31 January, 2008

Duck and Ham: The Final Chapter

Birthday Weekend in Wisconsin.

Le Diner

Magret Sec (duck prosciutto)
Bacon and Onion Tart
Trout a la Meuniere
Sticky Date Pudding

Le Petit Déjeuner

Croissants avec:
Jambon et Comté
Pâte d'Amandes

It been a busy couple of weeks here at the hermitage, but we will always take time for food and friends. This past weekend we took the show on the road to celebrate birthdays and to execute the final chapters of Ham Serial and Duck Tale.

Magret Sec (duck prosciutto)

It embarrasses me to say duck prosciutto. I suppose it's a good name, it succintly describes the flavor and the process, and it certainly has a better ring than dried duck breast, but it's not ham. So I came up with a new name, Magret Sec. It's French for dry duck filet. Sliced thin, the magret does taste a lot like its former namesake, but instead of curing for a year or more, I got mine in about a week.

I dried them for about ten days achieving about a thirty percent reduction in weight. The temperature stayed in the fifties but my humidity dipped as low as forty percent. Well worth the effort. For anyone thinking about curing duck, go for it.

Bacon and Onion Tart.

Next on the appetizer parade is Bonne Femme, with her signature Bacon and Onion Tart. Her recipe is adapted from the cookbook, Cooking with Master Chefs.

The tart is wicked easy, especially when you have frozen puff pasty dough and a Cuisinart. The bacon was cured in the pot with the ham and cold smoked for six hours.

Trout a la Meuniere

People often ask me: Are you learning anything at culinary school? Oui. On the day we were pan frying fish, Chef talked about a hatchery in Wisconsin that was great place to get fresh trout. Turns out this place is about ten minutes from where we were staying.

Rushing Waters Fisheries was pretty cool and the fish doesn't get any fresher. Since I just wanted a quick and easy appetizer, I pan fried the filets in clarified butter, then finished with a whole butter and lemon sauce served on mixed greens. Stay tuned for an upcoming episode when I cure and cold smoke some filets I brought home.


Oh boy I love this stuff. I wrote about cassoulet last year and I focused on the idea that this dish is a combination of items that come from your pantry and larder (pronounced beer fridge). This version raids the pantry again but I also made a quick trip to Walt's for some lamb.

I started with salt pork. This is cured pork belly trimmings that I did at the same as the bacon and the ham. Salt pork is bacon that has not been smoked. I chopped this stuff up and blanched it before throwing it in with the beans to cook.

While the beans are simmering I started the ragout with a couple of jars of tomato sauce (the pros call it tomato coulis), duck stock, a bouquet of rinds, and some cubed lamb shoulder.

For the sausage portion of the program, I made two kinds: A garlic recipe adapted from Ruhlman's book Charcuterie, and a Toulouse sausage.

Toulouse Sausage is required ingredient to that city's version of cassoulet (Toulouse is the Holy Ghost to Castelnaudary (the Father) and Carcassonne (the Son) in the Holy Trinity of Cassoulets) The sausage is supposed to be roughly chopped, I made mine with pork, some salt pork, salt and quatre épices.

Remember our crock of canard from two weeks ago? I had to warm the vessel in the oven so that I could wrestle the legs from their larded slumber. I browned them up in a pan along with the sausages and then assembled the whole lot (Beans and ragout too) into the biggest pan I could find.

Bubble in the oven for several hours, serve with love.

Here are the birthday girl(s) at about 23:30. JJ brought a cheese plate and Chrissy made the sticky plum pudding, shown here with candles and a caramel sauce. Zach discharged his duties expertly, sommeliering his way through the courses with some great wine choices, mostly Côtes du Rhônes, but also some domestic white and Austria red (who knew?) just to mix it up.

With dinner service concluded, time to hit the hay. The kids will be getting up in a few hours and they are going to want breakfast.

et le Jambon?

I am happy to report that the ten day long transformation from leg of pork to country style cured ham was successful. Most of it is still waiting to be made into sandwiches, the bones I saved for lentils, but some of the choicest slices went to Wisconsin last weekend to play the lead role in breakfast,

the ham and cheese croissant.

I made some chocolate ones and some almond ones too.

After breakfast we went outside.

Good food, good friends, great weekend. Anyone can do this anywhere.

Don't fuss, just cook.


