08/11/12 11:00pm
08/11/2012 11:00 PM

Said the mushroom to the oak, “You’re very slow!
I dare say it’s ’most a year
That you’ve been growing here —
And I began not quite two days ago!”

Said the oak tree, rustling gently, “That is true,
Through many a winter’s snow,
And many a summer’s glow,
I’ve watched the growth of tiny things like you.”
‘The Mushroom and the Oak’ by G.K.

Unlike the tree, mushrooms grow very fast and can be cultivated in as little as two months. But also unlike the tree, mushrooms are not even plants, but fungi. Plants (and trees) develop through photosynthesis, with sunlight providing energy and the plants converting carbon dioxide into carbohydrates such as cellulose. Mushrooms have no roots, leaves, flowers or seeds. They survive and grow on decaying organic matter such as dead trees and manure.
Their unique nature enables mushrooms too add a delicious earthy element to cooking that enhances many foods. Mushrooms are also a good source of dietary fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. They contain almost no fat or cholesterol. The most popular kind are the agaricus bisphorus varieties such as button, cremini and portobello.

These mushrooms differ mostly in maturity, with the portobello being the oldest. Other varieties that are commonly farmed are shiitake and oyster mushrooms. Dried varieties such as porcini are a very good source of intense flavor when hydrated in hot liquid.

Mushroom Sauce
Purchase 2 portobellos, 8 ounces cremini, 8 ounces button, 4 ounces shiitake and 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms. Remove the stems from the portobellos and scrape the gills from the underside with a teaspoon. Dice into half-inch pieces and place in a bowl. Wipe any dirt from the creminis and quarter them along with the button mushrooms. Add to the bowl. Trim the stems off the shiitakes and cut them in half before adding to the bowl.

Bring 1 cup chicken broth to a boil and pour it over the dried porcini mushrooms. Let sit for 20 minutes.
Heat a large, heavy sauté pan and add 2 tablespoons butter. When butter is frothy, add the mushrooms from the bowl and cook, undisturbed, for about 5 minutes. Stir them around and add 1 cup chopped shallots and 2 tablespoons minced garlic. Season with 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage and 1 teaspoon ground pepper.

Strain the porcinis, saving the liquid. Chop the porcinis coarsely and add to the pan. Let all of the liquid from the mushrooms evaporate and add another tablespoon of butter. Stir in 1/4 cup flour to make a roux. Add the reserved mushroom liquid along with 1 cup white wine and bring to a boil. When it thickens, add 1/4 cup chopped parsley and check for seasoning.

With pasta: Boil 2 quarts water and add a 12-ounce package of whole-wheat bow-tie pasta. When cooked al dente, reserve a little of the boiling liquid and drain. Toss the mushroom sauce and pasta together, adding a little cooking liquid to thin it out. Grate fresh pecorino romano cheese over it and serve.  Serves 4.

With whole wheat spaetzle: Whisk together 2 eggs, 1 cup milk and 1/2 teaspoon salt. In a separate bowl, combine 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour with 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg and 2 tablespoons chopped parsley. Using a wooden spoon, add the dry ingredients to the milk mixture. Stir to form a thick batter. Cover and let it rest for 30 minutes.
At service time, bring 2 quarts water to a boil and add 1 teaspoon salt. Place the batter near the boiling water. Using a box grater, scoop out some of the batter with a rubber spatula and rub it through the large holes, holding the grater over the boiling water. Repeat until half of the batter is used. Let the spaetzle cook until it rises to the surface plus 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon or skimmer and drain in a colander. Repeat the process with the rest of the batter.

Heat a large sauté pan and spray it with no-stick. Melt 2 tablespoons butter and add the drained spaetzle. Cook until lightly browned and toss with the above mushroom sauce. Serves 4.

Stuffed Portobello with Barley Risotto
Remove the stems from 4 large portobello caps and scrape out the gills with a spoon. Mix together 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon soy sauce and 2 tablespoons canola oil. Brush this mixture on the inside and outside of the portobellos and place them on a foil-lined sheet pan with the inside facing up. Roast for 5 minutes at 400 degrees and turn them over, letting them cook another 5 minutes. Remove, drain any liquid out of them and set aside.

