By Colleen Armstrong and Bradley Carleton
A popular New Zealand Christmas Dessert
I am married to a New Zealander, who shares his birthday with the Christ child on December 25th. When we celebrated our first Christmas together, John’s request was “Pavlova”. The meringue-based dessert is named after the famous Russian dancer, Anna Pavlova. Evidently, it was created for her in the 1920s when she performed in Australia.
It is a fitting dessert for southern hemisphere countries because Christmas Day is a summer’s day with plenty of fresh fruit such as strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. I recommend creating Pavlova during Vermont’s warmer months when the garden’s raspberries and blueberries are plentiful.
I must confess that it was several years before I discovered the best method for baking the meringue. It should have the shape of a top hat. In the early days, my meringue was more pizza crust shaped than a thick, stacked, egg white tower.
Pavlova recipe originally from Jen Alexander
4 extra-large egg whites at room temperature
1 rounded cup sugar
1 Tablespoon (TBLS) corn starch
1 TBLS cider vinegar
1 TBLS vanilla
1 – 2 cups heavy cream
½ cup shaved dark chocolate
Fresh raspberries, strawberries, kiwi, blackberries, or blueberries – select two or three fruits.
Preheat oven to 250 – 275° F with the rack at center height in the oven.
Grease a 9-inch spring-form pan with plenty of vegetable shortening.
Beat the egg-whites until they are firm. If in doubt, beat them a little longer.
Gradually add the rounded cup of sugar to the egg-whites.
Fold in the cornstarch, vinegar and vanilla.
Place the egg-white mixture in the center of the spring-form pan. It should stand 3” – 4” tall with a round shape. Smooth the top of the mixture.
Place in the oven for 1 1/2 hours. Test for complete baking with a toothpick. Nothing sticks to the toothpick.
Turn the oven off. Leave the meringue in the oven until it is completely cool.
Whip the cream with your favorite additives (1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 TBLS maple syrup). Spread on top of the meringue.
Decorate the top and base of the plate with fruit.
Sprinkle chocolate on top of the fruit.
Note: You can bake the meringue one or two days ahead of dessert time.
Blackberry chili pepper duck with wild rice
Honor the flight of this majestic animal by savoring the spirit of its wild nature.
2 wild ducks —mallards, blacks, wigeon, gadwall or other “dabbling’ ducks, halved and deboned, leaving breast and leg attached, skin on
2 cups duck stock—chicken stock can be substituted
8 oz. blackberry preserves
8 oz. dried cranberries
1 medium chili pepper
½ cup merlot
Crème de Cassis
1 Tbsp. minced orange peel from fresh navel orange
1/2 cup real wild rice (usually from Minnesota)
rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper
Cover rice in pot with ½ inch of water and a pinch of salt.
Cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally until all water is absorbed.
Add one Tbsp. water, if necessary, during cooking, so as not to burn rice.
Rice should “pop” open and have a nutty flavor with a chewy consistency.
Put halved ducks on broiling pan, meat side down.
Rub rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper on skin. Set aside.
Pour stock into large saucepan and reduce by half over medium high heat.
Add dried cranberries and finely chopped chili pepper
Reduce heat to medium and cook until cranberries plump.
Add blackberry preserves and stir until sauce thickens.
Add ½ cup of merlot.
Cook for 2 minutes.
Cook for 4–6 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat. Set aside.
Broil ducks for 4–6 minutes, watching very carefully, to brown and crisp the skin.
Turn ducks over, meat side up.
Broil for 1 minute.
Be sure not to overcook; meat should be red in center and not pink. If overcooked, it will taste like liver.
Remove from heat.
Pour drippings into sauce.
Put sauce back on medium low heat, stirring in drippings.
Cook for 2 minutes.
Add 1 tsp. Creme de Cassis.
Cook for 1 more minute.
Slice breast cross grain at an angle, approximately 3/8 inch thick.
Lay slices over bed of real wild rice
Ladle sauce over duck.