Home on the range

Twinkle envy

Home on the Range

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They have Santa and carols and presents under the tree. We have potato pancakes. I'm good with this division of revelry.

Except for the lights. Lights are pretty. They're twinkly. In the cold, dark season, they offer pretty, twinkly cheerfulness.

It occurs to me that I, too, could string up pretty, twinkly cheerfulness. After all, it's not a tenet; it's a tradition. A tradition as old as cold and dark, as comforting as campfire.

So, while cruising Home Depot, I steer my cart to the twinkle department. There are pastels and brights, stars and garlands, elves and mammoth flashing reindeer, poised midleap. There are subtleties: LED, solar and "commercial grade." An elf tending his own flock of reindeer shows me around. I choose a simple white strand.

I spend the next three hours standing on my porch, trapped in 297 feet of green cord and white bulbs. There are untangling and wrapping and hooking up. Revealing lights that won't light. Followed by unwrapping, unknotting, swearing and searching for the scissors.

At dusk I plug in my potted plant and it glows with 150 poorly dispersed dots of commercial-grade, small, white light. My shrub and I shrug.

Fortunately, I can quit now. While they're trying to shimmy down the chimney and fell a tree and sing in tune, I get to order Thai takeout and flick on a flick. Maybe I'll pick a DIY title from Home Depot. They must have one that explains the trick to twinkle.

Thai-style crispy duck

Prep: 10 minutes
Wait: 1 hour
Cook: 25 minutes

Serves: 2

Ingredients:
1 boneless duck breast (about 1 pound), skin-on
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small chili pepper, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon sugar

Season:
Rub duck breast all over with five-spice powder, salt and pepper. Cover and let rest at room temperature, 1 hour.

Crisp:
Set duck breast, skin side down, in a cast-iron pan. Cook over medium-high heat, carefully spooning off fat several times, until skin is completely crisp, about 12 minutes. Turn and cook the other side until cooked through and 165 degrees, about 12 more minutes.

Sizzle:
Set duck aside on a cutting board. Cover loosely with foil. Reduce heat to medium. Add garlic and chili pepper to the skillet and cook until fragrant and soft, 1 minute. Pour in lime juice and cook, scraping up any browned bits, 1 minute. Add sugar and stir. Remove skillet from heat.

Serve:
Thinly slice duck breast. Fan onto 2 serving plates. Scrape on pan juices. Enjoy.

Leah Eskin is a Tribune special contributor e-mail her at leahreskin@aol.com
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