Cooking with Crosby Roamann: Steve’s Legendary Stuffed Duck

Food and memory are indelibly linked. There are some dishes that we make every year that have become such a part of who we are that we couldn’t imagine ourselves without them. This is one of those recipes. It’s the roast, stuffed duck that Juliana’s father, Steve Arvai, made every year, traditionally around Christmas.

Steve emigrated to the United States in 1969 from Hungary, just as that country was enduring a crushing Communist rule that would last another 20 years. He made a life here and raised his children here, and one of the things that Steve was known for — besides his charming smile and quick witted humor — was his cooking. As the holidays are approaching, we thought it would be fun to share this recipe, which we enjoy just around now, as the weather cools suitably in the North Bay area and is suitable for any holiday gathering. The crispy skin, and the juicy dark duck meat, paired with a savory stuffing, and a sweet red cabbage slaw is pretty much my definition of culinary heaven: and it goes perfectly with our Merlot from the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley.

 

Merlot, Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley

750ml

We buy our ducks from Sonoma County Poultry, a wonderful place that delivers to some of the best restaurants in the area. These ducks are wonderfully fresh, and we think they tend to be a bit larger and tastier than those you find frozen in traditional supermarkets. Information can be found here: http://www.libertyducks.com/about.html

Bon Appétit or as they say in Hungarian, Jó étvágyat!

Steve’s Legendary Stuffed Duck Recipe

(For 6-8 adults)

Ingredients:

  • 2 ducks cleaned (4-6 lbs. each) and trimmed, gizzards reserved, keep the necks.
  • Dried apricots for roasting (optional)
  • Chicken stock for roasting (optional)

Stuffing:

  • 2 small bags or one large bag (1lb.) croutons (Steve preferred garlic parmesan, but almost any stuffing mix will do)
  • 1 qt. milk
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1 large bunch parsley
  • 1 package white mushrooms
  • ½ lb. ground chicken, preferably thighs
  • Salt, pepper, and Vegeta for seasoning
  • 1 raw egg
  • Roasting twine

Directions:

  • Night before: salt and pepper the ducks and refrigerate overnight
  • 1-2 hours before cooking time: remove ducks from refrigerator and bring to room temperature
  • Preheat oven to 350° F.
  • Soak croutons/stuffing mix in milk.
  • Chop parsley, mushrooms, and hard-boiled eggs into small pieces.
  • Mix with the crouton/milk mix and blend in the ground chicken. Season with salt, pepper and Vegeta.
  • Stuff the ducks and recover with the flaps of fat, then tie them up with roasting twine.
  • Put the dried apricots in the bottom of the pan with the duck necks.
  • Roast one hour at 350° F covered with aluminum foil.
  • Remove the foil and roast two more hours at 350° F, basting occasionally.
  • Internal temperature should reach 165° F.
  • Remove ducks from oven and let rest 20 minutes.
  • Remove stuffing and serve independently.
  • Quarter ducks, remove backbone, and serve with red cabbage slaw (recipe below), sweet potatoes, and roast brussels sprouts.

Reserve the fat: Throw away the apricots and necks. Reserve the duck fat for another cooking purpose.

Red Cabbage Slaw

Ingredients:

  • 1 head red cabbage
  • ½ stick butter
  • 2 Tbsp. chicken stock
  • 1 tsp. white vinegar
  • 2-3 tsp. caraway seeds
  • Kosher salt and pepper to season

Directions:

  • Shred the red cabbage into long thin slices, removing the hard white parts from the center.
  • In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium high heat; add the cabbage and the chicken stock.
  • Season with Kosher salt, pepper, and caraway seeds, and mix in.
  • Cover, turn heat down to medium and cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove from heat and stir in the white vinegar. Return to heat for 5 minutes.

Harvest 2014

2014 has been a whirlwind. Budbreak occurred in February, and was followed by a moderate, dry spring. Fruit set was low, and we experienced only moderate heat events throughout June and July, with cool weather through the middle of August that allowed full maturation of the grapes.
 
Our harvest started in earnest five days after the earthquake, on August 29, with Sauvignon Blanc from Handley Vineyard, just north of the town of St. Helena. We destemmed one-half ton of fruit and fermented it on its skins with naturally occurring yeasts. The balance we whole-cluster pressed to neutral French oak barrels for fermentation. The wines are now aging sur lies and receive weekly battonage.  They are wonderfully nuanced, full, and ripe, and unlike anything we have produced before.
 
