Dreaming of running off to the Italian countryside and curing meats while sipping negronis? May we suggest a more accessible charcuterie challenge from the GIB Test Kitchen? Duck prosciutto is an impressive convo starter and easy to make at home. —INGRAIN, Fall/Winter 2019
Pairing The gamey, fatty, salty flavors in the duck prosciutto work well with the tart, sour cherry notes in Madame Rose (Goose Island), a Belgian-style wild ale made with fresh cherries and aged in wine barrels. A Rodenbach Classic or even a Lindemans Pêche would also be great.
2 half (6 to 8 ounces each) or 1 whole (12 to 16 ounces) duck breast with fat cap
3 or more cups kosher salt (or sea salt)
Coarsely ground peppercorns
2 to 3 thyme sprigs (optional)
To serve: Figs, apricots (dried or fresh; optional)
1. RINSE DUCK BREASTS. Use cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
2. MAKE A SALT BED. Pour 1 generous layer (about 1 inch) of salt in the bottom of a container that will snugly fit duck breasts in a single layer.
3. COVER DUCK WITH SALT. Lay both breasts on salt bed, fat side up, and sprinkle generously with enough salt to fully cover meat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 to 24 hours.
4. PREP DUCK FOR CURING. Rinse breasts well under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Gently squeeze the flesh; it should feel firm and appear darker in color.
5. SEASON DUCK. Sprinkle each breast with coarsely ground black peppercorns (about 1 teaspoon each) and rub with 2 to 3 thyme leaves, if desired.
6. WRAP AND HANG BREASTS. Wrap each breast in cheesecloth. Tie the meat to a bar or shelf in the back of the refrigerator.
–It should hang without touching any surfaces inside the refrigerator.
7. AGE MEAT. Hang meat for 12 to 15 days; the prosciutto is ready when it has lost about a third of its original weight.
–There should not be any black mold; white or green is okay. (Lightly scrape off before serving.)
8. SERVE PROSCIUTTO. Use a sharp knife to thinly slice or shave prosciutto. Serve with dried or fresh fruit (figs, apricots).
Duck can be on the gamey side, especially when dry cured. We like Rohan duck, a cross between a Pekin and heritage Mallard, for its more balanced flavor.
$25 for a 4-pack (5- to 7-ounce half breasts), D'Artagnan
Salt is the original curing workhorse for good reason, but if you’re squeamish about raw aged meat, add a little sodium nitrate to the cure. Insta Cure #2, $4.99 for 4 ounces, The Sausage Maker
Minimal spices (salt, pepper, thyme) allow the flavor of the duck to dominate. Look to other traditional cured meats, like finocchiona, the Italian fennel-laced salami, for flavor inspiration as well.
White, blue, or speckled greenish molds are typically harmless, but any cured meats that develop black mold should be discarded. Slimy or moist-looking meats with an ammoniated smell should also be tossed.
Be patient; the curing process is as much an art as it is a science. The standard rule of thumb is that a dry-cured product is ready when it has lost roughly 30% of its weight.
Save any tough end pieces or scraps of prosciutto to season a pot of beans or soups.
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