SOL JOSE VANZI'S DUCK CONFIT: SO CONFIT-CATED!

A five-star bistro serves up one of the most complicated dishes with a side of excellence. Whenever duck confit is on the menu, part of the meal is hearing the chef narrate the pains and joys of making the dish. Confit became one of the most unforgettable experiences of my married life. Almost 40 years ago, as a new bride, I decided to impress Vic by making duck confit in our cramped kitchen. First, I had to source the duck and duck fat. Because the recipe requires enough fat to simmer the duck in, extra duck fat had to be secured. This was arranged by Aling Esper, one of the pioneer fried itik entrepreneurs from Victoria, Laguna, who also provided the plump duck layers culled from her neighbor’s egg farm. Using a thick, deep stewing pot, the first task was to render the fresh duck fat to extract the oil. To preserve the duck’s flavor and scorching, a thermometer monitored the oil’s temperature at all times. It took four hours at very low temperature before the golden fat almost completely melted, leaving small pieces of crisp duck skin floating on the oil. Meanwhile, the duck had been rubbed with a mixture of herbs and spices and kept chilled inside the refrigerator. The seasoned duck quarters (or whole duck, depending on one’s preference) were drained, dried, and arranged in the stewing pot to simmer at very low temperature for at least three hours or until tender. When done, the duck was kept to cool in the pot and the whole thing was kept in the fridge to ripen while waiting to be served. That duck confit process took a day and a night. To this day, I have great respect for any chef who cooks and serves the challenging dish. Confit is on the menu of the Mesclun Bistro on the ground floor of the Eastwood Mall. Not just once, but several times. The chef even whimsically reveals her Filipino-European family background with crispy pata confit-style, featuring pig knuckle cooked in goosefat and served with sauerkraut, mustard, soy vinaigrette, and goose fat rice. CONTINUE READING...


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So confit-cated!


GOOD EATS Clockwise from top: Mesclun's duck confit; carabao milk-based ice cream sandwiches, halo halo, cheese and avocado shakes; and Flammekeuche Speck


by Sol Vanzi

MANILA, JUNE 9, 2014 (BULLETIN) by Sol Vanzi - A five-star bistro serves up one of the most complicated dishes with a side of excellence

Whenever duck confit is on the menu, part of the meal is hearing the chef narrate the pains and joys of making the dish.

Confit became one of the most unforgettable experiences of my married life. Almost 40 years ago, as a new bride, I decided to impress Vic by making duck confit in our cramped kitchen.

First, I had to source the duck and duck fat. Because the recipe requires enough fat to simmer the duck in, extra duck fat had to be secured. This was arranged by Aling Esper, one of the pioneer fried itik entrepreneurs from Victoria, Laguna, who also provided the plump duck layers culled from her neighbor’s egg farm.

Using a thick, deep stewing pot, the first task was to render the fresh duck fat to extract the oil. To preserve the duck’s flavor and scorching, a thermometer monitored the oil’s temperature at all times. It took four hours at very low temperature before the golden fat almost completely melted, leaving small pieces of crisp duck skin floating on the oil.

Meanwhile, the duck had been rubbed with a mixture of herbs and spices and kept chilled inside the refrigerator.

The seasoned duck quarters (or whole duck, depending on one’s preference) were drained, dried, and arranged in the stewing pot to simmer at very low temperature for at least three hours or until tender.

When done, the duck was kept to cool in the pot and the whole thing was kept in the fridge to ripen while waiting to be served.

That duck confit process took a day and a night. To this day, I have great respect for any chef who cooks and serves the challenging dish.

Confit is on the menu of the Mesclun Bistro on the ground floor of the Eastwood Mall. Not just once, but several times. The chef even whimsically reveals her Filipino-European family background with crispy pata confit-style, featuring pig knuckle cooked in goosefat and served with sauerkraut, mustard, soy vinaigrette, and goose fat rice.

What a great combination of East-West comfort food!

For lovers of classic cuisine, duck confit is also offered with mashed potatoes, garlic confit, and caramelized onions. Either way, couples or groups have the option to share the dish and complete the meal with any of the excellent salads.


Mesclun Bistro

RARE TREATS

Mesclun serves another rare treat at bistros: Real sourdough bread and crust, in the form of flammekeuche or tarte flambée, a speciality of the Alsace region of France.

It is a thin crust rectangular pizza baked in a very hot oven topped primarily with homemade crème fraîche, onions, and bacon. The extremely hot oven causes blisters that result in toasted puffed portions much like the galyetas biscuits of Calabarzon.

Chef Katrina Kuhn Alcantara is so dedicated to her craft that she treats her sourdough starter like newborn babies that have to be fed and turned regularly to keep alive and bubbly. She constantly checks on their state of health whenever out of town.

Sourdough is also the basis for Mesclun’s light and crunchy pizza creations, which are worlds apart from anything delivered by uniformed motorcycle-riding waiters, as most of the cheeses and meats used are sourced from high-end delis or imported directly by the chef.

Real corned beef is so unlike the shredded canned stuff we all grew up with. At Mesclun, it is presented European-style: cubes of imported beef brisket lightly cured by the chef and simmered for hours. The large bowl of tender beef also contains broth filled with cabbage, potatoes, and carrots. Served on the side are Pommery mustard, horseradish, and rice pilaf.

Chef Katrina’s sense of humor surfaces in the sisig spaghetti, a plate of thin pasta bathed in a light tomato sauce thickened with Filipino sisig and served with fresh calamansi halves to squeeze atop the melange before mixing everything together.

The pork parts used in sisig provided the pasta sauce with a welcome degree of richness not possible using starches or flours. The chopped pig parts provided crunch with every bite, while the calamansi added freshness and a surprisingly welcome tart nuance that lifted the dish beyond being classified as merely another Pinoy fusion experiment.

FLAVORS AND INFLUENCES


Chef Katrina Kuhn-Alcantara and her husband Marco Alcantara

Marrying into the Alcantara clan of Southern Mindanao has given Chef Katrina access to the rich fishing grounds of Davao and Sarangani, which she takes full advantage of whenever seabass is in season. She bakes the apahap (seabass) in a technique that infuses the fillets with smokey flavors through a secret method.

Because the chef is an Arce on her mother’s side, it is but natural that her desserts would star frozen concoctions based of fresh carabao milk, just like the Selecta ice cream introduced by the family after World War II.

But she has gone beyond the boundaries of flavored ice cream; her creations are a combination of childhood memories, Filipino street food, and combinations of many different homegrown frosted delights.

Mesclun’s halo halo, for example, rises above the traditional shaved ice with sweets we all know; the crushed ice is from frozen carabao milk that gives the dessert a delightful, velvety texture. Instead of leche flan, the glass is topped with an elongated pyramid of crunchy yema, created with egg yolk, and carabao milk just like the customary custard. The desserts alone are enough reason to visit any of the three Mesclun outlets (Eastwood, Serendra, and Linden Suites).

While Chef Katrina awaits her first child, she continues to study new ingredients and cooking styles, leaving friends and clients looking forward to fresh additions to the menu soon.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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