Duck Fat in a Roasted Red Pepper and Cheese Sandwich?

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Ok, I know this isn’t the most exciting notion of a sandwich, but scroll down and see the pics of this creation and you’ll at least wonder if it tastes as good as it looks.

Are you back?

Ok, give me credit- I creatively reused -instead of wasted-that plethora of duck fat that came from my duckling last week (scroll down to read my post, To Roast a Duckling).

Well, I don’t deserve a whole lot of credit. It really wasn’t my notion of ‘reusing’ that spurred me into this frenzy of finding dishes I could cook using it; it was more of my gourmet-obsessed mind to create dishes that look like they’ve come straight out of a (fancy) restaurant. I read about how all the best chefs in the world tout the incredible flavor that drips from this bird. I want to be like them, in my own kitchen (and without all the stress). Besides, did I forget to mention that Julia Child told me (not directly, of course) to use this fat, too?

You might be thinking that this fat isn’t very healthy, comparing its thick texture when cold to hydrogenated oils, hardened vegetable oils used to line your baking pan, or even lard, but duck fat doesn’t fall anywhere near those oils in comparison. In categories of taste, versatility and healthiness, it beats out all of them.

I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist, so I can’t give you clinical study results or medical advice, but I can suggest you read more about what the experts have to say about it. There is a long, but particularly interesting article about saturated fats by Dr. Mary Enig and Sally Fallon in the link below. They mention duck fat by name in their reference to how the French have a ‘lower rate of coronary heart disease than many other western countries’. http://www.health-report.co.uk/saturated_fats_health_benefits.htm

I also really love a book called Real Food by author Nina Planck. The information she provides in her book really helped me to release my fear of eating butter, cheese, whole milk and animal fats (halal only, of course). In fact, she provides solid and clear arguments about why you shouldn’t choose otherwise. Foods that are processed, chemically altered, genetically modified, unnaturally preserved, and even some that are pasteurized really come into question in her book. I suggest anyone interested in getting healthy or responsible for feeding and raising young children should read this book cover to cover.
http://www.ninaplanck.com/index.php?page=real_food_book

Ok, so I got off topic for a minute- but found a great opportunity to share one of my favorite authors with you….

Back to the roasted peppers.

I had an enormous bag of ‘Mysteriously Sweet Red Peppers’ from Mexico- yes, that was on the label- that I had to do something with. They were nice enough to stay firm in my refrigerator’s crisper until I could figure out what I wanted to do with them for a week or two.

I decided on roasted vegetables- an easy dish because all you have to do is spend a few minutes to loosely chop your items, throw on some salt, a bit of sugar, any seasoning you like and add some fat. Put them in an oven-safe dish and throw them in the oven at 350-375 degrees and wait for your nose to tell you they’re done, not burnt. Mine took about 40-45 minutes to get really nice and brown.

In this particular dish, I added red onions and whole, peeled garlic cloves to add flavor. I used about 4 TB. of the cold duck fat, but a great alternative is extra virgin olive oil. You could add eggplant or zucchini- any type of vegetable with a similar cooking time. Carrots or potatotes would need longer to cook unless they are blanched, so don’t use them unless they are.

When your dish is done, serve with French, Italian or pita bread and dip your peppers into them. You could also serve as a side dish to chicken, or top a pasta dish that needs a bit of jazzing up.

Copyright © 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright © 2009 My Halal Kitchen

One thing I must say is that this dish is even better the second day when the flavors have married.

That’s where this sandwich comes in.

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

Copyright 2009 My Halal Kitchen

I didn’t want to eat it in the same way the next day, so I got out a sandwich bun and toasted it. Meanwhile, I warmed up my roasted peppers in the microwave with a slice of Tillamook swiss cheese on top. When everything was ready, I ate it with pure delight, realizing I couldn’t have gone out and had a better sandwich elsewhere.

It’s not only the gratification of making your own food, without difficulty or waste, but the gratification of knowing that home really is the best place in the world to eat, making a mini meal like this worth the effort.

So, are you convinced yet? Make this sandwich yourself- or just the peppers as an appetizer with bread- and you’ll become a sort of taste believer.

And, umm, you don’t really have to use duck fat- unless of course you roast a duckling, too.

Keeping Warm, French Style

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This winter, I’ve snuggled up to more than my fair share of Julia Child cookbooks and DVDs of her cooking shows, “The French Chef”. So far I’ve seen countless hours of her slapping dough around to make croissants and French bread, demonstrating brutally tedious sauce-making techniques and offering 1960’s style video of her own shopping tours around Paris and the south of France. Nevertheless, I’m addicted to learning from this woman.

As a result, for the first time I’ve made homemade French Onion Soup, following Julia’s recipe verbatim. It turned out perfectly. Even my husband was “warmed” up to the idea of eating enormous amounts of onions and butter and cheese in this hearty dish. He even warmed up to the idea of learning a little something from Julia. I think he’s enjoying himself, ever so slightly, because Julia was a practical woman and a wildly demonstrative teacher who made it easy for us to understand and learn from- something all teachers should be, in my opinion.

