Okay, not really. This month my Charcutepalooza projects have been all about how good food –dreaming it up, cooking it, talking about it with friends, sharing it with friends and family, and (not least) eating it– sustains the spirit as well as the belly during some less than fabulous times. Have I mentioned that by the end of December I will have moved FOUR times in less than a year? I know I’ve cried & moaned about this in previous posts, but this month and the most recent move were especially brutal, and the sheer uplifting and nourishing power of food was profoundly evident. Food had a big job to do, and it came through like a champion.
I started by making two versions of rillettes. The first was a classic French pork rillettes, and for guidance I looked to Jane Grigson’s Charcuterie And French Pork Cookery as well as Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing.
The second was inspired by Brad Farmerie’s recipe for pork rillettes with an Asian twist which was published in the excellent Primal Cuts: Cooking with America’s Best Butchers by Marissa Guggiana. I tweaked the recipe in that I used a blend of venison (thank you Larry) and pork belly; otherwise I was pretty faithful to Brad’s recipe.
I’d had small nibbles of each of the rillettes while I was cooking them, but I really wanted to taste them properly on freshly baked bread with various pickles, so I baked a loaf, distracted myself with chores until the bread had cooled, and then dug in:
Oh, hey, what a surprise: I love my rillettes :-) I liked them with this year’s cornichons:
..and I loved ‘em with this spring’s pickled ramps:
I tried the French rillettes with cornichons and the venison rillettes with ramps, and then I tried the venison ones with cornichons, and the French rillettes with ramps, and I determined that there didn’t seem to be a bad-tasting combination in the bunch.
Thankfully I made the rillettes a little week ago, because my second project was fairly involved and demanding: a roasted roulade of duck with lentils and mixed boiled & buttered beans from this summer’s massive bean harvest. I thought I might have served it yesterday to mom & Carl, but ended up breaking the tasks up over three days and serving it today, deadline-day, once again right up to the wire!
I really enjoy cooking with duck, particularly the full-utilization aspects. Thrift at its tastiest.
Here is the skin before it was frozen flat and trimmed of yet more fat:
The breast meat was cut into large dice and browned quickly in a very hot pan:
I made a rich and delicious-smelling reduction of shallots, the fond from frying the duck breast, and a cup of Calvados:
I should note that the method for steam-roasting garlic to make garlic paste is brilliant; it works much better than dry-roasting, and produced a super-creamy garlic-y paste. The photo at the top of the page shows a half-dozen heads of garlic after steam-roasting and before slicing and squeezing.
I prepped aromatics and herbs for the bed upon which the roulade would rest while roasting. This photograph shows them before they were braised in a whole lot of butter:
We had a bit of warm sun this morning, and it was a pleasure to sit half-blinded and cozy whilst shelling these outstanding pistachio nut-meats:
Next was to grind the cold bits of cleaned duck meat, along with some fatty pork and the duck liver:
To the ground forcemeat I added the shallot reduction, the salt and pepper, garlic paste, and herbs. I mixed this by hand and folded in the cooled diced duck-breast meat, the pistachios as well as some roughly chopped dried cherries. I would have liked to add some truffle peelings, but I have never had a truffle to cook with.. yet! Still, even without the truffle, the forcemeat looks (and tastes) delicious –even before roasting:
After trimming the inside of the duck skin of excess bits of fat and tissue, I mounded the forcemeat down the middle, wrapped the skin around the filling and tied it up neatly:
Once mom & Carl arrived, I placed the roulade on its bed of butter-braised aromats & herbs, gave it a liberal sprinkling of salt and pepper, and placed it in the oven to roast for around an hour. I basted it every 15 or 20 minutes with the butter from the roasting pan, and it kept on getting more glossy and golden. Mm!
I also made a pot of lentils with carrots, onions, leeks, thyme, and lots of fresh parsley added at the end:
Carl finished putting my spare tire on my truck (thank goodness for spare tires) (and for Carl!) in the cold and rainy dark, and when he was settled on the sofa, dry-ish and warm, I brought out a sliced-up baguette:
..and the two flavors of rillettes accompanied by cornichons and ramps I pickled this spring:
Soon the roulade was roasted and rested, and it was really pretty, and very very good to eat:
..along with some green and yellow beans from the Great Bean Harvest of 2011, drizzled with a bit of the duck roasting butter and a sprinkle of salt and pepper:
Once again, good charcuterie saves the day.
P.S. Check out this charcuterie kismet: So, my uncle Stephen mentioned on a recent QI that Columbo was, in his opinion, the greatest-ever TV detective. I’ve liked Peter Falk ever since I saw him play himself in that great Wim Wenders film, Wings of Desire, but I’d never actually seen a Columbo episode. So I’ve been watching the the old shows, and today when I working on my roulade, I was watching Season 7 Episode 2 called Murder Under Glass, and the whole episode was about chefs and cooking and suddenly there was a galantine right there onscreen and Columbo was, like, ecstatic about it! That was amazing.