Charcutepalooza Challenge: Duck Prosciutto and a Recipe for Pasta Carbonara
Duck prosciutto, the first Charcutepalooza challenge. When the Accidental Locavore saw the recipe from Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie my thought was “how hard can that be?” According to his recipe for duck prosciutto, all you needed to do was salt a couple of duck breasts overnight, rinse them and tie them up for a week in a 55 degree room, all skills I possess.
Went out, got the duck breasts from Quattro’s where the Locavore goes for all things poultry, put them in kosher salt overnight, rinsed them, wrapped them in cheesecloth, and hung them, before turning the laundry room to 55 degrees and closing them off for a week. My father who loves anything meaty and fatty (curing just makes it even better in his eyes) was up for a weekend. We sliced off a couple of pieces, and tasted. OMG! If that wasn’t the saltiest thing I’ve ever eaten! Note to self; next time don’t rinse the salt, scrub it off! Two (only slightly eaten) duck breasts ended up in the garbage. As far as I know, once they’re cured, there’s nothing you can do to minimize the salt taste. Has anyone found a fix for that? Boil them like Ruhlman suggests for bacon?
When the Charcutepalooza challenge to make duck prosciutto came up again, I saw a chance for redemption. Two more of Quattro’s beautiful duck breasts spent the night in a salt bed. Removed from the salt, they were scrubbed until their skin had a pale pink glow, and the underside was ruby red. Tied into lovely bundles and once again placed in my temperature-controlled laundry room. A week later, the breasts were a little misshapen (don’t ask why I expected perfectly flat pieces of duck meat), but the flesh was firm and dark red.
The verdict: I wasn’t in love. They still retain a little saltiness, and I wish there was a little more spice, or something to make them more interesting, next time I’ll add a spice rub before hanging them. In an a-ha moment, I’ve decided to make spaghetti carbonara with my homemade bacon and the duck prosciutto. And yes, I made the pasta too.
Purists will object to a lot of things with my Charcutepalooza version of carbonara, however before you scoff, try it. The duck prosciutto added an interesting note to the pasta, and addition of duck fat (rendered from the duck prosciutto) could only be good right?
Here’s a quick recipe for my Charcutepalooza Carbonara (feeds 2)
Put a big pot of water for pasta on to boil. While the water is heating, heat over medium heat: 4 thick slices bacon, cut into 1/2” strips, and about ½ a duck breast prosciutto, thinly sliced with the slices cut in half. Cook until browned and the fat is rendered.
In a small bowl beat 2 extra large egg yolks, ¼ cup heavy cream and ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese until well combined. I’ve always eaten my carbonara on the dry side, if that’s not your style, add another egg yolk, and/or some more cream.
Cook the pasta. When it’s just al dente, drain it and add to the pan with the bacon and duck prosciutto. Add the egg mixture and toss to combine (the egg will cook with the heat from the pasta and bacon). Serve immediately with more Parmesan, and lots of freshly ground pepper. Enjoy!
Our verdict? Delicious! What’s not to like, homemade bacon, my own duck prosciutto, and handmade pasta. Add cheese, and heavy cream, and you can’t go wrong. What do you think?