ducks in a row

perfecting the "done before they arrive" party- a work in progress

Categories: Poultry, Veggies and Sides, Supper, Dinner Party, Sources, Posted on January 17, 2016 by Sandy Bergsten

What’s the secret to pulling off a seamless dinner party? Making sure all of your components are prepped and made ahead of time. And what better way to ring in the New Year than with a duck supper in front of the fire?

While I adore confit, I certainly don’t relish the idea of rendering and preserving duck legs in my own kitchen. Thankfully with Grimaud Farms I need not fret. With their fully cooked duck confit legs all I need to do is crisp them up in a hot oven. Now all that’s left is to get my sides in order.

Many veggies demand last minute attention. But for this dinner I thought I’d experiment and try to get them either completely or partially prepared ahead of time. I knew I wanted to make my dinner plates to really pop. So I decided on a fabulous trio of colors and textures starting with a sublime parsnip puree flanked with sautéed spinach and a sauté of wild mushrooms.

Parsnips are a cream-colored root vegetable that along with turnips, often get a bad wrap. I’ve found the key to bringing out their sweetness is to poach them in chicken broth. You might find they can be a little stinky when they cook which makes doing them ahead of time all the more desirable.

Place the peeled and sliced parsnips in a large pot. Cover them with chicken broth, bring to a boil, cover, lower to a simmer and cook until tender, approximately 15-20 minutes.

Drain the parsnips reserving some of the broth for later use.

Place the drained parsnips in the bowl of a food processor. Purée the hot parsnips with the butter, milk, salt and ¼ tsp ground pepper in a food processor until smooth.

Check for seasoning, then transfer to a serving dish.

Bring to room temperature, cover and refrigerate. This can be done a day ahead of time.

Isn’t it incredible how an entire bag of fresh spinach cooks down to almost a handful? Preparing sautéed spinach for a crowd can be a real bear. So I’m going to try out partially sautéing it earlier in the day then finishing it off with the garlic right before serving.

Chop the garlic earlier in the day, cover and refrigerate.

In a large skillet heat 1 tsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add six ounces of spinach and quickly sauté until almost wilted.

Remove from pan and place on a rimmed baking sheet to cool. Repeat two more times with 1 tsp olive oil and six ounces of spinach. Once completely cool, place in dish, cover and refrigerate.

For the sautéed mushrooms I use cremini and shitake. Stem and slice the mushrooms.

In a large heavy skillet heat the butter over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté, stirring occasionally until they have thrown off their water and begin to crisp. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool, cover and refrigerate.

Right before my guests arrive I’ll remove the Grimaud Farms duck legs from their packaging and place on rimmed baking sheet lined with heavy duty foil, so there will be no clean up afterward.

Halfway through cocktails I’ll pop the confit duck legs into a hot 400-degree oven.

Ten minutes before I want our guests to sit down I’ll reheat the parsnip puree slowly in the microwave using 50% power, stirring frequently and thinning with tablespoons of reserved broth if needed.

Meanwhile I’ll reheat the sautéed mushrooms in one tablespoon of butter in a clean skillet.

Lastly I’ll heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the slivered garlic, sauté for one minute.

Then I’ll add the wilted spinach (being careful to not include any liquid that the spinach might have thrown off). Season it with salt and pepper. And sauté for two minutes, tossing frequently.

This threesome will certainly have you singing from the sidelines!

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