Sunday, December 26, 2010

Putting Together A Duck Plan

I believe I have found the duck of my dreams at the Honest Weight Coop. Not sure exactly what kind of duck it is. It was just labeled "Duck." But it is fresh, local and organic. The Coop had a handful of ducks from Garden Of Spices Poultry in Greenwich. They have very favorable write ups on Serious Eats. Apparently, most of their ducks go to Chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns. From what I have read about him, I can say with certainty that his standards are higher than mine. If these ducks are good enough for Chef Barber...I think I'll be happy with them too.

We will be traveling for New Years to a town outside of Baltimore to visit friends. Since I won't be around to babysit the duck breast while they cure, I am going to start my project on January 3rd. Cure the breasts for about 24 to 36 hours and then hang them in a wine cooler. I'm not sure what the humidity will be in there. The duck meat will be shedding water, but that water will be trapped in the wine fridge. I'll either need to add some humidity, or crack the door and let some moisture out. Like I said, babysit.

Buying a whole duck means I'll also have 2 wings, 2 drumsticks, and 2 thighs. The wings will either get cooked up for me to eat or go into a stock with the rest of the bones. The legs and thighs are probably going to get a pseudo confit treatment once described in a New York Times food article with this recipe. If there is a ton of fat for me to render, I might try a more traditional confit like the recipe in the Charcuterie book.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Charcutepalooza! Challenge accepted.

It is almost time to start 2011. Turns out 2011 will be the Year of Charcuterie. Who knew?

Charcutepalooza to be exact. And I'm in. This is the motivation I have been needing. I hope this is like having a personal charuterie trainer cheering me on to start the next cure.

First up, duck breast prosciutto. I have seen some nice duck at the Asian market on Central. I don't remember what breed though. My original plan, that I have procrastinated over a year on, was to buy 2 ducks. Once broken down, I'd have 2 breasts for duck breast prosciutto, 2 breasts for cooking (probably on a grill), 4 legs and 4 thighs for confit, some fat for the confit, and some bones for a duck stock. And have I done it? No. Haven't even come close. But I've agreed to do this and now there is a deadline.

I'll be traveling for Christmas and then again for New Years so the cure will have to be scheduled around those trips. But this is freakin' awesome. I feel like a kid with charcuterie homework. At least it isn't a diarama in a shoe box. My duck breast prosciutto project is due on the 15th of January. It's on, baby. Please join me (and hopefully a lot of others) in this year long pursuit of cured meat.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Chef's are cool

The Chicago Reader along with Sky Full Of Bacon are doing a series of articles and videos of Chicago chefs. The idea is awesome. And the chefs seem to embrace the idea and make something special.

It starts with on chef getting the "key ingredient." The chefs cooks something with the ingredient then chooses the next key ingredient to get passed onto the next chef. I think what I like about the idea so much is that it gives you a real glimpse into the thought process of a chef. I thought about forwarding the idea to Steve Barnes to use with Capital Region chefs, but since Steve doing anything with the idea would essentially be plagiarism, I didn't.

Interesting articles and videos if you have the time.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Almost a post

I sat down at the computer all ready to write a post that I've been meaning to write but haven't gotten to yet. A little over a month ago, I won some soda over at Albany Eats and I had a tasting with the kids, my wife, her parents and her grandmother. It was fun. Everyone voiced their opinions and I took notes. The girls made sure their comments were written down. Here I sit, ready to tell you all about it. And I have no idea where the piece of paper with the notes is hiding. Dammit.

So, you are stuck with a curling story. I am playing in a Bonspiel (aka curling tournament) this weekend. The group of guys on the team all started curling around the same time. There is a pretty big bonspiel on the East Coast for newer curlers with 5 or less years experience and we played in it as a team about 6 years ago. I think almost 30 teams played in it that year. This bonspiel moves from club to club and that year it was held outside Boston. Road Trip.

For me, bonspiels make me nervous. I guess it is like a runner getting pumped up for a race. The easiest way to get rid of a case of curling nerves is to have a drink. We did. Many. In fact, the Friday night of that tournament probably rivals the drunkest I have ever been. But I digress...Sunday morning at 8 am we had a play down game. The winner of that game went on to one of the finals at 11. Win the finals, you get your name on a trophy plus all the fortune and glory that comes with winning obscure events. The nerves were getting to me. My first shot was so bad, and light, and crappy it didn't even count and ended up getting removed from play. One of the guys on the team recognized the nerves and jumped into action. He bolted to the bar to get a pitcher of beer. The following conversation took place at 8:05 AM in Massachusetts.

My buddy: I need a pitcher of Sam Adams.
Bartender: I can't sell beer before noon on a Sunday. It is a state law.
My buddy (without missing a beat): I need to borrow a pitcher of beer until noon.
Bartender: Okay.

With the team nursing their hangovers with a pitcher of beer, we went on to win our game. And the 11:00 game too. And somewhere out there is a trophy with my name on the side. This team reunites tomorrow afternoon. Maybe the magic can happen again and I'll get my name on another obscure trophy. I'm not getting that drunk though.

Good Curling!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Pierogie Tradition Continues

I am realizing that I like traditions. Things that can be passed on, and on, and on. But I think more importantly, these are things that should be passed on. I can see how much my wife's aunt enjoys this day and what it has become. Three generations getting together to make pierogie for Christmas.

I just watched a video/slide show my sister-in-law put together. Five years of pictures of essentially the same day. It blows my mind how much a kid can change in a year. When you are with them all the time, you tend to miss things. Looking back, well it kind of choked me up. These are kids that went from playing with dough like it was play-dough to really wanting to get into the cooking process. Every step. Helping each other. Really trying to get it right. And excitedly looking forward to the Christmas Eve party where they will get to eat the fruit of their labor. Just really beautiful to see.