Bring 2 cups chicken stock to a boil and add a 1-ounce package of dried porcini mushrooms. Remove from the heat and let it rest for 20 minutes.

Heat a large, shallow saucepan and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Stir in 1/2 cup chopped shallots and let them cook for 3 minutes before adding 1/2 cup barley. Stir the barley until it is coated with oil and add 1 cup red wine. Leave the heat on medium high and let the wine reduce. Strain the porcini mushrooms over a bowl, squeezing out all of the liquid. Begin adding this liquid to the barley in 1/2 cup ladles, letting it boil away after each addition. Keep stirring the mixture with a wooden spoon and adding the stock until it is gone. Check the barley for tenderness. It should be cooked but still have a firm texture.

Chop 1 package of shiitake mushrooms and 1 package of cremini mushrooms. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a sauté pan and add the mushrooms along with the soaked porcinis. Season with 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary and 1 teaspoon ground pepper. When the mushrooms are cooked, add them to the barley risotto.

Place the cooked portobellos on a sheet pan and fill the cavities with the risotto. Heat in a 400-degree oven at service time and serve any leftover risotto on the side.
Serves 4.

Duxelles-Stuffed Mussels
To make the duxelles, coarsely chop 1 pound white button mushrooms. Peel and finely chop 1 cup shallots. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large, heavy sauté pan and add the mushrooms and shallots. Let them cook at medium heat until all liquid has evaporated, about 15 minutes. Add 1/2 cup white wine and continue to cook until it is entirely evaporated. Stir in 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley and remove from the heat.

In a soup pot, melt 2 tablespoons butter and add 1/2 cup minced shallots and 1 tablespoon minced garlic. Rinse 2 pounds of mussels and add them to the pot along with 2 bay leaves and 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes. Pour 1 cup white wine over the mussels, cover and bring to a boil. Simmer until all mussels open and remove from the heat.
Remove the mussels from the broth and strain the broth into a saucepan. Bring the broth to a boil and let it reduce a little. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small pan and add 1/4 cup flour to make a roux. Whisk the roux into the mussel liquid and let it simmer to thicken.

Remove the mussels from their shells and set aside. Break the shells apart and rinse. Stuff the mussel shells with the duxelles, placing a mussel on top of each shell. Put the stuffed shells on a sheet pan and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of panko bread crumbs. At service time, heat the stuffed mussels in a 400-degree oven for about 5 minutes and place them in the bottom of shallow soup bowls. Ladle some of the sauce over each bowl and sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Serves 4-6.

John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. Email: johncross@optonline.net.

07/27/12 3:15pm
07/27/2012 3:15 PM

Once upon a time on the coast of Turkey
there lived a woman who could cook eggplant 99 ways.
She could slice eggplant thin as paper.
She could write poems on it and batter-fry it.
She could bake eggplant and broil it.
She could even roll the seeds in banana-
flavored cigarette papers
and get her husband high on eggplant.
But he was not pleased.
He went to her father and demanded his bride-price back.
He said he’d been cheated.
He wanted back two goats, twelve chickens
and a camel as reparation.
His wife wept and wept.
Her father raved …
from “The Eggplant Epithalamion” by Erica Jong

A fruit of the solanaceae family (nightshades), the eggplant has a long history beginning in India and Southeast Asia. It is closely related to the tomato and potato but has a unique texture and complex flavor all its own. Eggplant has a wide international reputation with many countries contributing signature recipes: In India, baingan bharta is a roasted eggplant dish seasoned with curry, cumin, garlic, and ginger; in the Middle East, baba ghanoush is also roasted eggplant mashed with tahini, garlic, lemon juice, and cumin; in France, the famous ratatouille is eggplant mixed with zucchini, tomato, peppers and other vegetables; in Greece, moussaka has slices of eggplant, ground lamb and bechamel sauce; in Italy, caponata served as an antipasto and eggplant rollatine as an entrée; and in the United States, every pizza restaurant serves eggplant parmigiana, with its mozzarella and marinara sauce

Here on the North Fork, eggplant is at its best in August and September and is available in many sizes and colors. It is fat-free and a good source of fiber, potassium and minerals, but its culinary value is in its chewy texture and ability to absorb many flavors. Eggplant by itself is very low in calories, but when sauteed or deep fried (without purging) it absorbs large amounts of oil, making it very high in calories.

