Recreating an engagement

Lisa and I were engaged seven years ago yesterday. It was a romantic Valentine’s Day engagement, with all the foreknowledge and planning that phrase implies. Neither party was surprised by timing or question.

What was surprising, given our joint culinary abilities, was how bad the meal was. We cooked in Lisa’s one bedroom apartment, which had a teacup-sized galley kitchen that was quite big enough for the meal we wanted to make. The meal was typically simple in scope, elaborate in details: duck breasts with blackberry sauce, angel food cake with orange glaze; vegetables that have been forgotten; and white wine with appetizers, Châteauneuf-du-Pape with the duck, and champagne with dessert.

Or that was the plan. The catch? Several. The angel food cake took a long time to assemble from scratch and there wasn’t enough room in the kitchenette to make the duck. So we didn’t start the duck until after 9 pm. The next catch was the provenance of the duck: it was a gift game duck from my uncle. I removed the breasts easily enough, but cooking it proved another challenge. I found the meat tough after the initial searing and pancooking and decided to try to braise it to soften it. Forty minutes cooking in liquid later, it was still like shoe leather. In fact, we couldn’t cut it with a steak knife. But we could drink wine, and did, and so the proposal happened and the disaster of the rest of the meal was almost forgotten.

This year, on the seventh anniversary, we decided to try the recipes again. Yesterday. This time the duck was farm-raised, and that made all the difference. I could have reduced the sauce longer, but what the heck. And substitute a sparkling moscato for the champagne, and we had a great time.