Charcutepalooza: Duck Prosciutto

unwrapped

Mike and I have had a copy of Charcuterie in our collection of food and cookery books for almost as long as we’ve been together. This sort of “project cooking” hasn’t traditionally been my thing (although I did make our first batch of house-cured salmon from the book before someone decided to take over), but Mike loves it, and has taken on many curing projects over the years, among them making bacon and a steady supply of duck confit.

making meat, day 6

Of course, the last several months have found us taking on all sorts of cooking projects together that I never imagined we would: we got bit hard by the canning bug, and we’re even beginning to experiment with lactofermentation, making saurkraut and soon, I hope, kimchi at home. So when our friends Cathy and Kim launched what would turn into this incredible sensation, this celebration of cured meats called Charcutepalooza, we were immediately on board.

duck prosciutto

Mike did the bulk of the heavy lifting for this first challenge, and can I just say wow, his breasts are not only gorgeous, but they are delicious (fnar, fnar). As for me, aside from tying the buggers up in their cheesecloth to hang at the beginning of the challenge, I’ve had little to do with those duck breasts but to slice, eat, and enjoy. Oh, and to come up with some fun ways to use this lovely prosciutto.

duck prosciutto with shaved fennel and radish salad

I typically think simple preparations are best when you want to highlight something made with so much care, so for our first dish, I took inspiration from the shaved fennel salad I like to serve with bresaola. I shaved fennel bulb very thin using a mandolin, and shaved thin slices of radish as well, then combined the two and tossed them with a zippy Meyer lemon vinaigrette – just fresh Meyer lemon juice, our best olive oil, sea salt, and plenty of freshly cracked black pepper. I mounded it in the middle of a plate and placed thin slices of the prosciutto around the edges. We ate with our fingers, wrapping bites of the crisp salad up with the prosciutto slices, a delicious combination.

duck prosciutto

For several days thereafter, the prosciutto sat (mostly) untouched, as we were “on a cleanse”, but this morning I awoke with an idea I couldn’t get out of my head: Duck. Duck. Goose.

foie gras

We had a nub of foie gras in the freezer, left over from our Christmas Day wellingtons. We had the duck prosciutto, of course. And though we typically have Mike’s own duck confit in the fridge, we were fresh out, so we picked up a leg at Persimmon Provisions and when we got home from our food and drink-procuring rounds, I got to work.

balls, formed

I pulled the confit meat from the bone, mincing it fine, then added shallot, fresh savory, a beaten egg and a small amount of dry breadcrumbs to the mix. I formed the mixture into cocktail-sized meatballs, each one stuffed with a nugget of foie. I melted duck fat in our iron skillet, gently browning the meatballs on all sides, then drained them on paper towels while I prepared a glaze – fig jam and white balsamic, mustard seeds and fresh ground pepper, sticky, tangy and fruity but not too sweet.

glazed

The meatballs went in until they were nicely coated, then I removed them and wrapped each one in a sheet of the duck prosciutto, threading a toothpick through to secure them. After a minute or three under the broiler they were ready to eat, the foie having melted into the rich ducky meatballs, the prosciutto having been rendered crisp and brown at the edges.

Duck Duck Goose

Little bites of heaven (now with recipe!).

The Charcutepalooza February Challenge is up, and I’ve got a five pound slab of Pat’s Pastured pork belly in the fridge. I’m taking the lead on this one, and I couldn’t be more excited (but we just might have a little something extra up our sleeves – stay tuned).

Some Assembly Required

Dinner:  July 8, 2009

Some may say that they’re so over, but Mike and I have been in love with banh mi since our first taste of them back in NYC. I’ve wanted to make banh mi-inspired sandwiches at home for ages, and finally did so last night. I had an idea a while back to use duck rillettes in place of the Vietnamese cold cuts I generally favor, so I had Mike whip some up from his latest batch of confit. With the rillettes made, putting together the rest of the was a breeze: I halved a baguette, sliced each half open, and slathered the insides with a Sriracha-spiked mayo. I placed them on a baking sheet and they went into a 400 degree oven for 5 minutes.