Purging (or salting) Eggplant
I used to think that salting the eggplant before using it in a recipe was a waste of time, but now I realize that it contributes to a much better taste and texture. The exception is young eggplant and the thin Asian eggplant. For a large, purple eggplant, purging is when you slice or dice the eggplant, sprinkle it liberally with coarse salt and let it sit for 30 minutes on a rack or in a colander so that it can drain. You then rinse the eggplant under cold water and dry it with paper towels. This will make the eggplant less bitter and also less absorbent. It is well worth the time.

Eggplant Parmesan with Goat Cheese
Purchase 2 purple eggplants, trim the ends off and peel them in alternating strips so as to leave some of the skin on. Slice them into 1/2” slices and purge them using the above instructions above. Break 2 eggs into a bowl and whisk in 2 tbsp. water. Place 2 cups of breadcrumbs in a shallow pan and season them with 2 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano, 1 tbsp. minced garlic, 1 tsp. coarse salt, and 1 tsp. pepper.

Line a sheet pan with foil and spray it with no-stick. Dip the slices of eggplant in the eggs and put them into the breadcrumb mixture, coating both sides. Put the breaded slices on the lined sheet pan and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, turning them once. They will come out golden brown, crisp on the outside and creamy in the center.

Prepare a cheese filling by combining 8 oz. of local goat cheese with 1/4 cup of grated parmigiano-reggiano. Let the cheeses come to room temperature and add 1 beaten egg, 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, 1 tsp. coarse salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Stir this mixture with a wooden spoon and set aside. Slice 1 large beefsteak tomato into 1/4” slices and slice 8 oz. of fresh mozzarella into 1/4” slices.

Assemble this dish either in individual ramekins or in a casserole. Place one slice of eggplant in the bottom of the ramekin and cover it with goat cheese filling. Place another slice of eggplant on top and a slice of tomato on top of the eggplant. Put a slice of mozzarella on top of the tomato and sprinkle some grated parmigiano-reggiano over it. Repeat until the ingredients are gone. At service time, place the ramekins in a 400-degree oven until the cheese is bubbling hot, about 15 minutes. Garnish with chopped fresh basil and serve with tomato sauce if desired. (Serves 4-6)

Moussaka
Purchase 3 eggplants, trim off the ends and peel off strips as in the above recipe. Cut the eggplant into 1/2” slices and purge them using the instructions above. Bread them and bake for 30 minutes exactly as in the above recipe for eggplant parmesan and set them aside. Heat a large sauté pan and place 1 1/2 lbs. of ground lamb (or beef) in it to cook. As the meat begins to brown, add 2 cups of chopped onion and 1 tbsp. minced garlic.

Continue cooking until meat is cooked through and add 1/2 cup of red wine. Let this simmer for 5 minutes and add 1 cup of crushed canned tomato and 2 tbsp. tomato paste. Season with 1/4 cup chopped parsley, 2 tsp. sugar, 2 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. allspice, 2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper. Simmer until thick, about 20 minutes.

Make a roux by melting 1 stick of butter in a small saucepan and stirring in 2/3 cup of flour. Let cook for 5 minutes at low heat. Separately, heat 1 quart of milk in a saucepan and season with 1/2 tsp. ground fresh nutmeg, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Add the roux to the milk and cook at medium heat, whisking the sauce until it becomes thick. Boil 6 new potatoes in their skins until just cooked, about 15 minutes. Run them under cold water, drain and slice into 1/4” slices.

Assemble the moussaka by sprinkling bread crumbs in the bottom of a large casserole and placing a layer of the sliced potatoes on top. Lay slices of breaded eggplant on top of the potatoes and spread the meat sauce on top of all.  Sprinkle 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese over the meat and top with more eggplant slices. Pour the bechamel sauce over everything and sprinkle another 1/4 cup of grated cheese on top. Place in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes and serve. (Serves 6-8)

John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. Email: johncross@optonline.net.

