Finally. It has taken a while. The book said 1 week (the book that shall remain namless, Ruhlman). It has been closer to 5 to be honest.
I posted a while back about the start of the duck prosciutto. I had decided that after the failure of the bresaola, I had to cure something. So, I chose to cure two different types of duck breasts.
The first was a simple white pekin duck breast (well, two of them to be quite precise). The second was a moulard duck breast (often called magret). This comes from the same duck used to make foie gras. The breasts are much larger, fattier, and richer tasting than the Pekin. The idea was to cure both, and taste the differences between the two – and to ask in my mind if the difference in price is really worth it.
Well, these took much longer to cure than expected. My guess is that my humidity was higher than said authors, so they dried out slower. Much, much slower.
They are however done!! all of em. The moulard breast took longer than the pekins – obvious really since it is larger.
The more I do home charcuterie, the more I realize just how easy these whole muscle cures are, and just how remarkable the impact of salt on meat. Textures change. Flavors change. All from a little bit of salt.
So, I learnt from my bresaola errors. I kept a much better eye on the whole process, and made sure the humidity was holding proper. I mentioned in the previous post that I bought an old fridge of Craigslist, and started to use that to cure meat in. The duck breasts started in there, but then I needed the extra fridge space, so they got moved to that hanging cage contraption I built for the bresaola
I am happy to report that the cage worked perfectly. Humidity stayed good, and the little darlings dried out, slowly.
I pulled the moulard and the pekin breasts down. Ohhh, the anticipation. The weight of them was good. About a 30% weight loss. No really bad looking mold. The breasts were wrapped in a single layer of cheesecloth.. I cut through one and took a bite….
24hours on, I am still alive and kicking! yay!!!
All I can say is blimey. WOW. These bad boys are really ducky. Really, really ducky. Perhaps the 1 month cure time really intensified the flavor. Certainly not the for faint of heart, or people that aren’t passionate about duck!!!
My biggest question of this whole process is “so what is the taste difference between the two breast types?”
In all honesty, and maybe this is because I haven’t eaten a ton of it yet, I don’t taste much difference. In my mind the moulard breast is slightly richer. It has a little more fat on it – which could be a good or bad thing. My preference is for a leaner piece – a more even meat/fat ratio. Fat ratio does depend on what section of breast you cut through too. Texture is pretty comparable. Gun to my head, I do prefer the moulard. Slightly richer flavor, and more meat per slice (the breast is just bigger).
So what am I going to do with all this duck prosciutto? Being completely honest, I cannot eat a ton of it by itself in one go, like I can a good pork prosciutto. It is just so bloody rich – especially the fattier pieces. This would be excellent on a pizza. Really excellent. Sliced really thinly on a salad it would be great. Crisped up, it would add some great texture and flavor to a variety of dishes. On some bitter greens, with a poached egg – perfect.
Or this.. about as simple as you can get:
Duck Proscuitto & Spinach recipe
So this is really just a big modification of an incredible recipe from Elizabeth David (her French Provincial Cooking book). She has a recipe for a simple salad of dandelion greens and bacon. The bacon gets slowly rendered until fat is running. This all gets poured over the dandelion greens. The pan then is quickly deglazed with a splash of white wine vinegar, which too gets poured over.
I then like to add a little fresh fines herbs and some black pepper, but that is just me. The result is just naughty. It shouldn’t taste THIS GOOD. It is so simple, and so bloody good.
If you can find dandelion greens in the winter, don’t buy them. They are just too bitter – no where near as good as the spring versions. Arugula is a perfectly fine substitution.
I had a bunch of spinach in the fridge, that was looking good, so I was using that. Winter spinach has a far more robust flavor than that through the summer, and thus goes well with the strong flavors of the duck proscuitto. The leaves are also a little coarser, a texture which gets softened slightly by the hot rendered duck fat from the prosciutto.
2 handfulls of spinach leaves, carefully washed – keeping the stalks (they are just very tasty, and a good crisp bite)
10 slices of duck prosciutto
white wine vinegar
fresh fines herbs (parsley, chervil, chives, tarragon) and freshly ground black pepper (optional)
Warm a saute pan over a medium heat. Toss in the duck prosciutto, and cook just until some fat runs. Quickly pour this over two plates of the spinach. Add a good splash of white wine vinegar to the pan, heat a little just to pick up some of the duck goodness from the pan. Pour this over the spinach also. Toss with a little fines herbs and black pepper if that is your thing.
Eat straight away.
This makes an excellent side dish to robust pastas, even pizza. Heck, I just had it as lunch with some bread when I was taking these photos.
And finally – the basic method for making duck prosciutto (adapted from Ruhlman’s Charcuterie book):
Basic Duck Proscuitto Recipe and Technique
1 whole duck breast – split into two (what you would most likely call two breasts)
Trim off the tenderloin from the breasts if it is still on. Rub the breasts with some kosher salt. In a dish big enough to fit both breasts without them touching, pour in about 1/2″ if salt. Press the breasts, flesh side to the salt, into the dish. Completely cover with salt. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for 24 hours.
Remove from the fridge, and rinse off the salt. Dry well. Take the weight of each breast. Wrap each breast in a single layer of cheesecloth. Tie with string. Hang in a cool place with decent humidity (55F, and 60% humidity is ideal) until the breasts feel firm to the touch, and they have lost about 30% of their initial weight.
You can further flavor these however you wish. When you rub the salt into the breast at the start, you can certainly mix in some herbs and spices if you wish. Bay and juniper berry are classic flavors with duck. For my cure here, I used both in initial rub of salt. I could have used more, the flavor of both was overwhelmed by the duck. Next time I might try some five spice powder, just for giggles.