Friday Random Recipe: Moroccan Spiced Roast Duck

This recipe is based on a recipe for Moroccan spiced duck breasts, from
The Soul of a New Cuisine,
Marcus Samuelsson’s new African cookbook. Chef Samuelsson is the guy who’s
responsible for getting me to eat beef after not touching the stuff for
nearly two years. He’s a very interesting guy – born in Ethiopia, but
adopted as a baby and raised in Sweden. He’s famous in NYC for being the
chef at a Swedish restaurant, called Aquavit, where he was the youngest chef
ever to get 3 stars in a New York Times restaurant review.

A few years ago, he became interested in African cuisine, and
spent a lot of time travelling around Africa, studying the cuisine. He’s
written a fantastic cookbook based on the experience. Roughly two weeks ago, he opened a new African restaurant in NYC called Mercato 55. My wife and I had dinner there last saturday, and it was fantastic.

Anyway, as I said, his book has a recipe for Moroccan spiced duck breast. It’s a bit of a fusion dish – french style seared rare duck breast, cooked with moroccan spice blends and a Moroccan orange sauce. Duck breast is too expensive for my kids, so I made his dish for me and my wife, and worked out this variation for my kids. I actually think I like the variation a bit more – the flavor of the spices penetrates the duck much more nicely in a well-done roast duck. I’ve also simplified the recipe a bit.


  • Two ducks
  • 4 cups orange juice
  • 2 cinammon sticks
  • Several large onions
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom pods
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2-3 whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chilled butter


  1. Put all of the dry spices together into a hot pan, and stir around until they become fragrant. Then move them to a blender or food processor, and grind them to a coarse powder.
  2. Mince the garlic and one half of the onion.
  3. Put the orange juice into a pot with the garlic, onion, and spices, and
    heat to a simmer. Let it simmer about ten minutes, and then cool to room temperature.
  4. Take 2 ducks, cut out the back, and press flat. Cut a light crosshatch pattern
    over the skin of the breasts, and trim off excess fat. Sprinkle with kosher salt, and then lay them out in a large roasting pan.
  5. Put the orange-juice mixture through a fine sieve, and then pour it over
    the ducks. Let it sit for at least two hours.
  6. Remove 3/4ths of the marinade from the roasting pan, leaving the remainder in the pan. Keep the marinade – we’re going to cook it into a sauce later.
  7. Cut several 1-inch thick slices of onion, and set them up as stands in the roasting pan. Set the ducks on top of the onions.
  8. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Put the ducks in, and cook for 2 to 3 hours. (It’s important to let it cook for a long time. Duck is terrific rare, and it’s terrific when it’s been cooked for a very long time; it’s tough as leather in between. We’re going for the meltingly tender well-roasted duck here.) Every half hour, baste the duck with the marinade in the pan. If the pan starts to get dry, and a cup of water.
  9. When the duck is done, finely mince half an onion, a clove of garlic, and a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley. Put the onion and garlic into a saucepot with the reserved marinade. Heat to a simmer, and let it cook at a low simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Then add the parsley, and salt to taste.
  10. Right before serving, turn the heat off on the sauce, and add two tablespoons of cold butter, whipping it in with a whisk. This should turn the sauce a little bit thicker, and give it a nice glossy appearance.

Bad Statistical Reasoning about Weather and Climate

Yet another reader sent me a link to a really annoying article at a site called “Daily Tech”. The article has been more than adequately debunked by Darksyde at Daily Kos, but it’s a very typical example of a general kind of argument made both for and against global warming, which I find extremely annoying.

The basic argument takes one of two forms:

  1. Wow, look how hot it is today! How can anyone possible deny global
  2. Wow, look how cold it is today! How can those idiots believe in global

These are both examples of confusing weather with climate. That confusion is a typical example of a common statistical error:
using aggregate data to draw conclusions about specific individuals, or using a single individual to draw conclusions about an aggregate. Individual data points and aggregates are very different things, and you can’t just arbitrarily go from one to another.

Continue reading Bad Statistical Reasoning about Weather and Climate

Full Circle: the Categorical Monoid

By now, we’ve seen the simple algebraic monoid, which is essentially an
abstract construction of a category. We’ve also seen the more complicated, but interesting monoidal category – which is, sort of, a meta-category – a category built using categories. The monoidal category is a fairly complicated object – but it’s useful.

What does a algebraic monoid look like in category theory? The categorical monoid is a complex object – a monoid built from monoids. If we render the algebraic monoid in terms of a basic category, what do we get? A monoid is, basically, a category with one object. That’s it: every algebraic monoid is a single object category.

But we can do something more interesting than that. We know what a monoidal category looks like. What if we take a monoidal category, and express the fundamental concept of a monoid in it?

