Have you heard about Charcutepalooza yet? Two particularly intrepid food bloggers have deemed 2011 the Year of Meat, and so they (along with about 300 other bloggers) are working their way through Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie with a new challenge each month. January was duck prosciutto, February was pancetta and bacon, and for March corned beef (or brined pork chops or chicken) is the challenge of the month, and it’s so inspiring to see the posts and the recipes and the dedication that real charcuterie requires. You really should follow their exploits because it’s yielding some fascinating results. Because we live in an apartment that is not only dry as a bone but also at least 85 degrees during the winter and summer thanks to intense radiators and no air conditioning it’s unrealistic/unsafe to commit to the rigors of the year-long challenge, but it hasn’t dimmed my craving for some of the meats that have been featured or to follow along in our own way.
Fortunately, we can make duck ham thanks to a recipe from Tom Colicchios’s Think Like a Chef that is short (at least in meat-curing terms), delicious and easy. If it’s good enough for the head judge of Top Chef, well, it’s good enough for us.
I hesitate to call it pure duck prosciutto, because 24 hours in the fridge in the salt and sugar and herb cure is not enough to give it the stiffness that real prosciutto would have, but it’s a great “fast” cure because it does have a delicacy and gaminess that is true to the charcuterie spirit. It’s a little rubbery, but if you throw the prepared duck breast into the freezer before slicing it you are able to make those slimmer cuts, and you’ll see how nicely it paired with pizza. On Saturday we enjoyed it on its own as a precursor to some delicious tapas eating that night, and while it’s no jamon serrano, it’s a significantly cheaper and faster alternative that is quite delicious in its way.
And again: if Tom Colicchio says it’s good, what’s not to like?
So to the 300-strong bloggers participating in Charcutepalooza, you have our utmost respect. When we can, we’ll be following along with all of you–to quote a recent Hillshire Farms ad, “GO MEAT!”
from Think Like a Chef
- 2 duck breasts
- 2 cups kosher salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 2 TB freshly ground black pepper
- 1 TB fresh thyme leaves
- 3 bay leaves, crushed
Place the duck breasts into the freezer for 20 minutes and then gently trim the fat off of the duck breasts, leaving enough to form a protective layer for the cure. Be very slow in trimming the fat–take only little bits off as you need, and avoid stripping bare any pieces of the breast. If you can order fresh duck breast from your butcher ahead of time, do this as this process is not as complicated as it is with a vacuum-packed duck where the fat can be more compressed (at least in our experience).
Mix the salt cure together (basically everything but the duck breasts), and on two sheets of plastic cling that’s more than large enough to wrap up the breasts in put 1/4 of the salt mixture on each piece of cling. Lay the breasts, fat-side down, onto the cling, and then cover the the breasts with the remaining salt mixture. Wrap tightly with the cling and place into the refrigerator for 24 hours.
After 24 hours, discard the salt mixture and blot dry with paper towels. If serving immediately slice thinly and serve; otherwise it can be rewrapped in plastic and kept in the refrigerator for future use.