In a twist of fate our Cabernet Sauvignon was harvested next. It was exciting to find thisbeautiful vineyard perched high above Lake Hennessey.  And, a fellow McBride, no relation, owns the property, named Loveland Lee Vineyard. The site has an unusual aspect, occupying a steep hillside that wraps around the northern facing slope of Pritchard Hill, with vines facing northeast by north by northwest. The light arrives slowly across the shadow of the hill. The soil is composed of light brown clay, and is unusually thin. We picked this vineyard by hand with friends the morning of Wednesday, September 17. The berries were small and rich.  This fruit was de-stemmed at Wine Foundry and then taken to Punk Dog Cellars to ferment in six closed-top barrels, with daily spinning by hand, for 42 days. We pressed off the Cabernet by hand over the last week of fermentation, and once our new location in South Napa is ready, later this year, the barrels will move to our first permanent facility for maturation. This Loveland Lee Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is likely to be the most concentrated, rich, and luxurious wine we have ever produced, with yields totaling just 116 gallons/ton.
 
For the second year in a row, we harvested Pinot Noir from Carneros.  This fruit came in September 24 from Cuvaison Vineyard. We performed an aggressive saignée on the fruit to concentrate flavors and colors, and fermented in two new Leroi barrels and three bins. We pressed this wine gently off the skins and seeds over a seven-day period entirely by hand, culminating in an incredibly soft and silky structure. Pinot Noir is a tricky grape, but a rewarding challenge. Still young, it’s showing delectable cherry cola and sweet blackberry flavors already. 
 
We harvested Chardonnay on October 4, also from Napa’s Carneros district.  We performed a very slow, whole-cluster press on this fruit, then racked the clarified juice to a selection of four, three, and one-year old French and American oak barrels. The wine is still fermenting at a very cold temperature, with bi-weekly battonage, on naturally occurring yeasts, and as in past years, will probably complete primary and malolactic fermentation by June 2015 at the earliest.
 
And then we come to the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley, our home and our flagship, from which we have produced a succulent and age-worthy Merlot for the past five years. We believe in this place and this vineyard, and we are thrilled to continue our relationship here. The quality of the fruit this year was superb: very ripe, but very balanced, with very ripe seed tannins. After a three-day cold soak, we fermented the juice in two, one-ton lots for 26 days.
 
People often ask us what it means to make “handmade” wines.  After just completing harvest 2014 we can tell you that honestly, our hands couldn’t be more involved every step of the way, so if we had a mission statement, it would read something like this …

  • We only make small lots of wine: nothing more than what we can produce ourselves, with help from friends and family.
  • We get our hands dirty: we are the people picking the grapes, re-coopering the barrels, performing the punch-downs, and pressing the wines gently by hand.
  • We pay attention to detail: there’s no guidebook; there’s no formula; there’s no recipe. We make the wines differently every year. Often they are very different wines, from each other, and from everything else available. They are unique.

Wine tells a story.  This is ours. Join us in Napa Valley. Become a Member.

Two-bottle Membership:

Six-bottle Membership: 

A Special Thanksgiving Postscript: This year (and last), we have so many people to thank for the incredible assistance they brought to our harvest and winemaking, we wanted to take a moment to call them out by name: Eric Arvai, Nathaniel “El Tapatio” Foster and Ben Kopman with whom we harvested 2013 Pinot Noir from “the pig farm” and 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon from Loveland Lee Vineyard on sunny Pritchard Hill. A special note of thanks to Ben — whose eagerness for winery assistance is unmatched! — who assisted Sean with the arduous task of re-coopering all the barrel fermentations for 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon.  Thank you as well to Alex Pitts, Karina Turtzo, and Dani Rozman for their invaluable assistance picking the main lot of old vine Cabernet from Loveland Lee Vineyard September 17. This harvest would not have been possible without Eric Gordon at Punk Dog Wine Cellars in Napa’s burgeoning Wine Ghetto, the invaluable assistance of the crush pad at the Wine Foundry, and the magical crew at White Rock Vineyards. Thank you also to Katie Griffin and Heidi Williams for their dexterous finger work on the sorting table and all their support this year and last.

 

 

 

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