This month’s Charcutepalooza challenge was one I really enjoyed. First of all, nearly all of the options (rillettes, confit and roulade) appealed to me – the galantine I will perhaps try at some point in the future. In any case, as soon as Neil saw that he was able to make duck confit again, he was happy. We’ve made this before (for Daring Cooks when we made cassoulet) and it was a hit then. This time, I resolved to try to make prettier pictures of it. This whole photographing meat business is tricky. I know, I know, it’s really all about how it tastes but it’s nice to take a shot that somewhat conveys the deliciousness!
I’ll be the first to admit that I would not have been able to complete this challenge as successfully were it not for Mr Neil and his fabulous knife skills. It must be said that I did purchase him some heart-stoppingly expensive knives and a Knife Skills course at George Brown College here in Toronto for Neil’s birthday a couple of years ago and I am endlessly impressed with the stuff he knows. Like, you know, removing the skin from a chicken. In one piece. With no holes. (We decided to do a chicken roulade since we were already doing duck for the confit)
Though Neil hasn’t actually done this before, he does know his way around a chicken (wait, that sounds bad, doesn’t it?) and I am always very impressed to watch him carve the chicken with virtually no waste when we do roast chicken for dinner.
He does, in fact, make it look as easy as pie. I am sure I would have messed up in a big way but watching him do this (as I read out the instructions from “Charcuterie”), I definitely felt much more like it was do-able. When it comes to tricky stuff in the kitchen, I am quite a visual learner – watching someone else do it before I try myself seems to work for me. And while we are on that, the Ruhlman book could use some more visuals. Just saying.
Whilst Neil took charge of the skin side of things, I pulled out the Kitchen Aid meat grinder to prepare the filling. I seasoned this fairly aggressively as we found the pâté de campagne so bland last month. Now in the next set of pictures you will see a strange sausage like thing. Which I totally thought was what you were supposed to do. And I don’t have access to the book right now (I am typing this post on a dire night bus headed for Rochester, via Buffalo – and the person sitting next to me is looking at my screen with abject horror at the picture above) so I can’t check but I am generally pretty good about following recipes (especially for Charcutepalooza) properly so I imagine this is what I had understood from the instructions. And since Cathy did not post a picture of the interior of the roulade, I didn’t realise that you were supposed to spread the meat over the skin and then roll it up. Oh well. I am sure there was SOME technique in what we were doing.
So instead of a fat round roulade, we had a long, thin, sausage-y roulade. It kind of reminded me of Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree. Cute but not quite right. In any case, we prepared the vegetables – carrots, potatoes, onions and lots of thyme – and roasted our funny looking roulade as directed. My digital thermometer came in handy to check the temperatures as ours was obviously thinner than it was meant to be.
We both REALLY enjoyed this. Though it made for a late dinner (ahem – always read the recipe the whole way through before you start cooking so you know how long it’s going to take) and it was just us, it was a really tasty treat for an ordinary Saturday night. The meat was properly seasoned and the skin was crispy. Plus, with the vegetables, it was truly a one-pan meal! It was fabulous the next day too. I would totally make this for a dinner party – it certainly has a big WOW factor that I would be proud to serve to guests. Of course, ahem, next time, I should try the skinning on my own. And perhaps roll the roulade correctly.
Meanwhile, that same night, the duck leg was in the fridge with all its seasonings preparing to become confit. A 2-day process at least (season duck leg overnight in fridge, rinse it and cook it on very low temperatures for most of the following day, bring to room temp then refrigerate overnight again. Next day, remove from fridge (it will be a hard solid mass with the duck barely visible in the fat), slowly warm up to loosen the duck then remove it and lightly pan fry it or place in the oven to heat through and crisp up the skin. (I didn’t post step by step pictures, since I already have in this post. One thing I have learned over the course of this year is that you can have too many meat photos!!)
So nothing really difficult there – just a matter of waiting. Being patient. Which can stretch me sometimes far more than a difficult technique in the kitchen. Since we didn’t have enough duck fat to completely cover the leg, so ours was a mixture of lard, a little bit of oil and duck fat, as Ruhlman suggests – a by product of a previous kitchen experiment that has been waiting for its chance to shine in the fridge
In any case, after all that waiting, I was pleased to see that my duck leg stayed intact, even after being reheated. As I reheated it, I threw in a few small fingerling potato “chips”.
With a sprinkle of sea salt and a green salad (and I am sure, a wine pairing suggested by Mr Neil in the comments below), this would be a perfect light meal for two. Elegant, but not fussy and oh so flavourful. Since we had just eaten the rather rich roulade the night before, I chose to shred the duck and include it in a pasta sauce. A lot of fuss for a pasta sauce, for sure, but Neil enjoyed it Again, not something I would make on a regular basis but for a dinner party? Absolutely…
This month taught me that 1. Teamwork is essential, 2. What often seems complicated is rendered much less so if one is patient. Both these dishes were better not just because Neil helped me out but because I practised patience in the kitchen. Was my patience stretched a little? Yes. Was it worth it? Yes.
We’re 10 challenges into the Year of Meat. Waiting on eggshells to find out what our next challenge will bring….