Duck confit, brie, and bosc pear pizza
Duck confit is a preparation where duck meat (usually from the legs and thighs of the duck) is cooked in its own fat and then preserved in that same fat. The fat forms a barrier that keeps air and moisture out and along with refrigeration prevents spoilage. The tomato conserva that I made back in September was a sort of confit for vegetarians.
The biggest obstacle keeping me from trying most duck confit recipes is that they tend to call for a massive quantity of duck fat. The process produces a lot of extra duck fat so this becomes less of a problem for future endeavours but the first time around buying a litre (or more) of duck would be pretty ridiculously expensive.
Even more to the point there seems to be a believable contention that cooking in fat, like this at least, doesn’t add flavour. Nathan Myrhvold former chief technology officer at Microsoft and now food super-scientist contends that theoretically there is no way that large fat molecules could penetrate into duck meat and also that blind taste testers couldn’t tell the difference between the traditional method and duck meat that had been steamed and then rubbed with duck fat. The article is also worth a read for Myrhvold’s suggestions of using a dog brush to prepare duck breast for cooking.
Medium-rare roast beef served with all of its favourite friends
I visited Sanagan’s Meat Locker, Kensington Market’s newest butcher, on my search for a fresh, whole leg of pork to use for the ham I wanted to make for New Year’s Day. While there I also picked up some beef inside round to roast for Christmas. This beef was grass-fed and comes from nearby Durham Region. When they heard I wanted to serve it a week later the guys at Sanagan’s offered to vac-pack the beef for me but wanting to try my hand at a little home dry-aging I passed.
Straight home from the butcher's the beef had a distinct dark red colour
When I got them home the roasts had the bright, dark-red colour that I associate with grass-fed beef. They were sightly wet on the surface but that probably had a lot to do with the trip in a plastic bag and would only really have been a problem if I wanted to cook and serve them immediately. Luckily, this beef was destined to spend a week in a cold refrigerator.
The finished product--spiced version on the left, plain on the right
In this second part of my series of blog posts about duck I am going to go over my duck prosciutto-making project. This is a somewhat exact process that involves hanging uncooked poultry for more than a week so bear with me if veer towards the technical.
The starting point
This preparation really is about process. The first step (after the duck breasts are removed from the body as discussed in my earlier post) is to fill a non-metal container with a bed of kosher or coarse salt. Lay the breasts on the salt, arranged so that they aren’t touching and cover with more salt. The container–covered with plastic wrap goes into the fridge for twenty-four hours of curing. (more…)
That Godzilla moment savoured by every child
Today with only three days left until the big day here are some holiday bits-and-pieces that I hope some of you will find useful. If nothing else I know I will refer back to this post next year.
Chestnuts: Here is an about.com video details a better method for opening chestnut shells (than the traditional scoring with a paring knife) so that the infamous exploding chestnut incident of Thanksgiving 2009 isn’t repeated. Thanks to @TOFoodie for the link via Twitter.
Turkey: As I mentioned on Sunday I’ll be cooking roast beef for Christmas this year. For those of you who are sticking with turkey here is the post that I put up before Thanksgiving with my guidelines for roasting the chicken’s must-larger cousin. (more…)
Leftover duck stock from the confit, the duck confit, and two jars of duck fat
The composition of our Christmas menu is a running debate in my family. To me turkey seems like just a repeat of Thanksgiving and cooking the big bird is no longer really a challenge. I would like to try cooking goose or duck but have been over-ruled on the grounds that these fowl are apparently too greasy. While I work on changing opinions for next year I am making some smaller projects for this year.
Duck breast prosciutto is widely recommended as a first dry-curing charcuterie project. Even more than chickens, duck breasts are sold at a premium compared to whole birds–if they can be found at all. Instead I picked up a couple of whole, frozen ducks and the breasts are on their way to becoming ersatz prosciutto but that is going to be a separate post. I’m using the recipe from Earth to Table to preserve the leg meat and excess fat as duck confit but that is also going to be a separate post. Today I’m going to turn the order around a bit and write about the leftovers and ancillary benefits first. (more…)