While the baguettes warmed, I whisked together a little salt and vinegar, then added some radish coins, thin slices of carrot, and slivers of green chile pepper, tossing them until they were all well coated. I sliced up a cucumber and some pickled red onions as well, and set aside several sprigs of fresh cilantro to top our sandwiches. When the baguettes were just cool enough to handle, I assembled everything, spreading a layer of rillettes inside of the bread, then topping them with the cut and pickled veggies and cilantro. This was a meal that really did come together in minutes, and it was delicious. I’m eyeing the last of Mike’s pate de campagne for a future variation of this sandwich.

At Last

a toast

Well. That was one beautiful day we had yesterday. It was a special day for us personally, as Mike and I looked back at our wedding day three years prior, but we were mostly caught up in the history that was being made. Thinking about it all still takes my breath away.

I had scheduled a few days off this week, both to recharge my batteries and so Mike and I could spend some quality time together, and a big part of that quality time was spent planning and preparing our celebratory dinner. I had received a gift card for Barbara Lynch’s Butcher Shop from one of my bosses at Christmastime, and last Friday Mike took a trip up to the South End with that card to pick up provisions for our meal. Our original thought was to do a whole roast duck, but when he got to the store, there were none to be had.

confit

They did have confit legs, however, as well as a variety of sausages and other cured meats, so when Mike called to ask if I had any other ideas for our anniversary meal, I suggested cassoulet. After all, we could do much of the work on it ahead of time, which would leave us free to do other things (read: sit glued to MSNBC) while the assembled dish cooked. And it has been far too long since our last cassoulet, so once I suggested it, we were filled with anticipation.

I got things started on Monday, making a big batch of chicken stock and cooking a pound of Rancho Gordo flageolet beans in abundant water, with our last trotter from Bobolink nestled in for good measure. After several hours, the beans and trotter were tender, so I added a bit of salt, let them go for another half hour or so, and let them cool down to store overnight.

On Tuesday, Mike got to work on the meat components, crisping up some bacon, shredding the meat and skin off of the cooked trotter, and searing a thick pork chop from Pat’s Pastured in some of the rendered bacon fat. With the meaty bits set aside, he turned his attention to the cooking liquid and aromatics: one large onion, chopped (one thing that didn’t bring tears to my eyes yesterday) and sauteed in more rendered fat; some chopped garlic, cooked until fragrant; a dab of tomato paste, which he caramelized in a hot spot before stirring into the onion and garlic; a cup of my roasted tomato puree from the freezer; some white vermouth; some of the stock I made on Monday; and finally, a bouquet garni. He added the bony bits from the trotter to the pot and let it all simmer away until it was rich and reduced.

My creation

With beans, meat and flavorful liquid ready to go, we assembled the cassoulet. First, we scattered the crisp bacon and soft bits from the trotter over the bottom of the pan, then we added a layer of beans. The pork chop and confit legs went in next, with more beans spooned all around. We nestled slices of prosciutto sausage in next, finishing with the remaining beans and the cooking liquid, and smooshing everything down so the liquid came up to the top. We let the oven preheat to 350 degrees while I pulsed some stale bits of Seven Stars country bread into fresh breadcrumbs and seasoned them with herbs, which we then scattered over the top of the cassoulet.

crusty

Mike dolloped a bit of duck fat over the top and we set the pot in the oven to bake, uncovered, for about an hour. We cranked the heat up to 425 for another 20 minutes or so, just to get the top extra brown and crusty, then Mike carefully removed the pot from the oven and let it rest briefly before serving.

Dinner:  January 20, 2009

This was a pretty darned wonderful effort from “Team Us,” I have to say, and plenty romantic with candles and a good red wine added to the mix. Who needs leather when you can have pig skin? (And duck. And sausage. And beans.)