Kapaleeshwarar Temple in Chennai, India

Visiting the Kapaleeshwarar Temple was one of the very first things that we did during our trip to Chennai, India. Seeing all of the details and colors throughout the temple grounds was absolutely fascinating. When you visit the temples, you have to remove your shoes and there was actually a little stand where you left your shoes, kind of like checking your coat. To be honest, since no one spoke English, it was a little bit of a confusing process and we weren’t sure that we would actually get our shoes back, but our concerns were unwarranted.

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Kapaleeshwarar Temple entrance in Chennai, India

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Details on a Temple Roof

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Vibrant Colors

The grounds of the temple were extremely crowded during the time that we visited, but considering the population of Chennai, that certainly wasn’t surprising. Kapaleeshwarar Temple is a temple to worship Shiva, who is a Hindu Deity. From our understanding, at Kapaleeshwarar Temple, Shiva is worshiped as a peacock and you will even notice a peacock centrally located on the ornate roof of the main temple entrance. There are two entrances to the temple, each with ornately decorated buildings called a gopuram.

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Inside of the Temple

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So Many Interesting Temple Buildings

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We Kept Looking Up

Visiting the temple was extremely fascinating and was a wonderful initiation into our understanding of the Hindu religion, which is so important to the people of Chennai. There is an annual festival that takes place at the temple in mid-March to mid-April that lasts for nine days and apparently is almost carnival-like, but we were there in February, so we weren’t able to see the festival. Seeing how busy and bustling the temple was during a normal day, we can only imagine what it would be like during a festival.

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Unique Details

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Temple Entrance

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Overwhelming Details

There is so much detail that we couldn’t even absorb any of it during our visit to the temple. Thank goodness that we have several photos to capture the images as that is the only way that we can even begin to understand the images. We would love to learn more about the various gods and deities that are depicted and hopefully we’ll have the chance to visit it once again in the future.

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Peacock in the Center

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Golden Top of the Roof

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Posted in India | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Travel and Blogging – Is it Work?

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Colosseum in Rome

Almost every blogger’s dream is to turn their passion into a career that can pay the bills and fulfill their desires, whether that is traveling, cooking, or some other interest. We certainly have not found the secret of success, but we do get a definite sense of satisfaction through all of the interactions that we have had during the two years since we started our site. Blogging has definitely changed the way that we travel, the way that we take photographs, the way that we view our experiences. We have found it important to have a schedule and keep to that schedule when it comes to sharing our adventures. So, as we prepare to leave for Ecuador in seven days, we have been having conversations about how we can keep up with our usual routine and whether we should even be worrying about that.

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Andes Mountains in South America

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Unique Architecture in Brasov, Romania

So, that begs the question, has traveling become a job for us? Do we feel a responsibility to fill our trips with interesting destinations, locations, excursions that we can write about or do we do them just because we want to and if we can write about it, then fine? The reality is that it is probably a little bit of both. We do think about whether or not something might be of interest to everyone that we’ve connected with, but we are also consumed by seeing and learning about new and different things. One of the biggest differences is that when we traveled in the past, we would have carried a camera and nothing else. Now we take an assortment of electronic equipment with us and getting through security can be a challenge at times.

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Standing on the Acropolis in Athens, Greece

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Mahabalipuram near Chennai, India

If you are doing what you love, then you aren’t really working is true, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t work. We enjoy visiting places that we haven’t been before, meeting people with a different culture than ours, and trying regional foods. We have “real” jobs, but there is a reason that we take time every day to focus on connecting with other travelers. So, perhaps traveling has become work for us, but if it has, then it is work that we love and if we could make that our only job, we would do that in a heartbeat. What do you think, how much of what you do to create your stories is work and how much is simply what you would do even if you didn’t share it with the world?

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Prague Castle Complex, Czech Republic

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Iceland

Posted in Travel Tips | Tagged , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

The Eiffel Tower is an Iconic Landmark

There are very few man-made structures that come to symbolize a city or country. The Statue of Liberty, the Sphynx, and the Eiffel Tower all invoke images of the countries where they reside. We have yet to visit Egypt, but we have gone to the Statue of Liberty in New York as well as gone to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Not surprisingly, you can find replicas of all of these in Las Vegas, but clearly that isn’t the same thing as seeing the real thing. Seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time almost a decade ago is definitely one of our favorite travel moments. There is something special about the Eiffel Tower, whether it is its raw architecture with the exposed beams or its graceful curvature as it reaches skyward. Clearly it is the most photographed landmark in Paris and every souvenir vendor has miniature replicas galore. We have seen it in autumn with brightly colored trees in the foreground, at night from the Seine, as well as on a cold, wet, winter day. The time of year doesn’t seem to matter, when you see the Eiffel Tower you get a sense that you looking more at a symbol of the French people than a tower constructed to be the entrance of the world fair in 1889. For this week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge, Structure, we have chosen a variety of photos that we have taken of the Eiffel Tower.