22 January, 2008

Ham Serial Part Four: Light em up

Cold Smoking and Hot Smoking Ham and Bacon.

This is yesterday about three. Three pieces of cured belly and a ham.

The idea here is to apply smoke by smoldering sawdust over an electric hot plate. The outside air temp (28 F) kept the main chamber below 90 F.

Six hours and two inches of snow later, it time to put these bits to bed.

Today I fired up the bullet and I did some minor tying to round out the joint. The smoker settled at 200F.

I placed the bacon on the lower level. After about an hour the bacon had reached 150F, so I took them out.

After a total of six hours smoking, the ham got to an internal temp of 155F. Done. Was all the fussing worth it? I dunno, we'll find out soon.


19 January, 2008

Ham Serial Part Three: Let it Dangle

Upstairs, Bonne Femme, is conducting the music appreciation class. The boys are getting their grips on some of the beacons eighties: The Dead Kennedys, Love and Rockets (not as popular), and Ministry. I think class is going well, above the thrashing I can hear the boys being told to stop jumping on the couch.

Meanwhile down below in studio C, the ham has come out of it's week long briny bath. I'll let it get some air for at least 24 hours before puttin some smoke on it.

Before I hung the ham, I let it, along with the cured bellies, soak in a change of water. I fried up some of the bacon this morning and it was too salty. I am hoping a short cold bath will bring a little balance.

It's almost time to fire up the cold smoker.


16 January, 2008

Ham Serial Part Two: The Doctor is In

Time to check the ham and the bits of belly I left to cure in Ham Serial Part One.

I removed the smaller pieces (It's been 3 1/2 days) and put them into the fridge to rest uncovered.

This larger piece of belly needs a couple more days.

To make sure the brine is getting in deep, I used a needle to inject some brine. The ham needs to stay under until at least Saturday. Stay Tuned.


15 January, 2008

Duck Tale Part Two

So here we are in studio B with the drying box. You may remember this decommissioned kitchen cabinet from Hunt for Proscuitto. In there you see a couple of devices to measure temp and humidity, and a casserole for adding water in the box.

But let's jump back to this morning.

I degreased and bagged the duck stock, then I got all the duck fat I made yesterday, I got all the duck fat and lard I made a month ago, and put them into a dutch oven along with the legs, lollipops and gizzards we saw in Duck Tale Part One.

Into a 200F oven, see you in six hours.

Meanwhile back in Studio B:

Duck Prosciutto.

It's been twenty-four hours since I put the duck breasts in a salt bed. Now rinsed and dried, they are noticeably darker and firmer.

Here I use a bamboo skewer to make a hole. I'll thread the hole with a stainless s-hook off an old IKEA pot rack.

So like I was saying yesterday, I used the fourth breast for dinner. I cross-hatched the skin then seared each side (skin side first) in a dry skillet. Three minutes per side. I sliced it up and put it on top of a salad. Bonne Femme accused me of being "gourmet." What? pan sear, salt and pepper, what is gourmet about that? Duck should be served like beef or tuna, rare.

As you can see above, I covered the opening with landscape fabric so the box can breath while filtering light. I found a draughty spot in the basement and I hung the box in front of it. When I last checked the temperature was about 50F with a relative humidity of 40%. I'll leave it for a week.


Back upstairs in the test kitchen the confit is ready to come out of the oven. I carefully remove the bits putting the legs and lollipops in a crock and the livers hearts and lights in a glass jar.

I strain the fat through a china cap lined with muslin then top off each vessel.

I'll cover them with foil and set them in a cool spot for a few days. I wonder what I could make with that?

For further reading on confit or duck prosciutto, check out Charcuterie, by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn.

Stayed tuned from Part Three when we find out if the drying duck has blossomed into prosciutto or turned to just jerky.


14 January, 2008

Duck Tale Part One

I bought two ducks at Walt's last week. It has taken them five days in the fridge to thaw. I cut them up today.

I laid the breasts on a bed of salt then added more salt. I saved one for dinner tonight.

I seasoned the gizzards, the legs and the lollipops with salt and pepper. Everybody goes into the fridge for twenty-four hours.

I roasted the bones and bits for brown stock. (Note: Roasting duck bones gives of the aroma of McDonald's. If you happen to have been a child in America, then you know this is a good thing.)

The skin and fat are rendering on the stove right now.

Tune in tomorrow we will confit the legs and prep the breasts for prosciutto.