Should I have been clearer about my imagery here? Ok, for those of you with overactive sexual imaginations, let me explain.
The bear’s bottom is the backside of rather high-class pair book ends (it’s the proper British Winnie-the-Pooh, folks) that were exiled to a basement shelf when Eliza updated the décor of her bedroom to a purple Parisian theme last summer.
The hanging breast is a nearly one-pound boneless beauty – a d’Artagnan Moulard Duck Magret — on its way to prosciutto (hopefully, that is). It’s my stab at the first challenge of Charcutepalooza, the brainchild of food bloggers Mrs.Wheelbarrow and TheYummyMummy. These ladies have challenged food bloggers everywhere to conquer their fears of home-made cured meats by collectively working their way through Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn.
Each month will bring a new charcuterie challenge and we all plan to write posts about both trials and triumphs. Since I missed the charcuterie course in cooking school last year – a move that puts an embarrassing hole in my culinary training – I joined the effort that at last count had over 50 bloggers on board.
Even as a complete novice, I found that the step to making duck ham easy. You submerge a breast in kosher salt for 24 hours, rinse it off, season it with white pepper, wrap it up and hang it to dry. When it’s done, it’s supposed to yield thick creamy slices of cured dark red meat to either be eaten privately — simply wrapped around a grissini (thin Italian bread sticks) — or as an elegant stunner at your next dinner party, topped like its beef cousin, bresaola, with arugula, shaved parmigiano reggiano, good olive oil and lemon.
This first challenge highlights my inner struggle between an expensive palate and what we’ve declared in my house to be the “Year of Austerity” as I work slowly, but in earnest, toward building a successful freelance food writing business.
So I bought only half a breast, not a whole one like the recipe calls for, appeasing the fat devil on my right shoulder (“Yes, Christine, you love $12/pound meats.” and the gaunt angel on my left (“You should practice more restraint, dear.”)
I apologize to my next dinner party guests in advance. I’ll be eating this one privately. If you have complaints, talk to the angel.
I’d be lying by ommission if I didn’t cop to being worried about the potential failure of my duck prosciutto project.
What if temperature of the basement dips or spikes (Ruhlman says 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit is best) and some horrible foodborne illness carrying beastie burrows its way through the layers of cheese cloth and manifests itself in my breast?
What if it gets contaminated from hanging directly below the asbestos covered lead pipes that were common place – and still in place — when they built this basement back in 1916?
Or horrors of all horrors, what if it doesn’t taste good? Shameful.
These worries will certainly haunt me in my sleep for the next seven nights, the time in which the experts tell me it should lose half its water weight (a feat I’d welcome in my own physique, actually) and be ready for consumption.
I’ll keep you posted.
UPDATE: Four days in and the duck has lost 33 grams!