|Look who's hiding back there|
|Tasted every bit as good as it looked.|
Yet as much as I love to eat charcuterie, I have dreamed of making it too. I've bought what many people say is the definitive book on the subject called Charcuterie as well as "borrowed" my dad's copy of Rytek Kutas's Great Sausage Recipes & Meat Curing. By now, most of my friends know of my dream of a charcuterie chamber and roommates, and even Erica, have been concerned it might someday become a reality. Alas, as that dream remains unrealized, I knew I needed an outlet and so I took to the internet, googling for in-home recipes for charcuterie and I found several center around duck prosciutto.
Erica, my buddy Ben, and I all tasted it just like this and it was really good. Ducky, not too salty, great fat content. Just good prosciutto. I'm marking this a success for a few reasons. First, it happened just like the book said it would. Second, it's been over 12 hours and to my knowledge no one who consumed the duck as gone to the hospital. Third, it was really freaking good. Tomorrow I'll put up the recipe for what I did with all this beautiful sliced duck prosciutto for dinner last night. Hint: Duck Pizza. Oh, and in case you were curious, yes I did order two duck breasts online last night (because Whole Foods in Foggy Bottom failed). They should arrive on Thursday and be curing by Sunday. I am still negotiating for the charcuterie chamber.
I could do this, I thought. I mean is it slightly dangerous to plan to let raw meat that's been smothered in salt for 24 hours just hanging up in your apartment for a week or more without fully regulating temperature and humidity? Probably, but life and cooking is adventure. This idea of duck prosciutto hung out in my mind for a long time, but I never could find duck. The Whole Foods on P Street let me down so many times and it wasn't until they opened a new location in Foggy Bottom could I find duck breast. I bought it instantly. From there is was just a matter of buying some (a lot) of kosher salt, cheesecloth, and meat string.
So I opened up the packaged duck breast and to my surprise I found two complete duck breast, or rather four individual breasts. I set aside a pair for latter and then laid out one whole duck breast on the cutting board like so:
The bits you see just a little above are parts of the tenderloin. From here I split the breast with my pairing knife so I had two pieces. From there I took a 9x9 glass Pyrex baking dish and covered the bottom with a solid foundation of salt resulting in a 1/4" to 1/2" layer of salt in the dish. I laid the breast, skin side up, into the dish and then just poured salt over the duck breast. In the end I used at least 2lbs of a 3lb kosher salt box. When pouring the salt in I made sure that I was getting around the edges of the duck, even taking a moment to make sure it was nestled into the salt. Once completely covered I wrapped the top of the baking dish with cling wrap. Here's how they looked, covered in salt and wrapped up:
I made sure, once it was wrapped, that you couldn't see the duck anywhere. I even lifted up the dish to make sure no duck showed through the bottom. Satisfied the duck was sufficiently covered in salt I threw the dish in the refrigerator for just over 24 hours. Even in that short time period you realize how much moisture the salt pulls out of the duck. I took the duck out of the salt, rinsed it off, and dried it thoroughly. Here's what they looked like after 24 hours in the fridge, one skin side up, one skin side down.
You can notice even just between the picutre above and the picture below how the salt has had an effect. From here I wrapped each breast in about two full covers of cheesecloth and then tied them up with some butcher's string. You'll notice in a lot of recipes this is where you can add different seasonings to change the flavor. This being a first attempt, I decided to keep it simple. Here's a single breast wrapped and trussed:
Now to perhaps the most important part. All the recipes I read said the duck should lose about 30% of it's weight through lost moisture during the curing process. But how do you know what 30% is unless you weigh it ahead of time. So I weighed them both, noting ounces and grams. I think took two dry cleaning hangers, cut part off and formed some make shift meat hangers then leveraged the hangers between the recipe books on my fridge. I hung them up along with a piece of paper with their initial weights on them. Of note, the breasts don't touch anything while there hanging. Here's what Erica came home to after her internship one Sunday afternoon:
|Welcome Home Erica!|
And so I waited for over a week, weighing them periodically. In fact, I ended up being out of town when they were finally ready so Erica took them down, unwrapped them from the cheesecloth, and then wrapped them up in plastic wrap. Of note, they were much smaller then when I wrapped them. That sounds pretty obvious when it's supposed to lose 30% of it's weight, but striking to see in reality. Last night was the big tasting, so I busted out my mandolin, set it to 1/16" thickness and trimmed one of the duck breasts into little pieces. Here's what it looked like after slicing.
|Sliced Duck Prosciutto|