07/13/12 1:03pm
07/13/2012 1:03 PM

The lady of this house is in love
with the peach. How gently she places it
on the sill to catch the shaft of sun.
How many times she passes it under her nose
and breathes. So careful she is
not to bruise it, squeezing between finger and thumb,
coaxing ripeness …

While I who am all firm flesh
and smooth skin languish in the vegetable bin,
sandwiched between the stiff carrot and atrocious
onion. I shrivel and grow soft and must be peeled
and chopped, my seeds cast off,
and am tossed in a pot for sauce, beaten
and most horribly mashed with wooden spoon …
‘The Tomato Envies the Peach’  by Diane Lockward

Peaches and tomatoes are the fruits of summer on the North Fork. We don’t usually think of a tomato as a fruit because it is handled like a vegetable in cookery, but peaches and tomatoes have a lot in common: They are delicious whether served raw or cooked; when in season, locally grown and at their peak, they have a pure flavor that needs very little enhancement; and they are both very good for you.

No-Cook Tomato Sauce
Cut out the cores from 2 pounds of ripe tomatoes. Plunge the tomatoes into 2 quarts of boiling water for 1 minute and remove. When cool, peel the tomatoes and cut them into quarter-inch dice, reserving any juice or seeds. Place the diced tomatoes and the juice in a bowl and add 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 teaspoon coarse salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper and 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. Let sit for 30 minutes and serve with hot pasta such as farfalle or orecchiette. Grate fresh parmigiano-reggiano cheese over it and serve.
Serves 4.

Cooked Tomato Sauce
This recipe, taken from Marcella Hazan’s classic cookbook “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking,” is the simplest of all tomato sauces. When the tomatoes are very fresh and flavorful, it is great to show off the delicious tomato flavor without the traditional Italian seasonings. If possible, serve this sauce over potato gnocchi or fresh homemade pasta.

Cut out the cores from 2 pounds of ripe tomatoes. Plunge the tomatoes into boiling water for 1 minute and remove. When cool, peel the tomatoes and chop them, saving any juices. Place the chopped tomatoes and juice in a saucepan along with 5 tablespoons unsalted butter.

Peel a medium-sized, full-flavored onion (such as a local one) and cut it in half. Add this to the saucepan and season the sauce with 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil, uncovered, and let it simmer at low heat for 1 hour.

Gnocchi: While the sauce is cooking, boil 4 Yukon gold potatoes in their skins until fully cooked. When cool, peel them and press through a potato ricer as for mashed potatoes. Stir in 1 cup flour and 1 egg. Season with 2 teaspoons sea salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Dump this mixture onto a floured cutting board and knead into a dough. Cut the dough in half and roll out into 2 long “snakes” about 1 inch in diameter. Cut these rolls into 1-inch pieces and make the gnocchi by pressing them against a dinner fork with your finger and rolling them off of the end of the fork. The little potato dumplings will have indentations in them that help to hold the sauce.

Boil 2 quarts of water and add the gnocchi to cook like pasta. When they rise to the surface and cook for about 2 minutes, they are ready to remove and eat. Place them in shallow bowls and ladle the above sauce over them. Grate fresh parmigiano-reggiano cheese over them and serve.
Serves 4.

Peach Salsa
Plunge 6 peaches into 2 quarts of boiling water for 1 minute. Remove and cool before peeling. Dice the peeled peaches into half-inch pieces and set aside.

Heat a sauté pan and add 2 tablespoons canola oil. When hot, add 2 cups chopped onion, 1 minced jalapeño pepper, 1/4 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger. Cook for 5 minutes and add the peaches along with the juice and zest of 1 lemon. Season with 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and 1/4 cup chopped cilantro.

This salsa is really good with char-grilled salmon.
Serves 6-8.

Peach Barbecue Sauce
Plunge 4 peaches into boiling water for 1 minute. Remove, cool and peel. Chop coarsely and set aside.

