November 9, 2018
St Martin's Day (martinovo) is not only a drinking festival, but an eating one as well.
Like similar harvest festivals, such as Thanksgiving, the main dish consists of a roasted bird, preferably goose or duck, which we eventually got simply because it was half the size of any of the available geese.
The second important ingredient is chestnuts, which could be a dish on their own, or stuffed in the bird, or pureed and made into a cake.
Usually there are two other side dishes prepared with the bird, namely steamed red cabbage and mlinci, although the latter are not traditionally prepared at the littoral and mostly consist of wheat flour (covered in duck fat), so we decided to replace them with roasted pumpkin and some potatoes. Green salad is recommended as well.
The bird was quite fatty, which almost asks for some sour apples in the stuffing, as well as some light sour-ish wine such as cviček.
Our duck will be stuffed with chestnuts and apples, which will help counter all that fat that will be released from underneath its skin, which we cut into a little, but not through it, to help its way to the surface and to allow the salt and herbs (and orange zest, which we did not have) to hide in the crevices.
Wash your duck (or goose), wipe it dry and check if everything that shouldn’t been there has been properly removed.
Then we’ll need boil some chestnuts. Here’s a trick which will allow them to be peeled easier when cooked: the outer shell we peel first, then boil them for about 30 minutes, then remove the remaining skin while still warm. Try to keep the skin undamaged and chestnuts fully covered.
Cut two or three apples and remove the seeds, then stuff the bird with them along with the chestnuts and close the opening with two toothpicks.
All of this can be done inside a dry pot, and no oil needs to be added as your duck will release an enormous amount of its own fat, that you can put in a jar and use for other dishes for weeks that will follow (it has a very high smoke point, and is extremely versatile).
Place the duck in a preheated oven and roast for about 20 minutes, then turn around and reduce the heat to about 170 degrees Celsius. Turn it around every 20 minutes or so, and pour some of the fatty juices over the surface for about another one and a half hours. Turn up the heat at the end in case the skin isn’t crispy, although you’ll see in the photo that we didn’t do this.
Meanwhile, cut the vegetables on a tray, sprinkle them with some salt and pour over some olive oil then place in the oven about 30-40 minutes before the duck is done.
Red cabbage. Chop the onion and garlic and stir fry on the olive oil until onion softens a little. Chop the red cabbage and add it together with some cranberries. Add some water and steam till cabbage softens. Add some wine while still cooking and vinegar at the end. Sprinkle with caraway seeds and serve.