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Eiffel Tower from the Seine

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View of the Eiffel Tower from the Top of the Arc de Triomphe

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Crossing the Bridge towards the Eiffel Tower

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Eiffel Tower in Autumn

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Eiffel Tower Lit Up at Night

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Interesting View

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Eiffel Tower against Autumn Sky

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Eiffel Tower on a Cold Winter Day

Posted in France, Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Black Beaches of Iceland

There was so much spectacular scenery as we drove around the southern and western parts of Iceland. As we drove along the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, we really enjoyed seeing the black beaches, which are basically lava flows that extend into the ocean. The peninsula is often referred to as “Iceland in miniature” because it has everything from beaches, volcanos, glaciers, and an abundance of wildlife. Seeing the beauty of the beaches is a reminder as to the forces of nature and how these forces continuously interact with one another. For this week’s Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, Colors that Start with the Letter B, we are sharing a few of the photos that we took of those amazing black beaches and lava flows in Iceland.

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Amazing Black Beach

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Rugged Coastline

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Black Lava in the Surf

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Lava Eroded into Cliffs

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Looking Down the Coast

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Dramatic Coastline

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Road along the Coast

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Powerful Lava Flows

Posted in Iceland, Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Moroccan Chicken with Potatoes, Apricots, and Harissa Sauce

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Lunch at a Moroccan Restaurant

One of our favorite memories of our trip to Morocco was having lunch at a small, family-owned restaurant where they cooked us chicken in a tajine. Tajines themselves are quite beautiful, but they are also functional for cooking one pot meals. We bought a tajine while we were in Morocco, but it was too small to actually cook a dinner so we recently bought a full-size tajine. As we continue to try to replicate meals that we have had during our various travels, we decided to cook  a Moroccan chicken dinner. There were some fairly unique ingredients in the recipe that we decided to use and modify, but we were actually surprised that we were able to find them in our local grocery store. Typical of Moroccan food, it was both sweet and spicy and it could easily be modified to suit any taste. The original recipe called for chickpeas, but our family has an allergy to them, so we substituted potatoes, which made it a little hardier. We were very pleased with the results and found the dinner to be very delicious. Because it was just the two of us, we made only cooked two chicken thighs, but the recipe could be increased to serve a larger family. Also, if you don’t have a tajine, you could simply use a Dutch oven instead.

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Moroccan Chicken

INGREDIENTS

  • Two Chicken Thighs – skin on
  • 1 tbsp Canola Oil
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Yellow Onion – peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1 Garlic Clove – finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp Ras Al-Haunt
  • 1 Large Pinch Saffron – soaked in a 1/4 cup of warm water
  • 1/2 Cinnamon Stick
  • 1 1/2 cups Canned Diced Tomatoes (15 oz can) – drained
  • 3/4 cup Dried Apricots – sliced in half
  • 1 Large Red Potato – cut into bite size pieces
  • 1/2 cup Creme Fraiche
  • 1 tbsp Harissa
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
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Unique Ingredients

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. When the oven is preheated, place the tajine into the oven to start heating. Heat the canola oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Place the chicken in the skillet, skin side down and cook until the skin is golden brown, approximately five minutes. Turn the chicken over and continue cooking for another two to three minutes. Remove the chicken from the skillet and let it rest. Reduce the heat to medium and remove all but one tablespoon of oil from the skillet. Add the onions and cook until soft and semi-translucent. Add the garlic and cook for about thirty seconds, then add the ras al-hanut and cook for another thirty seconds. Add the saffron with the liquid it was soaked in as well as the cinnamon stick, tomatoes, potatoes, apricots and bring to a simmer. Remove the tajine from the oven and transfer the vegetables and liquid from the skillet to the tajine. Nestle the chicken thighs on top of the vegetable mixture, put the lid on the tajine and return it to the oven. Cook in the oven for forty minutes. While the chicken is cooking in the oven, mix the creme fraiche, harissa, and salt and let stand in the refrigerator for thirty minutes. Plate individual servings of chicken and vegetable mixture. Garnish each serving a tablespoon or two of the harissa sauce.

