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I Love Alice Waters

She was an activist who wanted to change the world. She went to university and discovered French culture. She went to France and discovered French food. In London she found the teachings of holistic educationalist Maria Montessori. On her return to America she realised that by the act of doing, she could effect change. She went on to change forever American food culture with her restaurant Chez Panisse. Our own Stephanie Alexander has followed in Waters' footsteps, moving from chef to food activist and educator. There would be no Dan Barber from Blue Hill, no Three Blue Ducks at The Farm in Byron without Alice Waters.

Born in New Jersey in 1944, she studied French culture at the University of California Berkeley and travelled extensively afterwards. She opened Chez Panisse in Berkeley in 1971, at a time before farmers' markets, and when the US industrial food movement had already led most of America to eat out of packets. Waters helped re-establish the nexus between food, farmers, health, and happiness.

"When you buy direct from a farmer," she said in an interview with Harvard Business Review, "and cook yourself, it cuts out the middleman: The money goes to somebody who is taking care of the land, and you're giving your family more-nutritious food."

I have always followed her simple, farm led cuisine and love her method for grilling duck breast.

Grilled Duck Breasts

Three duck breasts will usually serve four people. To prepare the breasts, turn them skin side down and trim away the tenderloin, the long, easily detached muscle that runs almost the length of each breast. (The tenderloins can be cooked separately.) Cutaway any skin that is protruding around the edges. Turn the breasts over and use a sharp knife to score the skin and fat in a diamond crosshatch pattern. This crosshatching allows the skin to render more of its fat as the breast cooks. Season the breasts generously with salt and fresh ground black pepper. For extra flavour, sprinkle with herbs and spices.

Take the breasts out of the refrigerator 15 minutes before you are ready to grill. Prepare a medium to medium-hot fire with coals that are grey and no longer glowing red. If the coals are too hot, the breasts will burn; if they're not hot enough, the fat will not render, and the skin will get neither crisp nor golden brown. Grill the breasts skin side down for 10 minutes, or until the skin is nicely brown. You will need to stand guard to be sure the coals do not flame up from dripping fat. If they do, move the breasts away from the flame or they will burn. Turn the breasts and cook for another three or four minutes. The duck should be cooked medium-rare. When overcooked, duck becomes quite dry. Let the breasts rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing to allow juices to stabilise. Slice fairly thin, pour any accumulated juices over them, and serve

From The Art Of Simple Food by Alice Waters published by Potter 2007

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