Heat a sauté pan and add 1 tablespoon canola oil. When hot, add 1 cup chopped onion, 1 tablespoon minced garlic and 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger. Cook 3 minutes and add 1 cup catsup, 1/4 cup peach preserves and the chopped peaches. Simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes and add 2 tablespoons cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and a few drops of Tabasco.

Brush over grilled pork chops and serve some on the side.
Serves 6-8.

John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. Email: johncross@optonline.net.

01/29/12 12:00pm
01/29/2012 12:00 PM

Give me my scallop shell of quiet,
My staff of faith to walk upon,
My scrip of joy, immoral diet,
My bottle of salvation,
My gown of glory, hope’s true gage,
And thus I’ll take my pilgrimage.
—Sir Walter Raleigh

The harvesting of wild sea scallops is a huge industry in the United States. In fact, they are the most important shellfish fishery in the U.S., with 53.5 million pounds of sea scallop meats harvested in 2008. The capital of this harvest is New Bedford, Mass., but Atlantic sea scallops are found from Newfoundland to North Carolina.

The only part of the scallop marketed in the U.S. is the adductor muscle, so scallop fishermen clean them at sea, placing 40 pounds of the meats in muslin bags and throwing the remainder overboard. In Europe and Asia the entire scallop is eaten, including the coral and roe. The adductor muscle of the sea scallop becomes large and strong because, unlike clams or mussels, the sea scallop is an active swimmer, clapping its shell to move through the water.

Sea scallops are found in deepwater habitats along the continental shelf of the Atlantic Ocean, especially on Georges Bank, the Gulf of Maine and the mid-Atlantic area. They can live as long as 20 years, while the bay scallop has a maximum life of two to three years. Although previously on the endangered list, sea scallops have made a remarkable recovery due to proper regulation and management techniques.

Consumers are often confused about the terminology relating to sea scallops. Gourmet restaurants describe “diver” scallops or “day-boat scallops” while chefs order “dry seas” or “wet sea scallops.” Finally, “processed” or “previously frozen” scallops appear in some markets.

Dry sea scallops are harvested close to shore, cleaned, placed in bags on ice and marketed the same day. Sometimes they are picked off the bottom by divers and sometimes dragged off the bottom by a small boat — thus the terms diver and day-boat. These scallops have a briny taste of the sea, a sticky texture and a translucent appearance. Chefs love them because of their flavor and the fact that when sautéed in butter or olive oil, they caramelize on the outside and remain moist on the inside. Wet sea scallops are treated, after shucking, in sodium tripolyphosphate (STP), which inhibits the loss of natural fluids and creates a longer shelf life. STP is a safe additive, producing a whiter scallop with a firmer texture, but when cooked it throws off moisture, preventing that delicious caramelized exterior.
Frozen sea scallops are usually blast-frozen in large chunks when received, then thawed in water with STP and refrozen individually so that they can be marketed as “IQF” (individually quick frozen) scallops. We are lucky on the North Fork to be close enough to the scallop grounds to have a wide availability of dry seas year-round.

Chefs love to cook scallops because they can be grilled, broiled, roasted, poached, sautéed and fried — and because they are very flavorful by themselves, but also absorb many flavors from herbs, spices and seasonings. Just sautéing scallops in butter with a little lemon is perhaps most popular, but here are a few more simple recipes:

Sea Scallop Skewers with Rosemary
Purchase 24 large dry sea scallops (about 2 pounds) and a large bunch of rosemary. Strip half the leaves off of each rosemary sprig and soak them in water. Place the scallops in a bowl along with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary, 1 tablespoon minced garlic and the zest and juice of 1 lemon. Season with 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and refrigerate.

Trim 4 small red-skinned potatoes of any blemishes and boil them until just tender. Remove, cool and slice into quarter-inch rounds. Hold a rosemary sprig along the length of a metal skewer and alternate potatoes and scallops on the skewer until all are used. At service time spray a grill pan (or an outdoor charcoal grill) with no-stick and grill the scallops about 3 minutes per side. Place on a bed of wilted spinach and serve.

