In a small town, it’s awfully hard to keep a secret. Of course, some do, and get away with it. A stolen item here, an affair there… But in Kathleen Winter’s Annabel, the secret being kept is that young Wayne Blake was born equally female and male. The secret is even kept from him. Wayne has never known why his father is so disappointed Wayne isn’t interested in his traditional Labradorian lifestyle. He has never understood why his mother secretly allows him to buy a girl’s swimsuit.
There is an air, right from the beginning, of something surreal about the small town of Croyden Harbour and its inhabitants. Each character is both there and not there. For Wayne, it’s his conflicting identities. For his father, it’s the irresistible call of the Canadian wilderness. For his mother, it’s the wistful dreams of her young adulthood in St. John.
She prepares duck her husband brings home, with vegetables and berries from their garden, while dreaming of all she left behind. After eating this dish, though, you’ll only dream of the next time you cook it.
2 duck legs
3 Tb olive oil
1 Tb tarragon
1/2 head red cabbage, chopped
1 cup blueberries
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup red wine
2 Tb red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Rinse and dry the duck legs. Using a small knife, prick the skin all over. Do it carefully- you don’t want to poke holes into the meat itself- work at an angle. Sprinkle the salt liberally all over the duck, followed by the tarragon. Now let them dry-brine for at least half an hour on the counter.
Next, find a small casserole dish- you want the legs to be nestled against the sides. Pour the olive oil in the bottom, and snuggle the legs in. Put the dish in the oven before turning it on to 300 degrees. Begin checking the progress towards crispy-skin after two hours. When it looks like it’s just about there, turn the heat up to 375 for about twenty minutes.
Now put all the cabbage ingredients into a skillet and begin the braise. Start with medium heat, and stir occasionally.
After removing the duck from the oven, let it rest while you boil some potatoes. Mash them with the fat from the bottom of your casserole dish, a splash of milk or cream, and salt and pepper to taste.
Serves 2, generously.