March 6, 2009

House Cured Duck Prosciutto

Last week's Chef's Bistro Dinner focused on artisanal foods that Terry and his formidable team (Andrew Wood and Mike Ryan) made themselves including some house cured duck prosciutto and house made agnolotti pasta followed by some monkfish tails that Terry's favorite fishmonger, Tony McCarthy, brought in. With the exception of the monkfish which was extremely tasty, the meal almost brought me back to vacations in Tuscany where cured meats and home made pasta were the beginning of every meal including lunch!

Although it takes advanced planning, duck prosciutto is very easy to make at home, and is a great addition to any antipasto plate, or salad. As the starter for this week's dinner, the duck prosciutto was sliced thin and served aside a few thinly sliced pieces of seared duck breast, cassis mustard and a baby mustard green salad with celery root. The baby mustard green salad was sourced from Green Meadow Farm in Lancaster County. The spiciness of the mustard greens complemented the cassis mustard and fattiness of the duck.

We used moulard duck breast because the breasts are bigger and fattier than Pekin Duck. For home use, curing 4 breasts at a time seems reasonable and the shelf life of the duck is good if properly handled.

Duck Prosciutto

Approximately 2 lbs or 4 pieces of good quality, fresh moulard duck breast

1/4 tsp whole cloves
1/4 tsp whole allspice
1/4 tsp juniper berries

3 pounds kosher salt
3/4 pound sugar
1/4 tsp pink sea salt

red wine or red wine vinegar

Grind together cloves, allspice and juniper berries in a spice grinder. In a large bowl, mix together kosher salt, pink sea salt and sugar. Add spices and mix well.

Place salt into a shallow dish/tray and bury duck breasts into salt for 48 hours (36 hours for pekin duck breasts). Remove from salt, rinse off with red wine. Hang in a cool spot in your cellar. (The hanging spot should be less than 70 degrees Farenheit and 60% relative humidity, otherwise the outside will become too hard.) After one week, check to ensure uniform dryness. If the duck is not uniformly drying, then you should start all over with a new batch in a more humid location). If everything is drying properly, then you can let it continue drying for a total of approximately 2 weeks. The breast should be spongy on the fat, but not on the meat. Mold may develop, but that is part of the aging process! After the duck has dried, wipe off any mold with red wine or vinegar, slice and enjoy! Any sliced meat that is not immediately consumed, should be wrapped and refrigerated.

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