Friday, December 9, 2011

50 Women Game Changers in Food - #27 Anne Willan - Suleiman's Pilaf and Duck Breast with Cherries

Chateau du Fey - La Varenne Cooking School

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...Many of the women who appear on the Gourmet Live list of Women Game-Changers in Food come from similar backgrounds. Anne Willan is among the group who were born to wealthy families and gravitated to food after they had completed degrees in other areas. She was raised in Yorkshire, England and earned a master's degree in economics from Cambridge University. Following graduation, and with only token support from her parents, she went to study at the London Cordon Bleu where she earned the prestigious Grand Diplome. A small inheritance gave her some flexibility and she moved from her parent's home to a small apartment of her own. She advertized her services in a newspaper of import, and along with an indecent proposal or two, received a response from Florence van der Kamp whose husband was the curator of Versailles. Initially, she cooked for them and trained their kitchen staff, but a friendship developed and she eventually moved with them to Versailles where she lived in an apartment above the garage. Years later she would move into a chateau of her own, but while at Versailles she taught cooking classes. She met her husband, Mark Cherniavsky, at a dinner party where they both were guests and when he was transferred to Washington, D.C., she followed him. His position at the World Bank required frequent relocation and for the next ten years she worked as an editor, taught cooking classes and wrote. In 1975 she opened La Varenne in Paris. In 1982, she and her husband bought Château du Feÿ as a weekend retreat for their family. They moved the school there in 1991. Those who like to view grand estates will find more information about the chateau here. Her intention for La Varenne, she says, was to offer the culinary equivalent of a college education. While her name may be unfamiliar to many, her influence in the food world has been enormous. A lengthy list of her accomplishments and writing can be found, here. Anne and Mark, whose health is failing, moved to the United States in 2007 to be closer to their daughter. She still writes and teaches occasionally and this spring she will be hosting chefs in her Santa Monica home kitchen for a series of informal demonstration and tasting classes.

I've chosen two recipes to represent the work of Anne Willan. One, Suleiman's Pilaf with Pistachios, is quite easy to make. It can be served as a main course or a side dish. It is a delicious, but quite informal dish that is just bursting with the flavors of fresh herbs . The other, Duck Breast with Cherry, is also easy to prepare but it is a more formal dish. It, too, is delicious
and the finished dish is a sparkler that's perfect for company or a special family dinner. Here are the two recipes.

Suleiman's Pilaf With Pistachios...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Anne Willan

6 ounces cooked lamb, chicken or turkey
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup 200 basmati or long-grain rice
1-1/2 cups veal stock or water
1/4 cup currants
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup blanched pistachios
small bunch of dill, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup plain yogurt

1) Trim any fat or sinew from meat and finely shred it. Heat oil in a heavy casserole and fry the onions until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in garlic and fry, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in rice and cook until it looks translucent and oil is absorbed. Stir in stock, meat, currants, apricots, tomato, thyme, rosemary, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Cover, bring to a boil and simmer until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, 18 to 20 minutes.
2) Let rice stand 10 minutes, then remove cover and stir in pistachios, dill, and parsley, using a fork. Add enough yogurt to moisten pilaf, taste and adjust seasoning. Serve immediately. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

Cook's Note: Reheated rice pilaf is even better. Keep it in the pot up to 2 days in refrigerator, then warm it over low heat on top of stove, stirring in pistachios, herbs and yogurt just before serving.

