I've been wearing pink or red since last week in honor of Valentine's Day, which is Thursday February 14th. I love all holidays, but Valentine's Day is extra special. It's one of the few times I push aside other tasks and focus almost exclusively on my husband of almost 37 years.
Instead of going out to dinner, each year I place a small table in front of our hearth, accessorize it with fine linens, china, crystal, silver flatware, and tall candlesticks, and prepare a special meal designed to spoil us both. We begin with a gorgeous salad or hot, creamy soup served in antique soup cups, followed by rack of lamb or a recipe from my newest book Celebrating Home – roasted duck breasts glazed in a gorgeous Cointreau-orange marmalade sauce (pictured), served with black japonica rice or roasted garlic new potatoes garnished with fresh rosemary, and grilled asparagus or tender green beans. For dessert, chocolate mousse swirled into pretty miniature bowls or an impressive chocolate Valentine cake coated in bittersweet chocolate genache, like the one pictured here, says "I love you" with every decadent bite.
Whatever your plans this Valentine's Day, make it a celebration devoted to those who are special in your life – a sweetheart, family members, or special friends. There's nothing more precious. And to get you started, I'm happy to share my recipe for Orange-Glazed Roasted Duck Breasts from Celebrating Home: A Handbook For Gracious Living (Bright Sky Press, Sept 2012).
Happy Valentine's Day!
Orange-Glazed Roasted Duck Breasts
by Christy Rost
Celebrating Home: A Handbook for Gracious Living
|4||boneless duckling breasts|
|Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste|
|1/2||cup Cointreau or other orange-flavor liqueur|
|1/2||cup beef stock or broth|
|4||tablespoons orange marmalade|
|Juice of 1 orange|
|1||orange, rinsed and thinly sliced, for garnish|
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Rinse the duck and dry them with paper towels. Using a sharp knife, trim excess skin as needed and score the skin to form a diamond pattern, taking care not to pierce the meat. Season both side of the meat well with salt and pepper.
Preheat a large skillet over medium heat. Place the duck breasts, skin side down, in the skillet and cook 8 to 10 minutes until the skin is brown and crisp, draining excess fat as needed. Turn the meat over and cook 3 to 5 minutes more to sear it.
Transfer the meat to a roasting pan, reserving the skillet for the sauce, and roast the meat uncovered for 20 minutes. While the meat roasts, drain the fat from the skillet and place the pan over medium heat. When it is hot, deglaze the pan with Cointreau and beef stock, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add orange marmalade and orange juice, stir well, and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Season the sauce with black pepper.
During the final 10 minutes of roasting, spoon the sauce over the duck and cook until the meat is tender and light pink inside. Remove the meat from the oven, cover it with foil, and set it aside 10 minutes to rest. To serve, slice the meat at an angle and fan it out on dinner plates. Spoon any remaining juices next to the meat, garnish with a slice of orange, and serve.
Yield: 4 servings
After a whirlwind Celebrating Home book tour that took me from coast-to-coast, my husband Randy and I returned to our historic Colorado mountain home Swan’s Nest a few nights ago, and any dreams of snow-covered rooftops were quickly dashed. Though there was snow on the mountain tops and plenty of man-made snow on the ski slopes, our grass had nary a flake. Could it really be almost Christmastime?
The sky was crystal blue this morning, but our local news warns of a snowstorm that’s due to arrive tonight, and another more potent storm this weekend. Like magic, the scenery will be transformed into a winter wonderland in a matter of hours and days. But, before the first snowflake falls, I need to deck our front veranda with garlands of greenery and cranberry-red ribbons intertwined with tiny white lights; hang wreaths and place electric candles in the windows; and make preparations for St. Nicholas Day.
St. Nicholas Day is Thursday December 6th. It’s a simple, but important holiday widely celebrated in Europe, when children receive sweets and small treats. Though Americans rarely take notice of this primarily European holiday, I’ve embraced it as a day to reach out to those who are special to me with a simple token of remembrance.
Every year on December 6, I bake irresistible gifts-from-the-kitchen, wrap them in small, attractive packages, and tie them onto neighbors’ front doors with pretty ribbon for later discovery. This year, I’m baking “St. Nicholas Brownies” – decadent, fudgy brownies cut into rounds and decorated with buttercream St. Nicholas faces.
Leave the last-minute Christmas rush and stress to others this year, and celebrate friendship and loved ones on St. Nicholas Day with simple treats from your kitchen. And as if to prove this is truly a magical time, it started snowing at last! Happy St. Nicholas Day to you and yours!
St. Nicholas Day Brownies
|1 1/4||cups flour|
|1||teaspoon baking powder|
|1 1/4||cups sugar|
|1||square unsweetened chocolate, melted|
|3/4||cup unsalted butter, melted|
|1||cup chocolate chips|
|1/2||cup chopped nuts (optional)|
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt; set it aside.
In a large bowl, stir together eggs, sugar, unsweetened chocolate, butter, and vanilla until the mixture is well blended. Add the flour mixture, stirring just until the batter is smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts, if desired.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly with a rubber spatula. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until the brownies are set, but not dry. Remove them from the oven, and set them on a rack to cool completely. When they are cool, cut the brownies with a 3-inch round biscuit cutter, spread a thin layer of Sugar Glaze on the top of each, and set them aside 10 minutes until the glaze sets.
|1 1/2||cups sifted confectioners’ sugar|
In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, milk, and vanilla until the glaze is smooth. Add a bit more milk if needed if the glaze is too thick. When the glaze is set, decorate each brownie with Buttercream Frosting.
|6||tablespoons unsalted butter, softened|
|3 1/2||cups sifted confectioners’ sugar|
|Dash of salt|
|15||red cinnamon candies|
|Blue and red food coloring|
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, confectioners’ sugar, salt, milk, and vanilla together to form a thick frosting. Place ¼ cup of frosting into a small bowl, tint it with blue food coloring for St. Nicholas eyes, and transfer the blue frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a small plain tip. Divide the remaining frosting in half, tint one of the halves with red food coloring for St. Nicholas’ fur hat, and transfer it to a pastry bag fitted with a small star tip. Transfer the remaining white frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a small star tip.
