What should you do the first day it's actually warm out? (Actually, sit-in-the-sun, glow-in-your-bones from the legs to your toes to the tip of your head warm out.) You might want to go for a bike ride with your boy, chugging up hills, ripping off your toque and gloves when they become unnecessary, pointing to flowers and backyards with awesome treehouses (note to self: live in a treehouse when you grow up), stopping at the Root Cellar for apples and to eat most of the watermelon samples. You might discover that your tire has a gash in it - the tube protrudes right through. You might press on regardless. Your tube might pop. You might find a perfect picnic spot, mostly quiet, in a meadow filled with flowers, shafts of sunlight and hardly any wind. You might get dandelion pollen all over your pants, but that's okay. You might eat apples and skordalia and turnips and their greens, homemade oatmeal bars and barely thawed bread (and curse yourself for not bringing more). You might read an entire book of poetry and finish it off with a hunk of cheese. You might feel like you've been dreaming, in another world. You might walk to Cadboro Bay for trail mix and find duck legs on sale at Peppers. This is the start of it!
The next day you might walk to MEC to get a new tire, this time stopping at Cascadia for a cinnamon bun. You might squint your eyes and wrinkle your nose to discover it sore from the sun yesterday, and more today. You might successfully change your tire, mount your steed and barely thirty seconds later hear the crack of your boyfriend's tube exploding so violently it rips actual chunks of metal from the wheel rim, leaving it in shreds. You might continue, on foot, to the Moss Street Market. You might start to feel impatient. Once there you might choose a swath of overgrown mustard greens and your boyfriend might carefully, dawdlingly, select a pound of potatoes. That's the next of it!
At home your annoyance might billow as all the little things to do swirl up and around you when really, all you want to do is sit outside in that glorious sun. You might realize how terribly sad you are now that today is the last day - your boyfriend is leaving you tomorrow (temporarily) to become an evergreen farmer. You might spread peanut butter on celery, sprinkle raisins on top, call it ants on a log and cry. That's necessary too.
And then you might cook. Those duck legs with potatoes and just a few other things - onion and a snatch of thyme. Panettone bread pudding. (So simple! The bread being what it is you don't even need more butter or sugar or even fruit. You just slice it into large cubes, toast them to a handsome brown, whip up two eggs with 3/4 cup milk and 1/4 cup cream, soak the toasted cubes in that for about 5 minutes, ladle into a greased baking dish that goes into a water bath in a 350 F oven until the custard sets and the top crusts (a toothpick will come out clean)). You might eat outside, rolling up your sleeves and removing your socks, devouring crispy skin, gamy meat and crunchy fat-soaked potatoes sopped with sharp greens. You might think how filling it all is, the fat, the sun, the simple sigh from the guy across the picnic table from you. You might feel perfectly satiated.
Roast Duck and Potatoes
Adapted from French in a Flash
The original recipe called for scallions (which might be nice) and peas (which won me over) but I didn't have either. Next time! Also, as I did not have any herbes de Provence in my otherwise extensive spice drawer I used my imagination and crumbled some dried thyme, rosemary, tarragon and oregano together. Turns out, standardly, herbes de provence is a mixture of savoury, fennel, basil and thyme. Work with what you've got!
1 pound small, buttery potatoes (or more, if you like)
1 medium onion
1 sprig fresh thyme
1/2 tbsp plus 1/2 tsp olive oil
2 duck legs, thighs attached
herbes de Provence (see note above)
coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Slice the potatoes into thirds. Peel the onion, leaving the root end intact, then slice into rough chunks held together by that root end. Toss the potatoes and onion with the thyme, 1/2 tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper. Slide into the oven to start softening.
Trim any excess fat off the duck and reserve. Rub the legs with the remaining 1/2 tsp olive oil, sprinkle with the herbes de provence and season with salt and pepper. Heat a cast-iron skillet (oh boy it's going to love this!) over medium-high heat and add the reserved duck fat so that it starts to render. (You can eat any pieces that go particularly crisp.) Place the duck legs skin side down into the pan and sear for about 4 minutes, until the skin is beautifully golden. Flip and sear for another minute.
Place the duck legs on top of the roasting vegetables. (If you like, you can also toss the vegetables with any duck fat left over in your skillet). Cook for 30 to 35 minutes, until the juices run clear. Rest for a couple minutes then serve on a bed of sharp greens to provide contrast and soak up the juicy fat. Eat and be full, in the richest sense of the word.