Monday, January 14, 2013

Episode 8: Chef Jessica Christensen, City Tavern, Culver City CA

Chef Christensen preps the duck testicles
Chef Christensen's culinary talent is the blending of a playful and creative methodology with a respect for simple, easily-approachable cuisine with Southern flair - her fried grits are the stuff of legend at Culver City's City Tavern where she spends most of her time. As Director of Culinary Operations over City Tavern and nearby Rush Street, Christensen is a formidable character who knows her way around a large, sharp knife. Like many of the chefs we've worked with, Chef Christensen started in the culinary trenches of Southern California with a variety of jobs, in this case on the front line at the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel, eventually proving her mettle to helm The Studio at Montage Resort and Spa in Laguna Beach.

Freshly fried duck testes
We had no doubt Chef Christensen knew her way around a duck, but suspected she had never had her hands on Daffy and Donald's progeny - once again we were staring down a sack lunch in Kamikaze Kitchen's Episode 8. We presented Christensen with enough duck testicles to make our own flock, and she tore through the kitchen accentuating the fowl balls with a variety of other duck derivatives including duck bacon, duck prosciutto and duck butter (don't ask, just watch). Chef Christensen created a spectacular and colorful dish with simple, basic flavors that didn't step on each other's webbed feet and produced a culinary masterpiece with the duck testicles from that was fun, beautiful and delicious. Christensen shares the recipe here for her unique creation - give it a shot if you've got the balls:

Duck Testicles Southern-Style

  • approx. 1 lb. duck testicles
  • 1 qt. of foie gras duck fat
  • 1 sprig thyme
  1. Rinse the duck testicles in cool water and allow to drain; shake dry in a lint-free towel to remove all outside moisture
  2. Heat the duck and foie gras fat in a large sauce pot with the sprig of thyme; carefully lower the duck testicles into the duck fat when it is just barely warm
  3. Bring to barely to a simmer and monitor the duck testicles until they are firm to the touch (do not allow the fat to boil or you will fry the balls too early)

  • up to ¼ cup of duck fat for sauté
  • 1 ½ cups cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • salt, fresh ground white pepper to taste
  • 1 bunch chopped Italian parsley
  1. Pulse the cornmeal and flour in food processor and reserve
  2. When the duck testicles feel firm (like a sausage), use a skimmer to remove from the duck fat and coat well in the cornmeal and flour mixture
  3. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat and add a little of the duck fat from the confit; pan-fry the testicles until just browned on the outside and slightly crisp.  Season to taste and toss with parsley.

  • 2 lbs. beet greens (washed well)
  • approx. 2 tbsp. duck fat for sauté
  • 1 breast duck bacon, lardon
  • 4 shallots, sliced thin
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 1 tsp. red chili flake
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • approx. 4 tbsp. preserved lemon, julienned
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  1. In a large sauté pan, heat the duck fat over medium heat; sauté the lardon, shallots, garlic and then add the beet greens in batches as they wilt (don’t raise the heat too high or the greens will crisp instead of wilting)
  2. Season with chili, salt, pepper and vinegar
  3. Cook until liquid is almost all evaporated

  • beet stems, washed and cut into one inch sticks
  • 2 cups rice wine vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 tbsp. salt

  1. Heat all of the ingredients except the stems to boiling
  2. Add stems and simmer until stems are just barely tender; allow to cool in pickling liquid

  • 2 qts. whole milk
  • 2 cups yogurt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. of white vinegar
  • 3 juiced and zested Meyer lemons

  1. Heat milk, yogurt, cream and salt; when milk mixture starts to boil, lower heat and add remaining ingredients
  2. Simmer for about 6 minutes then pour into a coffee filter or cheesecloth suspended over a large bowl (to catch the liquids as they separate)
  3. Allow to drain slowly and do not agitate - the ricotta is good served slightly warm or can be held in the refrigerator for a few days

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Duck prosciutto, shaved thin to garnish

  1. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl
  2. Mix wet ingredients in a medium bowl
  3. Pour wet ingredients into the dry and mix until batter is all moistened
  4. Pour into the greased baking pan (you can double this and cook it in a cast iron skillet – heat the skillet in the stove while you mix the ingredients and you will get a crisp outer skin to the cornbread); you can also use a greased 13x9 inch baking pan
  5. Cook at 400 degrees for 25 minutes
  6. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan and then flip onto a cooling rack 

Follow Chef Jessica Christensen on Twitter at @jkachristensen, and on Facebook at /Jessica A. Christensen
Follow City Tavern on Twitter at @CityTavernCC, on Facebook at /City Tavern - Culver City and on the web at