Serves 4.

Sea Scallops and Shrimp au Gratin
In a small bowl, soften 8 tablespoons unsalted butter. Stir into it the juice and zest from 1 lemon. Add 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 2 tablespoons minced shallots and 1/4 cup chopped parsley. Season with 1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt. Fold in 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs. Peel and devein 16 shrimp, cutting them almost in half butterfly style. Place the shrimp and 16 scallops in ramekins, divided equally. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of white vermouth over each ramekin and divide the butter mixture between them, spreading it evenly over the surface of each. Cook in a 425-degree oven for about 15 minutes and serve garnished with chopped parsley and accompanied by brown rice.

Sea Scallops and Bacon Appetizer
Combine 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup soy sauce and 1/4 cup lemon juice. Marinate 1 pound of dry sea scallops in this mixture for 30 minutes. Cut 8 slices of applewood-smoked bacon in half and place them on a paper towel-lined dinner plate. Microwave the bacon for 3 minutes.

Remove the scallops from the marinade and dry with paper towels. Wrap each scallop in bacon and skewer with a long toothpick. Place a grape tomato on the end of the skewer. Repeat with all the scallops and bacon. Cook the skewers in a 425-degree oven for about 5 minutes and serve as a passed appetizer.

The information and recipes above were adapted from an excellent new cookbook called “Scallops” by Elaine and Karin Tammi.

John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. Email: johncross@optonline.net.

11/23/10 9:36pm
11/23/2010 9:36 PM

The waves roll on and gulls above soar high,
Lone foghorns chanting Cape Cod’s solitude.
The dunes at rest beneath the autumn sky
Envelop peaceful beaches once imbued.
Bright foliage adorns the countryside,
Surrounding sun-dried bogs of cranberries.
This summer tourists’ verdant welcome tide
Now boasts majestic hues of burgundies.
Synthetic lakes spew forth from each bog’s moat
Releasing berries for the harvest day,
And buoyant crimson carpets lie afloat
In just abeyance being scooped away
To conjure up a sauce with Ocean Spray
And have with turkey for Thanksgiving Day.

“Cranberry Sonnet”
by Nancy Ness

The cranberry, so much a part of Thanksgiving, is one of only three fruits that are native to North America. The other two are blueberries and the Concord grape. The cranberry is a wild fruit that grows on long vines in sandy bogs and marshes. Native Americans used the cranberry to make pemmican — a mixture of venison, fat and cranberries mashed together — and as a medicine to heal wounds. It is possible that it was served for that first Thanksgiving in 1621.
By the 1800s cranberries were being farmed in the Northeast. Eventually wet harvesting was developed, based on the fact that cranberries float in water. Farmers would flood the bog with water to form an artificial lake. The cranberries would float to the top, where they could be easily scooped up.
The cranberry is a very healthy fruit, being high in vitamin C and other unique compounds. Sailors learned that eating cranberries was a way to prevent scurvy. Fresh cranberries are readily available during the holiday season and can be used in a variety of recipes. Here are a few:

Duck Breast with Cranberries
Cut 2 whole boneless duck breasts (skin on) in half to make 4 portions. Trim any excess fat and score the skin in a crosshatch pattern with the tip of a knife. Season them with coarse salt and pepper and set aside.
Bring 2 cups water to a boil and add 1/4 cup sugar and 2 cups fresh cranberries. Simmer for 5 minutes or until the berries pop. Remove and drain, reserving the cranberries. (The juice can be saved for another use.)
Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat and place in it the duck breasts skin side down. Cook until skin is a rich brown color, pour off excess fat and turn down the heat. Flip the breasts over and cook until medium rare, about 5 minutes. Remove the duck and pour off all the fat. Add 2 tablespoons butter to the pan along with 1/4 cup minced shallots. Sauté briefly and add the reserved cranberries. Stir in 1/4 cup red wine and 1/2 cup chicken broth. Bring sauce to a boil and reduce the liquid by half. Strain the sauce into a small saucepan, pushing as much liquid as possible out of the cranberries. Check sauce for seasoning and slice the duck breasts, fanning them out on the plate, spooning the sauce around them.
Serves 4.

