A new (to me) cocktail, and great recs for reading, watching and links...
With colder weather moving in, it’s that time of year: time for duck confit.
Duck confit of course is duck slowly poached in fat, then left to cool submerged in that fat. That’s all there is to it. It will stay preserved below the fat all winter long in your fridge, ready for you when you are.
If you want a quick elegant meal, simply remove a couple legs from the fat, reheat and crisp up in a hot oven and you’re good to go. Serve it on diced potatoes (cooked crispy in some of that same fat). Serve it with beans, or grits, or pull it apart to make duck rillettes, or duck sliders, or add to a frisée salad with a red wine vinaigrette and a poached egg. Every household should have a crock of duck confit come fall.
A few weeks ago, shopping at the Union Square Greenmarket, I spotted a stand selling ducks and picked up a couple legs just to have on hand. It’s just Ann and me in a little West Village apartment with a narrow fridge, so I’m not going to confit a dozen to have on hand all winter (but that’s the best way to do it if you have the space).
True duck confit is cooked in duck fat. But a quart of duck fat is expensive and not always available. Did it have to be duck fat, I wondered? Why not flavorful olive oil, enhanced with herbs and garlic? I found that it works every bit as well!
Here’s an article on my confit in The Kitchn. And the three-step process for making it is in this post (the link in The Kitchn story no longer works).
Because I’d cooked them weeks ago, I happily had a great meal to have on hand last Wednesday night when Ann taught late and arrived home hungry. I served it on a bed of mixed microgreens, seasoned with some red wine vinegar, fried potatoes, and delicious baked corn (the best way to make use of starchy end-of-season corn).
I can’t encourage you enough to make your own duck confit. To make traditional duck confit where preservation is important, the legs are salted first and they’re cooked in a fat that’s solid at room temperature. But for basic duck to keep in the fridge, these steps aren’t necessary. Simply pack duck legs into an ovenproof pan, add a few cloves of garlic, some rosemary or thyme, cover with olive oil and put them in a 200˚F oven for six hours, give or take an hour. (They’re done when they’ve sunk to the bottom and the fat is clear.)
The best way to finish them is to allow them to come to room temperature, then put them in a 425-450˚F oven till skin is browned and meat is hot.
What we’re drinking…
We made another sojourn to the Long Island Bar in Brooklyn this week to meet a friend and were happy to see ace bartender Phil Ward working the bar. I took the opportunity to order a cocktail he created at, I believe, Pegu Club: rye whiskey, green Chartreuse, Luxardo, and lime, in equal parts. Because it was a spin on the classic Final Word, his boss at the time, Audrey Saunders, gave it its name: The Final Ward.
“I hate the name,” Phil said. “I don’t like having my name in the title of a drink.” He added, “I like naming drinks after novels.”
I asked him to mix me another rye-based cocktail and he set a new coupe before me. It was in the Manhattan family but I couldn’t isolate what was in it.
It featured a splendid Amaro I hadn’t heard of, Ramazzotti, as well as dry vermouth:
1.5 ounces rye
1 ounce dry vermouth
1 ounce Ramazzotti amaro
2 dashes orange betters
“We call this,” Phil said, “The Manhattan Transfer.” A worthy nod to the Dos Passos novel.
Diane Arbus …
The Diane Arbus exhibit at the David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea was one of the best things we’ve seen this week. Fifty years ago, MoMA put up this very exhibit and it was a sensation. Lines around the block. It remains sensational, both a time capsule of the 1960s and a timeless study of human grotesques. “Do they see themselves, the viewer wonders, like that?” Susan Sontag wrote. “Do they know how grotesque they are?” We asked ourselves the same question.
“Two girls in identical raincoats,” shot in 1969 in Central Park had to be taken down at the 1972 MoMA show because the father of one of the girls threatened to sue, claiming Arbus made her look like a lesbian.
“Two ladies at the automat, NYC,” 1966.
“Teenager with a baseball bat, NYC.”
“Retired man and his wife at a nudist camp one morning, 1963 N.J.”
I’ll bet you can’t guess who this “Very young baby, NYC” is. Click here to read the story.
The show is transformative, testifying to the power of Arbus’s work. On leaving, and for the next several days, we saw Diane Arbus grotesques everywhere around us in Manhattan. The main themes of this show and her work were grotesques, transvestites and the sexually ambiguous, twins, and people with masks. What amazing vision. What extraordinary reportorial skills to get this kind of access and intimacy with her subjects. You look at the people in the photos and they look back at you just as hard. (If you’re in NYC, today is the last day of the exhibit.)
Arbus killed herself a month before this exhibit first opened.