Pipe half of each brownie with small white stars for St. Nicholas’ beard and add a flourish to form his mustache. Gently place a cinnamon candy “nose” in the center of the mustache. Pipe two blue eyes above the mustache, then pipe red stars around the top half of each brownie to form St. Nicholas’ hat. When the frosting is slightly firm to the touch, pipe a white swirl of frosting at the top of the hat. Set the brownies aside until the frosting is dry, then place brownies in small cellophane bags tied with ribbon.
Yield: 15 brownies
Last-Minute Gifts: If time is short, bake and cut the brownies into rounds, spread with Sugar Glaze, and garnish with tinted decorator sugars.
Autumn is winding down and before long, Americans will be caught up in the annual Christmas holiday rush. But before we deck the halls, shop’til we drop, and preheat our ovens for cookie baking marathons, I look forward to pausing with my family to celebrate the quintessential American holiday – Thanksgiving.
Each November, folks travel through town or across the country to gather around Thanksgiving tables with their loved ones for one of the grandest feasts of the year. It’s always been a special time for me. I can still recall the childhood excitement of riding through Pittsburgh in the back of our family car with my sisters, singing “Over the river and through the woods” as the cold and frosty air fogged the car windows during our short drive to my grandparents’ homes to celebrate Thanksgiving with aunts, uncles, and cousins. As soon as my grandparents opened their front door, my senses were met with one decadent aroma after another – a food memory that still lingers and connects me with precious family members who are now gone.
One of my favorite Thanksgiving memories is associated with the year my husband Randy, our young sons, and I lived in Paris, France. Though I eventually became rather fluent in French, there wasn’t a French word for “Thanksgiving” when I attempted to explain the significance of this very American holiday to my butcher, and why I needed to order a turkey so far in advance of Christmas – the only time of year when turkeys were available in Parisian markets. Nevertheless, Monsieur Durand understood that a turkey was very important to this young, American customer, and so he placed the order.
Two days before Thanksgiving, I stopped by the butcher shop and Monsieur Durand smiled broadly as he told me my turkey had arrived. He disappeared into the large, walk-in cooler and reappeared, proudly clutching a 15-pound fresh turkey by its 12-inch long neck, its head drooping and feet dangling in the air. Without missing a beat, I confirmed to Monsieur Durand that the turkey was perfect, and then said, “Mais pas de tête, et pas de pieds, Monsieur”! Translation: “But no head, and no feet, Sir!” As the turkey roasted in our little French oven on Thanksgiving afternoon, our apartment filled with tantalizing, savory aromas and I was emotionally transported back to American soil.
For those who’ve tuned in and enjoyed my annual Holiday special A Home for Christy Rost: Thanksgiving on PBS and Create stations around the country, thank you. I always look forward to reading your sweet emails as you share your own holiday traditions with me, or simply say how much the show touched your heart.
This year, my mother is joining us for Thanksgiving, and I as write, she’s in my kitchen preparing for our pie-baking marathon. In addition to pumpkin and pecan pies, we’ll make a gorgeous tart adapted from a recipe in my newest book, Celebrating Home: A Handbook For Gracious Living (Bright Sky Press, September 2012). My Cranberry Cherry Tart begins with canned cherry pie filling, a great time saver, and features tart, fresh cranberries, a bit of sugar, lemon juice to brighten the flavors, and a pretty lattice top. The tart was a big hit with Gunnar and Matthew Nelson (Ricky Nelson’s twin sons) when I prepared it on the “Texas Living” show recently, and I think it will be a big hit with your family and guests, too. I’m happy to share this beautiful recipe with you for the upcoming Holiday season.
Cranberry Cherry Tart
|3/4||cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes|
|4 to 5||tablespoons ice water|
|1/2||teaspoon almond extract|
|1||21-ounce can cherry pie filling|
|2||cups fresh cranberries, rinsed|
|2||teaspoons fresh lemon juice|
|1||egg, for egg wash|
|1||tablespoon water, for egg wash|
|1||tablespoon clear sparkling sugar or 2 teaspoons granulated sugar|
|1||10-inch round tart pan with removable bottom|
Place flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, and salt into the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to mix. Add the butter and pulse until it is pea-size.
Add almond extract and 4 tablespoons ice water, and process at low speed until the pastry is crumbly. If the mixture appears dry, add the remaining ice water and process just until the pastry comes together and forms a ball. Remove the pastry, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill at least 30 minutes or until it is cold.
In a large mixing bowl, gently stir together the cherry pie filling, cranberries, sugar, and lemon juice until they are well blended; set it aside.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On a floured pastry cloth or counter, roll the pastry into a 12-inch circle. Fold the pastry in half and transfer it to the tart pan. Unfold the pastry, fit it into the pan, and trim the excess pastry by running a rolling pin over the top of the tart pan. Pour the cherry filling into the tart pan.
Gather the pastry trimmings together into a ball, roll it out, and cut the pastry into ten ¾-inch wide strips using a pastry wheel or knife. Place 5 strips of pastry across the top of the tart, then turn the tart one-quarter turn and place the remaining pastry strips across the top to form a basket weave pattern.
In a small bowl, whip the egg and water together with a fork. Brush some of the egg wash over the pastry strips and along the edges of the tart and sprinkle them with sparkling sugar.
Place the tart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Remove the tart from the oven and transfer it to a wire rack to cool.
Yield: 1 10-inch tart