled the cookies in the powdered sugar.
Makes about three dozen cookies.