Duck Breast with Cherries...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Anne Willan

8 ounces cherries, pitted
1 cup fruity red wine
2 tablespoons red currant or raspberry jelly
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes
2 magret (duck breasts), about 12 oz.
Salt and coarsely-ground black pepper
Optional: Arugula leaves, for serving

1) To begin the sauce, put the cherries in a small saucepan with the wine and jelly. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cherries are just tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Set the pan aside.
2) Trim the excess fat from the magrets, then crosshatch the skin, cutting down almost to the meat so fat can escape. Sprinkle the breasts with salt and pepper.
Heat a heavy, dry frying pan over medium heat. Add the magrets, skin side down, and fry until the skin is very brown and crisp to extract as much fat as possible, 5 to 7 minutes or longer if necessary. Turn and brown the other side, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Test a magret by poking the center with the point of a knife to see the color of the meat. If it is too rare for your taste, continue cooking for 1 to 2 minutes, but remember it will be very tough if overcooked. When done, set the magrets aside, skin side up, on a carving board. Cover them loosely with aluminum foil to keep warm.
3) To finish the sauce, discard the excess fat from the frying pan. Add the vinegar and boil, stirring to dissolve the pan juices, until reduced to about 1 tablespoon. Whisk in the garlic and tomato paste. Pour in the wine from the cherries, keeping back the cherries with a pan lid. Boil until the wine is slightly syrupy and reduced by more than half, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the cherries and heat them gently. Take the pan from the heat and stir in the butter a piece at a time. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and set the sauce aside.
4) Carve the magrets on the diagonal into thin slices. (You can discard the crisp skin if you must, but what a pity!) Pile a mound of arugula leaves at the side of 2 or 3 plates. Arrange the duck slices, overlapping them, on the plates. Using a draining spoon, pile the cherries on the plates. Spoon the sauce over the duck and serve at once. Yield: 2 to 3 servings.

The following bloggers are also featuring the recipes of Anne Willan today. I hope you'll visit all of them. They are great cooks who have wonderful blogs.

Val - More Than Burnt Toast, Joanne - Eats Well With Others, Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed Susan - The Spice Garden, Claudia - A Seasonal Cook in Turkey, Heather - girlichef
Miranda - Mangoes and Chutney, Jeanette - Healthy Living, April - Abby Sweets
Katie - Making Michael Pollan Proud, Mary - One Perfect Bite, Kathleen - Bake Away with Me
Viola - The Life is Good Kitchen, Sue - The View from Great Island, Barbara - Movable Feasts Kathleen - Gonna Want Seconds, Amy - Beloved Green, Linda - Ciao Chow Linda
Linda A - There and Back Again, Martha - Lines from Linderhof, Nancy - Picadillo
Mireya - My Healthy Eating Habits, Veronica - My Catholic Kitchen
Annie - Most Lovely Things, Claudia - Journey of an Italian Cook

Next week we will highlight the career and recipes of Anne-Sophie Pic. It will be really interesting to see what everyone comes up with. If you'd like to join us please email me for additional information no later than Monday, December 12th.


Ginny Hartzler said...

I like your interesting stories just as much, if not more, than the recipes! I had never heard of this lady before.

JasmyneTea said...

That duck breast with cherry would be right up my ally, and I was trying to think of something to make for my partner's birthday - so thanks, I'll try this!

Mireya @myhealthyeatinghabits said...

What a wonderful summary of Anne' life and work. You seem to fit everything in. The recipes sound delicious, but I'd probably try the duck first.

Merisi said...

Scrumptiously delicious, Mary! I want to go out and get duck breasts. ;-)

Anne Willan and La Varenne are very familiar names in my book. May she and her husband have a long good life!

Pondside said...

That was very interesting, and something that I'd never learn elsewhere. Your introductions are every bit as good as your recipes.

Diane said...

Wow but that duck breast with cherries looks amazing. Have a great weekend Diane

Vicki Bensinger said...

I am somewhat familiar with this school but never knew the details of her life. Fascinating history that you've shared. Boy would I love to be in attendance at her party.

Do these recipes come from a particular book she wrote? If so which one?

Both recipes sound wonderful although the duck is my preference. I never make duck since my husband isn't fond of it but will save this recipe to try when he's out of town.
Thank you for sharing all this information. Great post.

Red Nomad OZ said...

I'm SO loving this series - such wonderful cooks and recipes! The pilaf in particular appeals to me - probably because summer's here downunder!