Cranberry-Apple-Pecan Pie
Begin by making a double pie crust. Place 2 cups all-purpose flour in a bowl with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2/3 cup shortening. With a pastry blender, work this into a coarse cornmeal consistency. Sprinkle 1/4 cup ice water over the dough and combine lightly with a fork. Sprinkle another 1/4 cup ice water and combine. Form the dough into two equal balls with your hands and flatten each on a floured surface into a 1-inch-thick round. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate while preparing the filling.
Peel and slice Jonagold apples to make 4 cups. Place them in a bowl along with 2 cups fresh cranberries. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 teaspoon lemon zest to the bowl along with 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 white sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/3 cup flour and 3/4 cup chopped pecans. Stir this mixture together and let it sit while rolling out the pastry.
Roll out the bottom crust on a floured surface and place in a 9-inch pie tin with the sides overhanging. Pour the filling into the pie tin (it will be very full) and roll out the top crust. Paint the rim of the bottom crust with water and place the top crust over all. Crimp and flute the edges and cut slits in the top. Brush lightly with beaten egg yolk and sprinkle with sugar. Place in a 425-degree oven and cook for 55 minutes. Put a loose piece of foil over the pie while cooking to prevent its browning too quickly. Cool and serve.
Makes 8 portions.

Cranberry Oatmeal Pancakes
These are savory pancakes that contain no sugar, but are made with old-fashioned oatmeal and fresh cranberries. They go well with sautéed pork cutlets, turkey cutlets or chicken breasts — all accompanied by cranberry sauce.
Place 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal in a bowl and add 2 cups milk. Let oatmeal soak for 10 minutes. Stir in 3 lightly beaten eggs and 3 tablespoons melted butter. Mix 1 cup flour with 2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add this to the oat mixture.
Heat a large sauté pan and add 1/4 cup canola oil. When hot, drop 1/4 cup scoops of batter into the hot pan. Sprinkle fresh cranberries over the pancakes and press them in. Turn when brown and cook another 2 minutes. Remove to a warm oven and continue to cook in batches.

Cranberry Chutney
Add 3 cups fresh cranberries to a saucepan along with 1 cup peeled, cored and diced apple and 1 cup peeled, cored and diced pear. Stir in 1 cup golden raisins and 1/2 cup water. Add 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 teaspoon grated ginger, 3 whole cloves, 1/2 cup chopped onion, 1/2 cup chopped celery and 1 cup chopped walnuts. Bring to a boil and simmer slowly until berries pop, about 20 minutes. Cool at room temperature for 30 minutes and refrigerate. Remove cinnamon stick and cloves before serving.

Cranberry Maple Bourbon Sauce
Bring 2/3 cup maple syrup and 1/4 cup sugar to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes. Add 3 cups fresh cranberries and cook until the skins pop, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and swirl in 4 tablespoons cold butter, cut in chunks. Finish the sauce by adding 1/4 cup bourbon. Serve warm with turkey, duck or chicken.
Makes 8 portions.

Turkey à la Cranberry Vodka
Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a saucepan and add 2 cups chopped onion. Cook until soft and add 1/4 cup flour. Continue to cook for 3 minutes and stir in 1 cup cranberry-flavored vodka (you can substitute regular vodka). Stir in 1 1/2 cups chicken broth and 1 cup heavy cream. Season with 1 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Sauté 12 ounces of sliced mushrooms in 2 tablespoons butter and add to the sauce. Cut leftover turkey into 1-inch chunks and add to the sauce (about 4-6 cups).
Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil and add 1/4 cup sugar. Add 2 cups fresh cranberries and cook for 2 minutes. Remove cranberries with a slotted spoon and add them to the turkey mixture. Add 1 package of wide noodles to the boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain and serve with the turkey and sauce.
Note: If you don’t have leftover turkey, cook half a turkey breast in a 300-degree oven for 1 hour. Cool and remove the meat.

John Ross, a chef and author, has been an active part of the North Fork food and wine community for more than 35 years. E-mail: johncross@optonline.net.