il cibo dell'impossibilità.

Klary has a nice post today about the frequent impossibility of recreating on a whim ephemeral taste experiences from your past. And, unlikelihood of unlikelihoods, she illustrates this with (among other things) a quesadilla I made for her last month or so, and the process of trying to (on a whim) recreate that quesadilla. And by reminding me of that first quesadilla with her second quesadilla, her post reminded me of a third quesadilla from my own past that I myself cannot currently recreate.

Flashback to Miami, 5 months ago. In our little beach apartment we ate quesadillas for breakfast every morning (pictured above) for two weeks, because we could: the tiny, packed-to-the-gills Cuban grocery store around the corner had very fresh corn tortillas and excellent queso fresco. In the pan with a little butter, add to that a squirt of lime and a dollop of salsa verde and that's all you needed. No spices, no caramelization, no duck....no nothing, save for quesa and dilla (actually, the quesadilla pictured above also contains some leftover Argentinian steak from Big Pink, a one-time-only modification...).

And yes, it's impossible for me to make it this morning: no queso fresco, my corn tortillas are frozen and a bit old, etc. And plus, this negro ain't even supposed to be digging on cheese seeing as we're on some serious health food shit these days (sorry, Pulp Fiction was on TV last week [unsurprisingly uncensored, yay Nederland], reminding me just how much more acceptable it became for white people to adopt non-rap-derived African-American speech patterns after Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega hit the screen. Or at least it became more acceptable for this particular white person). So, instead, here's the recipe for the not-so-impossible duck confit quesadillas.

Komijnekaas is young Gouda with lots of whole cumin seeds in it. It's a great shortcut for Mexican cooking in general, except that you don't get to toast the cumin seeds like you would if you were using them separately.

Also, this recipe probably makes more onions than you'll use, but you'll find a use for the leftovers, trust me. An omelet with chorizo is a good place to start.


Photo by Klary:

duck confit quesadilla with caramelized onions, komijnekaas, and salsa verde.

2 sweet onions, diced
1-2 tbsp butter
1 tsp. maple syrup
pinch ground cumin
pinch ground cinnamon
pinch salt
1-2 tsp adobo from a can of chipotles

duck filling
100 gr duck confit meat (no skin), shredded
pinch pimenton
pinch ground cinnamon
half-pinch ground allspice
half-pinch ground cumin

corn tortillas
sliced or grated komijnekaas
walnut oil for frying (hazelnut oil also does nicely here, but yes they both smoke a bit. duck fat also works if you don't give a shit about cholesterol...butter for once doesn't really work with this quesadilla...too rich.)
ground cinnamon
mild chile powder


Caramelize the onions: melt butter in sautepan, add onions, adobo, and maple syrup, stir to coat, add spices, stir again, turn pan as low as possible and cook for 20-40 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until onions are dark but not burned. Salt to taste and set aside.

Make duck filling: turn a sautepan on high, when hot add duck and spices. Saute for 5-10 minutes until duck is crisped and browned to your liking.

Assemble quesadillas: put a splash of walnut oil in the pan, then a tortilla, spread a thin layer of onions across it, then some cheese, then some duck (all thinnish layers so that your quesadilla is still rather light and flippable) and close. After my tortilla is closed, I like to sprinkle the outside with a very light dusting of cinnamon and chile powder. I'm not sure if this significantly contributes to the taste of the finished product, but this step definitely fills the kitchen with a most excellent scent-waft.

Serve with your favorite homemade salsa, or whatever reasonable store-bought salsa you were able to locate in Amsterdam. I tend to like green salsa with this for some extra acidity, but Mara prefers red, and it's worth trying both.

Another great variation on this is to use goat cheese instead of komijnekaas. I don't mean the soft stuff: they sell sliced goat cheese here that is perfect for this.


And finally: all of the above reminded me of one of the fundamental reasons why this webpage even exists: to try and capture the ephemera of cooking and eating, and to facilitate future nostalgia over meals past (and not just the food component). I said to Klary after her post that it reminded me of why we like being cooked for, and one of the reasons travel can generate such powerfully nostalgic memories: because in many ways the whole experience is impossible to recreate, and that's what makes us nostalgic for it. Thank you, I'll be signing autographs after I get done punching my own pompous-yet-barely-coherent lights out.

x x x

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