Valentines… bath,duck and kumquats

Valentines… bath,duck and kumquats

Ok not the rubber kind and it was the car that got the bath. Happy Valentine’s day honey. Right? What do we get for our loving husbands? Mine isn’t into power tools but how about washing and vacuuming the car, I thought. It was my first car wash in Germany. I was returning from dropping Chloe off at school.. which on a side note is so totally American. These kids here are trained young for church, getting themselves around, and crossing streets only when the green guy flashes. We see 5 year olds out there rain, sun, snow walking to school. They’ve got backpacks as big as their little bodies and until they leave home at 18, they are independent. It’s great. But you have to start straight away. Like with church. My choir did a couple songs for the kids service today and these kids start so young going to church. It is just something you do on Sundays. You start them before they realize they have choices.  It’s not like a “hmm… should we go to church today?” It’s just what you do. By the time they hit puberty it’s part of a structure that just is. I’m not religious per se so it’s not about going to church… but the principal of training, ya know?

You can read further about my car wash experience down below. It was pretty funny. But now here are a couple ideas for a lovely Valentine’s Day meal or weekend dinner.


I started by making kumquat marmalade. *NOTE- YOU WANT TO START THIS the NIGHT BEFORE (read printable recipe) You can do this if you have the time and desire. Or you can buy it. Or use the orange marmalade you might already have in the fridge. Really it’s pretty easy. The trick is not overcooking it. Which to be honest I didn’t cook it down enough. I started with  2 1/2 cups sliced kumquats, 4 cups water, and 2 cups sugar.

I thought this was my result….

But the next day, realized it was runny and I hadn’t cooked it down enough…so I threw it back in a pan and ended up with this..which is enough when you aren’t eating toast every day anyway. Although now I want to. With butter of course and a thick layer of this. And btw, this was what remained after what I used on the duck.

I cooked two duck breasts. One would be really enough for two people. But we don’t eat duck very often and so when we do, we don’t want to skimp. I did the 2 breasts for 3 people (and Chloe does not love sweet marmalade on her duck). Hence, O and I ate a lot.

First I scored the fat.

Then seared it in a hot pan and rendered (cooked off) a bit of the fat… please save this fat for frying potatoes another day. It’s SO good. Below are the seared but uncooked breasts.

Then I smothered my seared breasts (sounds dirty and painful) with kumquat marmalade and cooked them for about 20 minutes at 400° which left them very pink. Take it another 5 min for medium. And then give them 5-10 min to rest and do a little residual cooking before you slice into them. These are heading into a hot oven.

Our sides were pan fried brussel sprouts with lardons (salted pork belly bits) and a root vegetable puree. I used about a 1/2 kilo of sprouts and a slab of pork. I boiled the sprouts first till they were very tender.

Here they are cooking… not a fantastic photo but the only one I snapped.

For the puree… about 4-5 small potatoes, 2-3 small parsnips, 1 small chunk celeriac (like 30 g or size of a big thumb) 1/2 clove garlic. All cooked in a 1/2 cup of cream and 1/2 cup whole milk. A dash of nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. I leave the lid on for 1/2 cooking then take it off and let the liquid reduce a little. Then I used a hand masher. Ideally, I’d pass it through a tamis (sieve) to make it really smooth. But mine is in the states.

And here’s what the meal might look like when you sit down (except it will be hot). I ran out of light the night we ate. I pulled it out the next morning before a 12 hour day of singing rehearsal! And yes, ate it cold for breakfast.

Here’s what I did for dessert. It was a custard with raspberry and whip cream. I made the custard and took half of it and added some deseeded raspberry puree. Then I layered the custard, raspberry/custard and raspberry jelly I made and topped with a little red fruit and whip cream. Have fun with it.

Rough guideline for recipes- Valentines Duck Breast Dinner – print here

And the car wash story…

I was driving home from school and noticed people coming out of the automatic car wash and the idea popped in my head. Hey, O would be so happy to have the car washed and it wouldn’t kill me since I’m the one driving it everyday. I pull in and think about what I’m going to say in German. I asked and the reply entailed a lot of unfamiliar vocabulary. But I repeated back what seemed important. Punch in number, drive forward, and something about pushing a black button. Good. I drive around back, read the sign several times in case I’m missing something. Understood 95% of it except for maybe a couple words (key ones in retrospect). I punched in the number, the door responded appropriately by opening, and I drove in till the big machine flashed “STOP”. That was all pretty similar to our set up in the USA. But then I’m sitting there and nothing else was starting automatically. Oh right… where exactly was that black button I was suppose to push? I opened the car door. I look on the wall. I look back outside the still open garage like door and see the black button. Now I’m in a bit of a conundrum not knowing if I’m suppose to run outside and push it and run back in before it starts? Or do I stay out while the car wash does it’s thing? Is that in fact the black button I was supposed to push? Oh lordy. I’ll cut to the chase. Fortunately, somebody drove up. After observing my apparent confusion, they offered to push the black button and I hustled into my car. I ended up with a clean car… I’m almost done. I then pulled into the vacuuming part. I inspected the machine and didn’t see any coin slot and thought, wow is this free? Germany is great. I’m tugging on the cord hoping it starts automatically. No. I ask the gentleman next to me cleaning the garbage from his car. He tells me in German it’s 50 cents and proceeds to put in a 50 cent piece. And I’m like wow, vielen dank. Gosh that’s so nice. Then I feel my hose and there’s no suction. He is of course vacuuming his own car and I realized there were two hoses and two coin slots. Having suffered fairly regular humiliation,  I cringe a mere nanosecond and scrounge in my purse for my own 50 cents, shove it in the slot without eye contact and vacuum my own damn car. It looks great. O was very pleased.

14 responses

  1. wow- duck is now on my grocery list- maybe for our last 2012 winter’s night in gainesville which will be next Monday night since we are leaving for Fort Pierce (Port Fierce)for 6 weeks tuesday- Washing the car? NOT on my list. Yee gads- April planned yet? LOVA YA!


  2. Man Oh Man. As I looked at your scrumptious meal the only words that came to me where words Liz Lemon would say: “I want to go there.” I love you, you creative wunder woman. Notice the german spelling for wonder, duh.


  3. The custard and raspberry looks divine!

    Your car wash story had me laughing out loud. By chance, have you ever seen the movie, “Bread and Tulips?”. It is my favorite Italian film for so many reasons but one of them is because the main character is prone to clutzy moments–and I can relate. I am not referring to you as a clutz but if you can laugh at moments like you had in the car wash, then you would enjoy the movie.


    • Thanks. I loved the colors almost as much as the taste. I also adore that movie and I can be clutzy and a little ditzy losing things too. I’d be royally effed without a little humor and faith that things will work out!


  4. Hey the quack-quack looks great … and don’t forget your day’s big lesson … life is all about that BLACK BUTTON. The problem is finding it. Then of course there’s always that extra 50c to finish the job. As they say in the Boy Scouts ..”Be Prepared” …

    Some fatherly advise … I love you … Happy Valentine’s Day!


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  7. That sear on that duck breast…. Gah… So glad it is not in front of me. : ) Love the kumquat marmalade. Would be nice with a dessert too… Ah living amongst the natives…I distinctly remember asking for directions in several times in southern germany and not understanding the answer and then asking another person 🙂 🙂 🙂


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