Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Pâté de Canard en Croûte Part 1: In Creativity We Truss

The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude. -- Julia Child
Julia Child and I have three things in common: A love for food, a willingness to tackle anything, and an incredible "simpatico" with a husband named Paul. Julia was not only the first television chef in my memory, she was my hero. She could conquer anything, it seemed, and she always did it with a sense of humor.

So, when the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel called and asked me to tackle a recipe from Julia's classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking (especially a recipe as challenging as Pâté de Canard en Croûte), how could I turn them down?

Well, I couldn't.
At the newspaper's request, we've spent the past couple of weeks keeping hush-hush about our project. But today we break our silence.

First -- I'm very pleased to say that the recipe turned out really, really well. But, things didn't exactly go off without a hitch. And we met with a few more challenges than we expected. We survived the hunt for a trussing needle in Milwaukee, WI, we boned our very first duck, we wrangled with a particularly difficult French pastry, and we tasted baked cucumbers for the very first time.

If you're interested in hearing more about our adventures, stay with us. We'll be featuring a three-part series right here on the Burp! blog telling you EVERYTHING you want to know. There will be plenty of telling photographs ... along with all the witty dialog you'd expect from two crazy bloggers who are trying tackling a slightly laborious French duck recipe for the first time.

Part One: In Creativity We Truss (see below)
Part Two:
You're Gonna Bone What?
Part Three:
That's Just Fowl! And Other French Delicacies

Of course, you might also be interested to see what got published in the local paper. Starting tonight (Tuesday), August 4th, you'll also be able to access the Journal-Sentinel article online at: http://www.jsonline.com/features/food/ The article will feature our story, some never before seen photographs, and the first-hand accounts of other area food bloggers who participated in the challenge.

And so I present to you, the first of three parts:
Pâté de Canard en Croûte Part 1:
In Creativity We Truss

It was Thursday, July 16th, and I'd just gotten the phone call telling me that we'd been accepted into the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Julie/Julia Recipe Challenge. Our task: to make one challenging recipe from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking ... and blog about it.

Our chosen recipe would be a tough one -- Pate de Canard en Croute (Stuffed Duck in a Pastry Shell). We were excited, of course. But, we had exactly one week to prepare for the task at hand. So we were eager to get started. First, we studied the recipe and made our lists.

The edible ingredients (duck, veal, pork, flour, butter) didn't pose any serious threats; after all, we know our way around the city. But, the adventure started when we began hunting for things like, er, a trussing needle. I knew what it looked like; after all, Julia includes a variety of rather detailed illustrations in Master the Art of French Cooking. I also knew that they were available online. But I didn't have TIME for online. And so I got out the phone book.

"What did you want again?" said the voice on the other end of the phone line. This was the seventh culinary supply store I'd tried, and no one seemed to have what I was asking for.

"A trussing needle," I replied, "You know, to sew up poultry after it's been stuffed."

"Oh, yeah," he mumbled, "we don't carry those."

After exhausting all of the apparent sources, we headed off to the craft store. Certainly they would have something that would suffice. After 15-20 minutes of contemplation, I finally settled for an upholstery needle. The eye was large enough to accommodate my linen kitchen twine and, at 3 inches, it was the longest needle I could find.

I prayed it would work.

[to be continued...]
Part Two: You're Gonna Bone What?

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  1. Thanks for stopping by my blog! Julia was my hero as well...she's so inspiring! This looks like such a fun project, I can't wait to read the rest!

  2. I'm looking forward to this. With your sense of humor and creativity, it's got to be good! I have a darning needle you can have. If it's good enough for ragwool socks, it must work with duck, pork and butter.

    Off to check out JS online article. Yippee and congratulations!


  3. Seems like so many of us are honoring Julia this week - certainly my first food hero (other than my mother)

  4. You are so much more risky than me. Nice work!

  5. I love that quote! Julia Child has wonderful quotes and lots of smart things to say.
    Wish I could cook like that. But with 2 little kids in the house it's (good) hot dogs and pizza almost once a week...
    Good luck!

  6. Can't wait to see how this eventually turns out!

  7. Oh I hate the cliff hanger. Can't wait to read the rest.

  8. So that's what those things are called; I have a bunch in my 'misc drawer.' I've been using trussing needles to grill thick (1/2") onion slices (so they don't fall through the grill while flipping them).

    Too late now, but you might have had better luck asking for a "turkey kit" (complete with bulb baster).

  9. Great quote! Can't wait to see what happens.

  10. Congrats to you guys on the cooking success and the article in the JS. - Trudie G.

  11. How exciting for you! You guys are having a great blogging year! First mushrooms, now Julia!

  12. I thought you gays having great job so nice cooking
    thanks for this link
    Cash in your hand in 24Hours with payday loan

  13. I don't think I've even seen a trussing needle.

  14. Very excited about your blog! Going to attempt this and am happy to learn how you overcame your challenges, though I'm sure I'll run into my own... But I am already over the first hurdle - miraculously I have a trussing needle - it was my dad's.


We're thrilled that you came to visit us here at BURP! Thanks so much for taking the time to write. We're not always able to respond to every comment, but we'll make every effort to answer questions in a timely fashion. We especially enjoy reading about what's going on in your own creative kitchens. So, don't be shy!

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