Continue reading Full Circle: the Categorical Monoid

Responding to Granville Sewell about his Fraudulent Experiments

Granville Sewell, over at UD, has decided to pretend that he just discovered my earlier critique of his “though experiment” where he claims to simulate the universe. The reason that I say “pretend” is that Sewell originally edited the article that I was mocking in response to my post; now, months later, he’s pretending that he just found it. Uh, yeah, sure, Gran, whatever you say.

(In keeping with my practice, I no longer link to anything at UncommonlyDense; since they feel free to lie, alter posts, and remove posts, there’s no way of knowing what my link will point to tomorrow. Similarly, I’m responding here rather than in a comment there, because UD feels free to censor, edit, or delete comments for any or no reason at all, without notice.)

Continue reading Responding to Granville Sewell about his Fraudulent Experiments

Friday Random 10

  1. Boiled in Lead, “Blackened Page”: An interestingly mysterious song, written by one of my favorite fiction writers, the brilliant Steven Brust.
  2. J.S. Bach, “Cantata #77”: Bach’s Cantata’s are some of the finest pieces of music ever written. Amazing.
  3. Mandelbrot Set, “And the Rockets Red Glare”: very good post-rock.
  4. Yes, “Going for the One”: One of my all-time favorite Yes songs. Great stuff.
  5. Pink Floyd, “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun”: a live recording of some brilliant Syd Barrett material from Pink Floyd’s psychedelic era.
  6. The Flower Kings, “Black and White”: As I’ve said in past FRTs, the Flower Kings are pretty much the best of the neo-progressive bands. This is a relatively short track for the King, being only about 8 minutes long. Typical FK gold.
  7. Elegant Simplicity, “Illuminated Heartbeat”: Incredibly dull, repetitive, awful instrumental track. Elegant Simplicity did an amazing
    album called “Architect of Light”, which I loved. So I rushed out to get more of their stuff – and met with profound disappointment. This is an awful album – track after track of totally dull repetitive dreck.
  8. Solstice Coil, “Brilliance”: another small independent neo-progressive band that I found through Bitmunk. I’ve had this album for less than 24 hours, so I haven’t formed a firm opinion about it yet. It’s interesting stuff, with some moments of brilliance.
  9. King Crimson, “Starless”: old King Crimson, from the “Red” album. This is amazing music.
  10. Sigur Rós, “Hafsól”: A track off the latest album by the Icelandic post-rock ensemble. Pretty typical of Sigur Rós sound; perhaps a bit on the harker side than average, but very distinctively their sound. A great track from a great album.
  11. </o

Two For One: Crackpot Physics and Crackpot Set Theory

I was asked by a reader to take a look at yet another crackpot theory of everything. This time, it’s the Cognitive Theoretic Model of the Universe. This one is as cranky as any, but it’s actually got some interestingly silly math to it.

Stripped down to its basics, the CTMU is just yet another postmodern
“perception defines the universe” idea. Nothing unusual about it on that
level. What makes it interesting is that it tries to take a set-theoretic
approach to doing it.

The real universe has always been theoretically treated as an object, and specifically as the composite type of object known as a set. But an object or set exists in space and time, and reality does not. Because the real universe by definition contains all that is real, there is no “external reality” (or space, or time) in which it can exist or have been “created”. We can talk about lesser regions of the real universe in such a light, but not about the real universe as a whole. Nor, for identical reasons, can we think of the universe as the sum of its parts, for these parts exist solely within a spacetime manifold identified with the whole and cannot explain the manifold itself. This rules out pluralistic explanations of reality, forcing us to seek an explanation at once monic (because nonpluralistic) and holistic (because the basic conditions for existence are embodied in the manifold, which equals the whole). Obviously, the first step towards such an explanation is to bring monism and holism into coincidence.

Continue reading Two For One: Crackpot Physics and Crackpot Set Theory

Ethics Questions, dealing with senior researchers

Over at Adventures in Ethics and Science, Janet
Stemwedel, our resident ethicist, has been writing about academic
dishonesty and how professional researchers should respond to it.

I’ve been on the receiving end of dishonesty on three occasions –
ranging from a trivial case (arguably not dishonest at all) to the profound.
I’ll describe my three experiences, along with how I did respond to them, and how I could have responded to them. Unfortunately, my experience isn’t very
encouraging, and most of my advice comes down to: always, always keep a paper trail: it can’t hurt, but don’t count on it being useful.

I don’t want to be too discouraging here. I don’t think that there
are many dishonest researchers out there. The overwhelming majority of professional
researchers are scrupulously honest people who give credit where it’s due, and who would never do anything to
take credit for anyone else’s work, who would never steal an idea, and who would
never do anything even remotely questionable when it comes to
intellectual honesty. The problem is, it doesn’t take much to poison
the well – one person out of a hundred is easily enough to create a
huge problem. And the nature of power and politics in research makes it
possible for that dishonest one to get themselves into a position where
people are scared to come forward about it.

Continue reading Ethics Questions, dealing with senior researchers