Duck Prosciutto

This post is part of my ongoing charcuterie project. See my original writeup for further background.

Working with duck is another first for me. This shouldn’t surprise you if you’ve been following along so far. Calling this prosciutto confused me though since I always thought that meant pork. The etymology however says that this means “before” (pro) + “remove the moisture” (exsuctus). This definition is more general, so I suppose I will accept that duck can be prosciutto too.

If you’ve been following along, I’m also sure you won’t have any trouble guessing the ingredients involved in making duck prosciutto: duck breast, and salt. This recipe actually gets a bit fancy and garnishes with a bit of freshly ground white pepper. Charcuterie is not complicated, except for when this is a lie and it gets really complicated later in this project.

The book indicates that any variety of duck will do, but hints that if you can source it, magrets make an especially wonderful prosciutto. You can’t tease something like this and expect me to feel like I still have a choice. These are the breasts of the moulard, which is the duck used in foie gras production. As you can imagine, they are thick with a sizable layer of fat. I’m actually a bit on the fence about foie gras though, and I generally avoid it. The author of this book, Michael Ruhlman, wrote a great essay on the matter which details his experience at a farm that raises mallards for foie gras. He claims that the ducks show no signs of sickness or distress, and that they even pointed their beaks upwards at the feeding apparatus on their own accord. This of course doesn’t mean that all foie gras ducks get happily fat, just as the existence of factory farms doesn’t mean that all pigs are miserable and tortured. The whole essay is worth a read if you have the time though. Beyond the ethics of foie gras, it touches on the greater need for farm transparency despite the industry aggressively lobbying to the contrary.

Actually acquiring magret was another matter, and it took me the better part of a month. My local meat market’s selection and knowledge is extensive, but they were stumped. I ended up finding a place on the south side of Chicago called Chicago Game and Gourmet. They specialize in game and exotic meats, and source ingredients for many of the upscale restaurants across Chicago. I emailed with them back and forth a bit and they were very helpful and said they would be able to get me a pound of magret. They were willing to ship it in dry ice for a large amount of money, or I could swing by and pick it up during their limited hours. Realistically, this would have required me to take a half day off of work which just seemed a bit excessive for a pound of duck. I found out that my butcher has an account with them and places an order every few weeks, and I was able to convince them to tack on my duck to their order for pick up at their store.

I dry cured the duck for roughly 24 hours, dredging it thoroughly in the kosher salt.

It was then dusted with white pepper,wrapped up in cheesecloth, and hung to dry.

The book suggests drying it for 7 days, but it was pretty humid at the time so I wagered that it would take a bit longer and gave it a week and a half. This wasn’t a great call. The texture was mostly correct, but you can certainly tell by looking at it that the outer edge became a bit too dry and jerky-like.

But wow, this sure does pack some flavor. There is a richness to it that is borderline off-putting. I mean, just look at it. Each piece is nearly 25% cured fat. Like truffles or sugar or power or sleep, too much of a good thing is, well, too much. But this can be enjoyed in doses, and man is it a treat. The color on this ended up vibrant and ruby-red, and each bite was teeming with salt and fat. I served it on a charcuterie platter that I put together for a get-together with some friends, with crackers and sharp Dijon.

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