What we’re watching…
Best thing we’ve seen so far is the musical Kimberly Akimbo, which was highly lauded Off-Broadway and will open soon on Broadway, where we saw it in previews. Written by Pulitzer Prize winner David Lindsay-Abaire, it’s the story of a high school girl afflicted with a premature aging disease, her relationship with a fellow misfit, and her dysfunctional family. Every plot twist, every song was utterly unexpected. Victoria Clark (age 63) plays the teenaged Kimberly, and Bonnie Milligan all but steals the show as Kimberly’s ribald, felonious aunt.
We couldn’t wait to see the movie Tár, starring Cate Blanchett as a conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, one of the great orchestras, and Blanchett’s character is one of the great conductors of her era. She’s a tough, brilliant, egotistical artist, and the film watches her fall from grace, in what is a compelling story about cancel culture and a brilliant performance by Blanchett.
We saw a smaller film about an Irish fishing village upended when a prodigal son returns to start an oyster business and is accused of rape. A good, realistic drama called God’s Creatures.
And this from Ann on TV recommendations:
Binge watched Reboot on Hulu on my weekend alone in Providence while Michael and the cats stayed in NYC. An ensemble sitcom about the reboot of an old sitcom. Judy Greer! Paul Reiser! So binge worthy! Thirty minute episodes, smart, and really funny. And I started The Watcher, which is deliciously creepy and ridiculous. A family moves into a house in the suburbs and horror ensues—of course! Bobby Cannavale and Naomi Watts are the terrified couple. Her clothes are fabulous.
What we’re reading …
Again, handing it over to Ann:
HOTEL DU LAC by Anita Brookner is one of my favorite novels, so I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to read her ALTERED STATES. It’s about Alan Sherwood, a quiet sensible solicitor who remembers the time in his life when he stepped out of character and had an affair with a mercurial woman. An affair that changed his life forever.
I am rereading THE BLUEST EYE for the first time since I originally read it in 1984 for a class I took with E.L. Doctorow. It’s always been my favorite Toni Morrison book, and rereading it reminds me why. This essay by Hilton Als about it is pretty wonderful: Toni Morrison’s Profound and Unrelenting Vision. And Netflix just released this two-hour documentary on her.
A while back, a woman named Sarah, who works with the Japanese knife company, wrote to ask could they send me some knives and if I liked them, would I promote them on Instagram? I said sure—if I like them.
It turns out I like them very much (I’m especially fond of their wood handles on the steak knives and bread knife), and I also admire other items like their magnetic knife stand.
They are introducing a new Chef’s knife which I’m eager to try called the AUS series. And they’ve got a good knife set very reasonably priced. Use this link to their site and code RUHLMAN for a 10% discount.
Links we’ve loved…
This, from McSweeneys: It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers, by Colin Nissan.
What is up with these butter boards, and how do you make them, exactly?
I love chardonnay. I love exactly the kind of chardonnays we’ve been told not to like: the big buttery oaky chardonnay. Love. Love with lobster, love with roast chicken, love all by itself. This writer believes we need to reconsider our animosity toward classic chardonnays.
I’ve been thinking a lot about New York when I was first here working as a copyboy at The New York Times. And I have been loving for a while now the Instagram account retronyc. Below, an image of an NYC subway, mid-1980s, still a time when everyone read actual newspapers, evidently:
This is a fabulous piece on the poet Rod McKuen in Slate, about how he went from an actor desperate for fame to a cultural phenomenon, and the man Dick Cavett called “the most understood poet in America.”
Are you a Denis Johnson fan? Have you read his book Jesus’ Son? Here’s the real story behind his short story in that volume, “Car Crash While Hitchhiking.”
My mom and her husband, Bill, are big fans of CBS Sunday Morning. I guess I need to watch it as this is the second piece I’ve placed in this final spot in the newsletter. Also on a singer-songwriter from the 1970s. And it reminded me how much I still love some of this guy’s songs.
Bye for now and have a great weekend!
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Duck confit and John Denver. What a dinner party!
The video on John Denver really hit me as I remember words to several of his songs. I do not need Buzz Feed to tell me I am old. I recognized everything in that piece. When my 48 year old daughter was about 3 or 4, her Omi lived with us. I remember one evening marching and clapping with my daughter to Thank God I’m a Country Boy. We marched around her Omi’s bedroom laughing and singing and Omi loved it and covered her mouth cause she had taken her teeth out already. Today, in the throws of my reaction to the Moderna bivalent booster I got yesterday, the tears flowed freely as I realized how much time had passed with Omi long gone and how much I loved John Denver’s songs.