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Sautéed Chicken

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Onions, Garlic, and Ras Al-Hanut

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Vegetable and Potato Mixture

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Nestle Chicken in Vegetable Mixture in the Tajine

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Covered Tajine

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Moroccan Chicken with Potatoes and Apricots

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Plated Dinner

Posted in Morocco, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Walking in the Steps of the Incan Empire

During our trip to Bolivia, we truly enjoyed visiting Incan ruins such as Incallajta and Tiwanaku. We learn so much about the ancient civilizations of Rome and Egypt, but very little is taught in schools about the Inca and the empire that they created in South America. Its size and political systems rivaled any other empire of the early 16th century. While we were in the ruins of Incallajta, we walked the same paths that the guards walked around the ancient city as they protected it from rival tribes that lived in the forests. Since there were no other tourists at the site and it was just us and our guide walking the trails, it was especially awe-inspiring. We climbed to about 11,000 feet (about 3,350 meters) where we had a spectacular view of the entire complex. Join us on the trails of the ancient Inca and walk with us as we traverse the outer wall of the ancient city of Incallajta.

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Walking an Incan Trail

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Looking Down on the Ruins

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Walking along the Ancient Walls

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Ancient Trails Converted to Roads

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The Path of the Incan Guards

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View from the Observatory

Posted in Photo Challenge, South America | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Nuremberg Castle

Nuremberg is truly a wonderful city in Germany with the walled old town and castle fortress sitting high above the medieval town. While Nuremberg is most known for the trials of the Nazi leaders at the end of WWII, there is much more to see than just the courthouse where the trials occurred. Most notably is the Nuremberg Castle, which provides spectacular views of the city. Almost all castles served as fortresses, while not all fortresses also served as homes to royalty and to the wealthy. Nuremberg Castle feels more like a true fortress than an actual castle, but many kings did stay at the castle throughout its almost thousand year history.

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Outside of the Castle Walls

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Castle Tower

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View of Nuremberg

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Display Inside of the Castle

Walking along the walls of the fortification takes you back in time and it is easy to see why the castle fortress was considered to be one of the most important fortifications during the medieval period. Taking a self-guided tour of the castle grounds includes seeing the Imperial Castle, the Imperial City Buildings, and the former Burgrave’s Castle. There are no rooms decorated with historical replicas trying to depict what life was like in ancient times, but there is still plenty to make touring the castle worthwhile.

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Walking along the Wall

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Sturdy Fortifications

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Many Features to See

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Medieval Features

The views of Nuremberg are definitely the highlight of visiting the castle. There are several spots as you walk along the walls of the fortress up towards the heart of the castle where you can stop and look over the rooftops of old town and see the spires of the cathedral reaching skyward. There are so many interesting features on the castle grounds that you can easily spend a couple of hours walking around and exploring the historic site.

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Upper Chapel

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Artwork in the Castle

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Castle with Imperial Buildings

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Entering the Castle Grounds

Nuremberg Castle is definitely one of the most important places to visit while you are in Nuremberg. The cathedral and the courthouse are the two other places that should be on your must-see list, but don’t miss out on visiting the castle and getting a true view of the old town and the city as a whole.

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Castle Door

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Enjoying Looking Over the City

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Medieval Buildings

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Walking up the Hill from Old Town

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Display Inside of the Castle

Posted in Germany | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, Ireland

Almost everyone we spoke to about what to do during our visit to Dublin recommended us taking a tour of Kilmainham Gaol. Kilmainham Gaol is a former prison in Dublin that has been converted into a prison museum. It has been used as a set for many movies including In the Name of the Father and Michael Collins as well as many others. The tour was very interesting and provided a lot of detail about the prison and prisoners, especially the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising. The prison held almost every leader of the Irish revolutionary groups until it was shut down in 1924 by the Irish Free State.

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Prison Exterior

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Irish Flag in the Prison Courtyard

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Prison Cells

We almost weren’t able to take the tour of the prison as we didn’t purchase tickets in advance and the tours sell out several days, if not weeks, ahead of time. Since the tours were sold out, the hotel recommended that we go to the prison about an hour before the first tour time and there would be a chance that we could get last minute tickets. We weren’t the only people who didn’t have tickets and the staff did their best to accommodate everyone who waited in the cold, wet morning air. Purchasing tickets in advance is highly recommended.

