Part 1: In Creativity We Truss
And all at once, it was Friday...
Friday: 2:05 p.m.
Boning the duck was the first thing to be done. Peef and I had decided long before that we'd approach this part of the recipe as a team. I would cut; he would coach.
I started with the easy part -- the wings. Peef held the duck's wings extended and I nipped them off at the second joint. Then, I flipped the duck over on its back. Carefully, carefully... I slit the skin along the backbone. Then, I began sliding my knife down against the carcass; Peef helped by pulling the flesh away from the bone gently as I cut.
I severed the joints connecting the wings and legs, and I made my way down to the breastbone. Peef held the carcass up while I slipped my knife underneath and freed the ribs and back from the body.
As I pulled the carcass from the bird, I found myself feeling plucky. This duck wasn't getting the best of me, after all! I slit and scraped and pulled out the wing bones. And that's when I decided to go one step beyond Julia's recommendations. I decided to remove the bones from the drumsticks as well. She left me with no instructions for this final step, so I simply moved forward by instinct. If my lack of fear was due to simple confidence or utter stupidity I had no idea; but, I plodded forward. Ultimately, I saw before me the most perfect little "duck suit" I had ever seen.
We prepped the duck according to Julia's instructions -- first slicing off some of the breast and thigh meat, and then cutting it into cubes...
...and seasoning everything with salt, pepper, allspice, and generous tablespoons of port and cognac.
Then, we rolled the duck up and placed it in the fridge.
Friday: 3:52 p.m.
I should have felt more trepidation where the pastry dough was concerned, but I was feeling pretty confident at this point. Probably a little bit TOO confident. Butter, flour, water... piece of cake, right??
"Peef!" I exclaimed, horror evident in my voice, "we forgot to add the eggs."
Friday: 5:25 p.m.
After the pastry fiasco, the stuffing seemed like a breeze. We took sauteed onions, reduced cognac, veal, pork, pork fat, eggs, and seasonings and "beat" them "vigorously" until, as Julia predicted, they were somehow lighter and fluffier.
We sauteed a bit of the meat mixture in a hot saute pan, tasted it, and swooned. This stuffing was going to amount to FAR MORE than the sum of its parts. That was evident.
Friday: 7:00 p.m.
If you've never done it (and can handle the thought of it), I'd highly recommend stuffing and trussing a duck at least once in your life. It's phenomenally satisfying work, and despite the relative ease of the process, you exit the whole experience feeling quite accomplished.
First, we unrolled the (now marinated) duck. We incorporated the chopped pieces of duck meat into our veal and pork filling -- which was still fantastically fluffy, even after its time in the fridge. Then we shaped the filling into an oblong pile and placed it atop the duck. Folding the duck carefully over the filling, I got ready with my trusty upholstery needle and kitchen twine, and started lacing the duck up.
Just like the picture!
The process went quickly. Before we knew it, I'd trussed up Mr. Duck and wrapped an additional 3-4 ties of string around him to give him the necessary "cylindrical shape."
"It looks like a grub," Peef announced when we were finished.
"Ew. You're right," I admitted, but I was quite pleased with my work. Grub-like or not. Our duck was all sewn up and ready to be browned.
Unfortunately, by the time we'd finished stuffing and trussing, it was past 7:30 p.m. We were starving, and daylight was fading fast. Certainly we'd intended to finish the entire Julie/Julia project that day; but, as luck would have it, we were both feeling unusually drained. I was not about to tackle rolling out finicky pastry dough when I was tired and hungry. And Peef echoed my thoughts that holding off until Saturday would give us better daytime lighting for our finishing photographs. And so, we tucked the stuffed duck neatly into the fridge and ordered out for pizza.
[to be continued...]
Part Three: That's Just Fowl! And Other French Delicacies
Don't forget to check out the Journal Sentinel article online!
©BURP! Where Food Happens