This dinner is planned with the idea that less is more. A feast for two can be just as sumptuous as one for 20 - and a great deal easier. Some of the menu given below can be made ahead at the cook's convenience, and things which have to wait until the last minute are easy to prepare. Oyster Stew 1/2 pint freshly shucked oysters in their liquor 1 1/2 cups light cream 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter Salt and pepper Dash paprika or red pepper In a small saucepan, poach oysters with their liquor until edges curl. Take off heat and set aside.
Put cream and butter in another saucepan and heat until cream is scalded, but do not let it boil.
Combine oysters and cream; add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle oyster stew into heated soup bowls; add a dash of paprika or red pepper. Serves 2. Wild Pecan Rice with Pecans 1 1/2 tablespoons butter 1 shallot, minced 1/2 cup wild pecan (or brown) rice 1 cup boiling chicken stock or water 2 tablespoons chopped pecans 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley Salt and pepper
Melt butter in saucepan and saute shallot until soft. Add rice, stir for 2 or 3 minutes, then add boiling stock or water. Cover pan, turn heat down to simmer. Cook over very low heat for 20 minutes, until rice is tender and water absorbed.
Stir in chopped pecans, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. 2 servings. Duck in Demi-Glace Sauce 1 5- or 6-pound duck 2 tablespoons butter 1 large onion, chopped 2 carrots, chopped 4 tablespoons flour 4 cups chicken stock 1 bay leaf 1 sprig fresh parsley 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme 1 strip fresh lemon peel 1/4 cup fresh whole cranberries
Remove giblets from duck and reserve neck. Make shallow pricks with tines of fork at 1-inch intervals over breast skin of duck. Put bird on rack in roasting pan and roast in oven preheated to 450 degrees F. for 1 hour, until skin is crisp and duck is nearly done.
When cool enough to handle, cut off legs and breast meat. Remove wings at shoulder joint and reserve. After removing breast meat, carve remaining meat starting at tail end, lifting meat with free hand to take off as much as possible.
This procedure sounds more difficult than it is. The point is to carve off four meaty portions of meat. Set two legs and breast portions aside and break up carcass, discarding any fat.
Melt butter in large pan and saute onion and carrot for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables start to brown. Add reserved duck neck, wings, and broken-up carcass, and cook 10 minutes further, turning bones over to brown them on all sides. Sprinkle with flour and cook 2 minutes more, stirring.
Add chicken stock, herbs, and lemon peel, stir up to dissolve any sediment on bottom of pan, and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered for 1 hour, turning bones and vegetables from time to time.
Strain sauce through a sieve, discarding bones, herbs, and lemon peel, and pressing on vegetables with back of spoon to extract their juice. Discard vegetables.
If doing this ahead, refrigerate sauce; when well chilled, lift off and discard solidified fat on surface.
About 20 mintues before serving time, gently reheat sauce in pan. Add duck pieces, skin side up, and cook over low heat, spooning sauce over meat. Add cranberries a few mintues before serving time to heat them through, but do not let them burst. Garnish with parsley sprigs and serve. 2 servings. Belgian Endive, Mushroom, and Watercress Salad Watercress, a few sprigs 2 Belgian endive, medium-small (or 1 large) 2 or 3 mushrooms 4 tablespoons olive oil 1 tablespoon vinegar 1 strip pimento, chopped Salt and pepper
Make a bed of watercress on individual salad plates. Trim root ends of endive; slice into thin rounds. Place on watercress, keeping rounds together. Slice mushrooms thinly and scatter on top.
Mix oil and vinegar together, add pimento and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle on salad and serve. 2 servings. Pumpkin Pie Tartlets with Orange 1 extra large egg 1/2 cup brown sugar 1/2 cup cream 1/4 cup orange juice 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1/2 teaspoon ground clove 1/2 teaspoon salt Grated rind 1 orange Pastry for 6 individual tartlet shells, Whipped cream (optional) 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
Beat egg lightly in bowl. Add brown sugar, cream, and orange juice, and beat until smooth. Fold spices and grated orange peel into pumpkin puree, then blend into custard mixture.
Put tart shells on cookie sheet and pour in filling. Place in oven preheated to 425 degrees F. Bake 15 minutes, then turn heat down to 375 degrees F. and bake 15 minutes, until custard is set. Garnish with julienne curls of fresh orange peel. Pass the whipped cream dusted with cinnamon separately.