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Prison Chapel

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Entering the Prison

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Kilmainham Gaol – Prison in Dublin

The tour starts off by taking you through the oldest part of the prison, which dates back to 1796. This is where many of the leaders of the uprising were held by the British, who ran the prison. One of the things that was interesting was that they didn’t segregate the prisoners, so men, women, and even children were all locked in cells that held up to 5 people. Also, there was no lighting or heating in the prison, so the prisoners were given a single candle per cell for light and a little warmth. One of the highlights of the tour is when you enter the more modern section of the prison with its large common area. Everyone on the tour has the opportunity to enter one of the cells and get a closer look at the cramped conditions.

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Old Cell Door

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Looking into the Cell at the Tiny Window

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Prison Cells and Poor Conditions

Originally, there were many hangings outside of the prison, although later the leaders of the rebellions were executed by firing squad inside of the prison square. It seems odd at first that a site of such suffering and oppression could become a popular tourist attraction. Understanding the sense of national pride that the people of Ireland have for all of the leaders who fought for independence and were imprisoned and lost their lives in the prison, makes the experience of touring the prison much more impressive.

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Courtyard with Cross Marking Execution Spot

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Plaque for Those Executed

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Tiny Cell

We thoroughly enjoyed taking the time to visit the prison and were certainly glad that we did, but we’re not sure that Kilmainham Gaol is the top tourist attraction in Dublin. It is definitely something that anyone who visits Dublin should take the time to see, but we would recommend reading some information on the history of the prison and the various uprisings prior to taking the tour as it will enhance your experience.

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Looking Up from the Common Area

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Prison Building

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Above the Prison Door

Posted in Ireland | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Crossroads of Life

We all make decisions every day, some small and some large. Every now and then we need to make decisions that may change our lives going forward. Do we keep going the direction that we are on or do we turn right or left and change our course? It could be as simple as a decision like deciding to start this blog a couple of years ago or as complex as selling our home and moving to Europe for an extended period of time. Even the decision to travel to one place versus another can impact your life in ways that you never expected. Life is full of these seemingly inconsequential decisions that can ultimately change the course that you take going forward. We seem to be facing more and more complex decisions as of late and perhaps we are at a crossroads where life might make a drastic turn. This week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge is Corner, so we are sharing some photos of intersections representing where we are currently standing today, in the intersection of the past and future.

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Crossing the Street in Prague

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Intersection in Strasbourg

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Corner in Reykjavik

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Women on a Corner in Cochabamba

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Rounding a Corner in Morocco

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Intersection in Manitou Springs, Colorado

Posted in Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Roasted Duck with Plum Glaze

One of the meals that we had quite often while we were in Europe was roasted duck. Since we were there through autumn and winter, game foods such as duck, goose, elk, deer, and rabbit were commonly found as the specialty for the season. Usually the duck was served with some sort of a berry sauce or glaze, so when we decided to recreate those meals here at home, we decided to create a plum glaze. We purchased a full duck and deboned the breast ourselves, but you could certainly have a butcher do that for you. Not only did our version turn out to be delicious, we actually believe that it might have been even better than any version that we had in the restaurants of Europe. That is certainly not a boast that we would dare to make very often.

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Our Roasted Duck with Carrots and Green Beans

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Roast Duck in Germany

INGREDIENTS

  • Whole Duck – Quartered and the Breast De-boned
  • 1/2 cup Plum Jam
  • 2 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp Fresh Rosemary – finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp Fresh Thyme – finely chopped
  • 1 clove Fresh Garlic – minced
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
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Plum Glaze

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Ready to Roast in the Oven

INSTRUCTIONS

In a small sauce pan, combine the jam, vinegar, rosemary, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. Heat on medium-low heat until all of the ingredients are fully combined. Using a paring knife, score the skin of the duck, making sure to get through the skin, but not penetrating the meat. Baste the duck with about a quarter of the jam sauce and let sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat a large cast-iron skillet with the olive oil to medium heat. The pan should be hot enough to sear the skin, but not too hot or the skin will burn before the fat from the duck is rendered. Place the duck in the skillet skin side down and sear for about 15 to 20 minutes until the skin is brown. Baste the non-skin side of the duck with another quarter of the plum sauce while the skin is crisping. Flip the duck over, baste with another quarter of the plum sauce and put the skillet with the duck into the oven. Cook the duck for 20 to 30 minutes, basting one more time half way through. Remove from the oven and let stand, tented, for about 15 minutes. Serve with your favorite side dish or vegetables.

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Marinating Duck with Scored Skin

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Rendering the Fat and Browning the Skin

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Tender Duck Breast

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments