Charcutepalooza Duck Breast Proscuitto
By Natalie Sztern on February 01, 2011
Everyone is probably sick of reading about Duck Proscuitto but here I am: a day late and a dollar short.
IT BEGAN WITH A DUCK BREAST
It began with a breast and ended with Proscuitto.
I have detailed in pictures absolutely every step I did so that all who read and all who know what barriers I have encountered can see that I perservered and perservered properly. Maintaining the integrity of what I read and how to proceed. I feel this is very important to say; because even as my Duck Breast hangs and it is done I am still running into barriers and negative feedback when I proudly tell my friends what I have done.
You should know that I have been called crazy; I have been asked why I am taking such a risk; I have been told 'don't bring me any I will be scared to eat it"; so that everyone who is reading this can know I have been damned every step of the way.
My own husband wanted to know why would I consider doing this if there is so much negativity on my doing this. He won't eat any of it. So be it; I know I have done this and done it properly and I am proud that I went so out of my comfort zone in the face of so much damnation on why I would risk Charcuterie in the house.
Know that I am damn proud.
Here I thought the only challenge would be in making the Duck Proscuitto. No, in fact the major challenge was getting the cure; and having everyone in Montreal tell me I am crazy for doing this at home. So crazy that Chowhound had enough posts on a simple question of mine, that the monitors wanted to change it out of the Montreal forum.
I told them it should stay exactly where it is. Montreal does not take kindly to home curing Charcuterie. I had communications with a blogger in Toronto who told me she was given thumbs up and kudos everywhere she told Torontonians of the challenge she was joinging: the making of a year's worth of recipes from Charcuterie. Surely there was not one blogger/instructor from the great United States of America who could understand what the hulabaloo was all about. In fact I will go so far as to say they think I am a scared, crazy, publicity-seeking, ignoramus with no idea of how real ‘foodies’ do food.
Especially food people whose life’s business is Charcuterie.
I am embarrassed by Montreal’s way of thinking. Embarrassed because we ARE Charcuterie. We ARE foie gras. We ARE French Canada.
Especially because we think nothing of eating Horse Meat sold packaged next to the ground up pork and beef
I am glad I went through this challenge because I have learned a lot. I learned that Canada Food and Argiculture is very concerned for our health; so much so that should I desire to get beautiful and serve my Duck Proscuitto for brunch I will have to do it makeup free. Not really, because I have a lot of makeup; but in my quest of Curing Salt I discovered that we Canadians cannot ship cross border any Makeup like eye shadow or lipstick because the dyes and other ingredients used to make these products do not conform to our Agriculture and Food laws and makeup dyes fall into that category.
MY FRIDGE WITH HERBS AND A MIRROR TO MAKE SURE I LOOK GORGEOUS
I tested it out; yes it is true. No ship-a to-a Canada-a. Risking 75 bucks worth of eyeshadow and a top from Bloomingdales online, I began my checkout from my shopping cart (some use a lingo termed basket) and when I entered my address up popped the words: No Can Do. It wasn’t 'No Can Do'…it was makeup cannot be shipped to Canada. For all you Trivia freaks.*1
The really stupid part is my own.
Initially I read the term "Pink Salt" when Mrs Wheelbarrow posted the first challenge. What I didn’t realize is the Salt Cure is needed for February’s challenge and not this. For this challenge all I needed was Kosher Salt. So all the shit I went through and all the emails I sent to these very knowledgeable people were completely unnecessary since all I needed was Salt. Yet none of the ‘Chowhound/Egullet Machers’ caught this fact.
THE PRAGUE POWDER #1/PINK SALT
When did I catch it? On Saturday the 22nd when I took out Michael Ruhlman’s book again, for the umpteenth time, to read. I double checked this fact with the blogs posted in my previous Charcutepalooza post…So who’s the putz now? ME.
Since Friday, the 14th, I sat with a Breast of Duck in my refrigerator waiting for the Prague Powder #1 to arrive and I didn’t even need it. Actually it is not a full breast, it is one lobe. An entire Duck Breast is two lobes.*2
((No worry because I see February's challenge was just posted and I know for sure we need it. Now, I have it!))
The next hurdle to cross, after buying the Duck Breast, was where I was going to hang it to dry. One blogger said she kicked her baby out of the nursery and hung hers on the mobile. Perfect; I have a guest room and that was where I was going to hang my Breast.
Oh Mrs. Wheelbarrow and Mrs. Yummy Mummy I see exactly why you have a contingency of perverts following you: it’s just too easy….
I put a Thermometer into the room with a humidistat so that I knew for certain the room would be humid and at proper temperature of 50 F. Jeez, even at –8 C; 50 degrees F is bloody damn cold. I was really nervous the pipes in that room would freeze. Note: each and every time I entered the room I donned my North Face jacket.
INEXPENSIVE THERMOMETER WITH HUMIDSTAT AND S HOOKS
(Interestingly I enjoyed using the treadmill this past week because I got a nice draft of cold air, as it sits next door, in that area of the house…quite pleasing really.)
FRESH DUCK BREAST LOBE
It took me two days to figure out why the dog kept scratching at the bedroom door all day long. She smelled the Duck Breast Lobe. Considering how good this Proscuitto is; I don't mind having to re-paint the bottom of the door.
- Following to a tee the directions from Charcuterie I placed a small bed of salt in a glass dish. Laying the breast on top I then covered it entirely with salt and refrigerated it for 24 hours. Making sure I placed plastic wrap to cover the dish, I then placed it towards the back which is the coldest part of my fridge and where I knew for sure it would not be tampered with since not a soul in my house ever bends past their waist to see what food there is to eat.