I promise you my current post is mainly photos, so won't entice you to waste too much time ...!!!

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

Such an interesting writeup about Ann. You have done her proud with both of these dishes Mary!

Margaret Murphy Tripp said...

What an interesting life she had! Both dishes look delicious. I don't like duck, but the cherry sauce looks scrumptious and I'm sure it could be done with chicken or pork too, right?

Tanna said...

Oh, that duck breast with cherries sounds absolutely divine!!! YUM!

Once again, I have learned about another very interesting woman. Thank you, Mary. blessings and wishes for a wonderful weekend ~ tanna

Sprigs of Rosemary said...

She sounds like a very intriguing woman -- but, you're right, I was unfamiliar with her. The rice dish is right up my alley, but I'm a little leery of duck. Why, I don't know.

Unknown said...

I love these game changer posts. I've learned so much about so many inspiring woman! The pilaf and duck look and sound scrumptious!!

Kim said...

Wow! The duck and the rice looks good!

What's Baking?? said...

Beautiful story and beautiful recipe too. Love your presentation.

Deana Sidney said...

I had to look at the duck recipe, having just made it. Looks wonderful. ANne Willen has had a pretty splendid life.

Clint said...

Southern male approach to eating the duck and cherries:

Make some mashed potatoes. Scrape cherries off the duck. Bon apetit!

Lenia said...

What a interesting recipe!have a lovely weekend,dear Mary!

Unknown said...

Such an interesting history and wonderful sounding recipes!

Sue/the view from great island said...

I was looking forward to seeing the pilaf, I want to make that soon. I imagine it would be good as a vegetarian dish as well.
My husband adores Duck, and yours looks perfectly done.

Anna's kitchen table said...

I have 'starred' this post on google reader for that amazing sounding duck recipe! I really must try it!

From the Kitchen said...

How nice to see Anne and have two of her delicious recipes on this snowing morning!


France@beyondthepeel said...

I have not heard of Anne, but I can say that this post will take me some time to go through all the links because I'm extremely fascinated. I love both recipes that you chose. Duck is one of my favorite dishes and the recipe looks great. Tomato paste in the sauce? I'm very excited to try this out!

Jessica | Cajunlicious said...

Mary this is such a great post! Thanks for sharing.

Chiara said...

I had never heard about Anne Willan and La Varenne, a lady full of charme...have a lovely weekend Mary, take care...

Kathy said...

Oh that duck breast looks fabulous and the pilaf makes such a great side. Wonderful choices!

Barbara said...

These both look wonderful, Mary. I'm thinking I like all of Anne's recipes...haven't seen one today yet I wouldn't try!

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

Both dishes sound so good. As much as I was familiar with Anne there was so much I didn't know...such as she lives in the US now. Thank you as always for not only a good recipe but the story behind that I find so interesting.

Claudia said...

These are both beautiful. I love the nuances in the pilaf but that duck is stunning - all rich and red ringing in the holidays. Ms. Willan is amazing.

Jeanette said...

That pilaf just sounds incredible - all the flavors coming together! I learned a lot about Anne Willan this week - thanks again for organizing this weekly event!

Joanne said...

I really wanted to make that pilaf but ended up not having enough time this week! I guess it needs to happen next week. Looks delicious!

Nancy/My Picadillo said...

Both dishes look wonderful!
I'm really glad she was on the list. I had never heard of her before and she has so many delicious recipes I would like to try out.

Shoutforfood said...

Pilaf with duck, i must try that too.

TinaRBK said...

I really enjoyed this post! Very interesting read and amazing recipes. Out of the two, I would have to say the preparation of the duck is my choice a of winner-delicious! Great post!

Miranda | Mangoes and Chutney said...

Mary, both recipes sound great. I love the tip for keeping the pilaf for a couple of days.

Heather @ said...

What a fantastic meal these would make! How badly would I love to walk that lane to LaVarenne. Simply gorgeous.

That Girl said...

It would be amazing to take a class with her!

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