One thing I’ve learned from reading other books and blogs about French culture, cooking techniques, style and form is that the French, particularly Parisians, really love to warm themselves up with a hot bowl of soup during the chilly winter months. Check out David Lebovitz’s blog about living in Paris and his article about celery root soup at: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/archives/2008/12/celery_root_soup.html

Here’s a quicker version of French Onion Soup than in Julia Child’s book I used (Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Fortieth Edition, Vol. 1 by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck, p. 43-45). It’s Emerille Lagasse’s recipe found on the Food Network website:
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/french-onion-soup-recipe/index.html

Substitute ½ cup red grape juice for the sherry and remember to use only your own homemade chicken and veal stock, made from dhabiha halal animals. If you don’t have that, use a halal canned or carton broth (let me know if you see that in any stores), or a can or carton of kosher stock or broth.

You can also use beef stock instead of chicken or veal stock but the taste will be a bit more “meaty”. And you can also just use one type of stock (i.e. only chicken as opposed to the combination), just make sure the stock is dark. Don’t make this dish if you will only be able to use water- it just isn’t worth sacrifice in taste.

Bon Appetit! Let me know how your soup turns out…

Yvonne

Halal Tamales by Mari

Tamale Wrapped in Banana Leaves
Tamale Wrapped in Banana Leaves
 

I owe my husband the credit of pursuing the creation of this totally dhabiha (meat slaughtered in the Islamically correct way) halal chicken tamale. We met a Mexican woman, Mari, from the southern part of Mexico City who now lives in Chicago’s Little Villag (La Villita).

Mari stays with Abuelita, my husband’s grandmother, and makes the tamales in her kitchen then hits the street to sell them for just $2 each. (Needless to say, they are sold out quickly!)

On a recent visit to Abuelita’s house, Mari offered us tamales made with Mennonite cheese and soft jalapeno peppers. The tamale was wrapped in banana leaves and when opened, brought me back to the memory of my own Abuelita’s Puerto Rican pasteles, similar to tamales wrapped in banana leaves.

Tamales are a traditoinal Latin American food whose main content is masa (steamed corn dough). They are then filled with meat, cheese and/or chiles. There are hundreds of different ways tamales can be made and home cooks have their own twist on traditional recipes.

Although in Mexico most tamales are wrapped in corn husks, many other parts of Latin America wrap their tamales in plantain (banana) leaves. I was told that since Mari’s tamales are wrapped in banana leaves that they are of the Veracruz (Mexico) style.

Unfortunately for Muslims, most traditional
Mexican tamales are made with masa that is mixed with manteca (lard)- a very important word every Muslim should know if he/she wants to eat Latin American food because lard is pork fat.
Although there is a health trend in Latin American cooking moving away from manteca to aceite vegetal (vegetable oil) or aceite de olive (olive oil), it’s better to ask whether or not your frijoles (beans) or huevos (eggs) are fried in them. Even Mexican, Cuban and Puerto Rican sweet breads (pan dulce) and regular pan is often made with manteca, which gives the pan its flaky crust. Be sure to ask. In the case of traditional Mexican tamales, the masa is almost always mixed with manteca for sabor (flavor).
So, how did we avoid the lard and get dhabiha halal chicken into our tamales? A little questioning and prodding into the preparation of tamales was essential. Getting to know Mari was the next most important thing.
Additionally, we’re fortunate in that Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood, although almost all Mexican, has one dhabiha halal chicken store called Pollo Vivo  (Live Chicken). That is where we bought our chicken for Mari to make our tamales.
We explained to her that we could not have the tamales prepared in masa with manteca, so we bought corn oil and she agreed to make it with that instead. Mari said it wasn’t such a strange request because when she lived in Mexico city she worked with many Jewish people and they also had similar requests for kosher meats and food prepared without any pork or pork products.
The result was simply wonderful- and we weren’t the only ones to think so. Mari thought the result was less heavy and more healthy than the traditional ones prepared with manteca. Now, all I have to do is learn the process from Mari- then I can share the results with you!
Additional Information/Resources:
About Pollo Vivo:
The owners are Muslims who keep chickens, rabbits and ducks in the store for a number of days and give them only halal animal feed. They are not kept cramped up in cages, but often seen having time to waddle around in their specified area. They are then prepared for you in the Islamic manner right there in the store within minutes of your purchase.
The store also sells quail eggs when available and dhabiha halal turkey around Thanksgiving season.  is located at 2601 S. Ridgeway at the corner of 26th Street and Ridgeway in Chicago’s Little Village(773) 542-9451.
For more information and an explanation on what dhabiha means, please refer to the following site: http://www.ehalal.org/Dhabiha%20Halal.html