Sunday, January 23, 2011

Duck Breast + Salt - Food Poisoning = YUM!

Hi all!

Well...  I am happy to report that my first official charcutepalooza attempt was a success!  We were growing nervous because our duck breasts were a bit thinner than it seemed they should be and yet they were taking longer than expected to lose their moisture.  I immediately assumed the worst, that the wine fridge we used did not have enough humidity and the outside had dried and the inside never would.

Anyway! We purchased a Bell & Evans whole duck from a local meat market.  This duck was just waiting to be broken down and turned in to delicious charcuterie!  As I mentioned in an earlier post, we used the extras after cutting away the breasts to make confit legs in our sous vide supreme, about a cup of duck fat, amazing cracklins, and a delicious autumn stock that I've since cooked down to make a duck demi glace (freezer space is at a premium here!)

But onto the the prosciutto.  Having two breasts, I knew we wanted to do one simply with salt and pepper as Ruhlman suggested in Charcuterie and another one with a different flavor.  We decided that for the second one, we'd use the rootbeer cure from the Alinea cookbook since we'd recently started using it on meat and were already in love with it.

So we toasted up a batch of the spices for the rootbeer cure, ground it in our spice grinder and mixed it in with the salt, reserving a spoonful to rub on the duck after its salt soak. The spices included sassafras, star anise, fennel and juniper berries, among others.  I can't think of anything that would smell better than these spices toasting on your stove.

As a side note, I know that cookbook seems a bit scary but it is really a great tool for the home cook because the flavors and foods that are put together are so well thought out and carefully chosen.  You can use parts of a recipe to really elevate your food without even cooking one whole dish.

Rootbeer cure being mixed up!
The duck breasts sit fully covered in salt and cure for 24 hours in the actual refrigerator at which point its time to get prepped for the second refrigerator... the wine fridge.

Right before we wrapped up the duck to go in the wine fridge, I rinsed them off and sprinkled pepper on one and a bit of the rootbeer cure (minus the salt) on the other.

And after a week or so of waiting we broke them out to try.

Guys! you HAVE to try this!  The rootbeer flavor is very mild but goes amazingly well with the gamey sweetness of the cured duck.  It cuts through the fat nicely and leaves a really pleasant flavor.  I think we're gonna dice some and have it with pasta with a creamy sauce, a bit of nutmeg and some caramelized onions.  I thought originally that the rootbeer flavor might be limiting but its definitely the opposite!  Its delicious and carries the flavor of the duck well. We had some for breakfast with fried eggs and some white beans cooked in veal stock.

I'm so pleased that month one of charcutepalooza was a success.  I will definitely make this again in the near future.  We picked up our pork belly and began month two's recipe earlier this week.  I'm really excited about this one too but I'm honestly not sure it will be able to compete with rootbeer flavored duck we made for this month!

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