DUCK BREAST SCORED
Chef John would be pleased that I did not cut the flesh of the Duck. He has a great video on cooking Breast sous-vide w/o machine!
COVERED ENTIRELY WITH KOSHER SALT
WRAPPED WITH PLASTIC WRAP READY TO REFRIGERATE FOR 24 HOURS
I can't remember off hand where I read this, but I sliced into the skin side of the breast. I don't know why, I just did it.
- 24 hours later put me at 11:37 a.m. on Sunday.
- After rinsing and washing the breast thoroughly, I wiped it dry; seasoned it with black peppercorns, garlic, and one bay leaf which I pulverized into a powder, and then wrapped it in Cheesecloth making sure it was tied securely – leaving extra length to hang it with. No, I did not need the S hooks I pictured because my very expensive hand blown tulip bulb lamp was perfect for hanging my breast.
EVERY STEP OF THE WAY WITH MY NEW CHARCUTERIE MY NEW BFF
In fact this one particular item is going to become priceless for the coming challenges I suspect. Look at how many arms I could hang product from. Plus it sits right next to the window where I decided to replace the thermometer. I want a dead-on read on the temperature.
However I did have a question. How much Cheesecloth should I be using and how thick should it be? I didn't know if there was a specific number of layers needed nor if it could thick or thin. I went to the back of Charcuterie and cheesecloth was not listed. I went to the beginning where it talked about the tools and no mention of cheesecloth there either.
I LOOKED AT THE TABLE OF CONTENTS AND THE BACK OF THE BOOK
I felt I saw enough pictures to know it didn't need to be a wintercoat of Cheesecloth.
- After wrapping and tying the breast I then weighed it and made note of the weight. 10 1/2 oz which I marked on my Glad Bag Freezer tags. An important step because I knew it had to shrink by about 30%; so I needed to calculate what that weight would be.
WRAPPED IN CHEESECLOTH
WEIGHED AND WRITTEN DOWN SO THAT I COULD KNOW WHEN IT HAD LOST 30% OF ITS INITIAL WEIGHT
One cannot cure or smoke or ‘charcute’ without a calculator or a Mathematician in the area - Henry said it should weigh aproximately 7.3 oz.
- Making sure the room was the right temperature on Sunday, I hung my Duck Breast like so.
NEW PLACEMENT OF THERMOMETER TO GET A BETTER READING
Twice a day I went into the room just to make sure the temperature stayed the same. Some days the window was open wider than others; I had to adapt my space to conform for the proper drying.
THANK GOODNESS FOR MY VENETIAN HAND-BLOWN GLASS TULIP LAMP WITH MANY ARMS JUST WAITING
FOR MORE CHARCUTERIE
Two days in I weighed the product and it was 9.14 oz
six days in I weighed the product and it was 8 0z.
NOTICE THE FREEZER TAG WITH ORIGINAL WEIGHT - IMPORTANT TO MAKE NOTES OF WEIGHT SO U WON'T FORGET
Judgement Day came February 1, 2011
Excitement was spewing forth from me: I took my Ming Tsai signed Kyocera ceramic knife and sliced into the Proscuitto just barely thicker than a hair.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE PROCESS
I felt an overwhelming sense of urgency to get this posted as part of 'the gang' but it didn't happent because the breast needed to hang another day longer. After unwrapping the cheesecloth I felt a huge let down. In fact my heart kind of sank.
The breast looked very dry; it was hard getting the cloth off and finally it was a bitch to slice, especially into thin slices.
I managed to cut the first few pieces of a not very large breast and they were beef jerky dry.
Further into the center were moister slices as you can see: I even held it to the camera with my hands.
DUCK ON FIRST GLANCE WITH SHAKING HANDS OF ANTICIPATION
At this point in slicing I am thinking 'Oh no' Proscuitto is not like this when I buy it at the butchershop.
Looking towards the sky, I lifted back my chin pursing open my mouth and gently covering my tongue with the dangling slice of Proscuitto and gently; little by little, I slid that precious breast into the opening between lips and metal orthodontic braces.
SLICING WAS A BITCH
Who am I kidding? I tried to make this sound luscious and sexy; but those days went out when my orthodontic braces played havoc on my sex life. Three years ago last week.
The worst part of all of this is that I am afraid to eat it.
Afraid because of all the tumult I had gone through with various others opinions on this process
I give in to my fear and take a bite.
Baby, this is damn good.
- St. Viateur white seed bagel sliced in half
- cream cheese shmeared on
- 3 slices proscuitto
- 2 thin slices of tomatoe
- A hot cup of cappuccino
...and Sunday is just like it used to be when the kids were home except those days I used Lox. (well if it had been like I planned for on Sunday but instead it is Tuesday)
March 20,1999 was my son Zack's Bar Mitzvah. This was the first time Kosher Duck was being served in Montreal. Prior to that Duck was not considered a Kosher cut of meat. Numerous guests did not enjoy the Duck. Invited as participants as well as guests were the entire team of The Montreal Alouettes including Head Staff. That day was my most proudest: of my son, of the most spectacular party Montreal had seen that year and mostly because the Alouettes enjoyed their evening so much they listed it in their calendar that year. Perhaps this is why this project meant so much to me.
Chartcutepalooza: Thank you for letting me relive, for the last week, one of the best days in my son's life.
*1 I used a personal shopper who mails the parcels directly
*2 should you do a full breast of two lobes, you must make sure that the non-reactive pan or plate is big enough to lay both lobes, side by side, so that they do not touch one another.
Like every test a person takes; they want to be graded. For me, this was a test and now I want people to grade me on what, from my descriptions and the pictures, they feel I could have done better or differently and gain better results. I am 99% sure that this is not how Proscuitto is supposed to come out.
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