There are certain places that you travel to where the use of spices is quite abundant. Needless to say, with rare exceptions all food has some sort of spices in it, even if it is just salt and pepper. Some places, though, go way beyond a few common ingredients and use a wide variety of spices in them. We really enjoy eating foods that have a variety of spices and have a sense of being exotic. Clearly it isn’t for everyone and we also enjoy foods that are spicy in the sense of heat as well. Since we try to recreate dishes from places that we travel, here are a few of the spicy dishes that we have previously prepared, in no particular order.
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.
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
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.
We mentioned this the other day, but we were very fortunate to find a wonderful little restaurant in Würzburg over the past weekend. We were walking some of the side streets, trying to get away from the larger crowds around the Christmas markets when we found Stachel, a restaurant established in 1413. The atmosphere was relaxing with wonderful stained glass windows and very unique chandeliers. In fact, we have found a lot of places to have beautiful chandeliers, which we have enjoyed seeing.
We don’t usually do starters as well as an entrée, which we shared of course, but we decided to do so this particular day. Game food is definitely on the specialty menus these days, rabbit, duck, goose, and venison can be found at almost every authentic German restaurant. There are also a variety of seasonal soups, including chestnuts, Riesling, and potato soups. We decided to go ahead and get the black pudding, also known as blood pudding, which was served with roasted potatoes.
For the entrée, we chose the half duck, which was definitely a lot of food for the two of us, but it was exquisite. Tender and moist, but the crispy skin was the highlight of the meal. We have had potato dumplings before and the ones that accompanied our duck were very similar, although it is hard to describe the texture of these springy sponges. A local beer was definitely the perfect pairing for the gamey taste of the duck.
Speaking of beer, our day started by stopping in a small pub as we arrived in town. We would later learn that there is a difference in how the people from the Bayern region view having a beer early in the day versus those in the Hessen region where Frankfurt sits. This was definitely the local watering hole and although it was only noon, there were not any empty seats as the local men gathered to share stories from the week and most likely talk politics and life.
It isn’t all about beer, though, Germany has wonderful wines and we have enjoyed many of those as well. We ended our day by stopping by a wine bar, Weinstube, which carried local red and white wines. Their logo is a monkey drinking wine with a pretzel in his hand, so we shouldn’t have been surprised when our wine glasses arrived with a plastic monkey hanging from the lip. Some cheese covered bread to go with the wine made our food day complete. We probably won’t have a chance to visit Würzburg again, but we definitely enjoyed the food and drinks that we were able to have during our brief visit.