Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Pâté de Canard en Croûte Part 2: You're Gonna Bone What??!!

...continued from 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.
Above photo by Benny Sieu, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Photographer

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??
As I kneaded the liquid into the butter flour mixture, I began wondering why the dough felt so incredibly dry. Nothing was sticking together. Peef added more water. And still more water... and that's when I saw the gently beaten eggs sitting in the mixing cup on the counter.

"Peef!" I exclaimed, horror evident in my voice, "we forgot to add the eggs."
A small breakdown ensued. We tried to add the eggs late in the process, but ended up with dough that seemed tough and still strangely dry. I womped it together into a pile and threw it into the fridge. And then I took a few deep breaths. And we tried again.
The second time, we ended up with something a great deal more like pastry dough. Still a bit dry feeling; but, this time the dough stuck together, so we called it a victory. We wrapped the dough in a piece of plastic wrap and placed it in the fridge to chill.

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!

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  1. Great job! You both are duck stuffing stars! :-)jo

  2. I read in yesterday's NYTimes that the "Julie and Julia" movie doesn't just address the transformataive elements of cooking good food, it also shows the gentle strength of a good, supportive marriage. I applaud your team effort on boning the duck - you've taken more than the recipe to heart!

  3. I love your "grubby duck."

    It was a capital idea to call it a day; I've never made quite so many mistakes as when I'm dog-tired but determined to finish.

  4. We are doing a Mastering the Art of French Cooking on twitter and our blogs. We post a recipe we had made every Friday. I'll link to your posts. I'm not to sure yet I will attemps the Pâté de canard en croûte but I love following you in this kitchen adventure :)

  5. Again with the cliff hanger??? Looks great so far!

  6. I know, I know... I hate cliff-hangers myself. But it's SO LONG! :) Last piece will post bright and early tomorrow a.m., though -- so I'm not making you wait very long. Promise!

  7. Helene - That's awesome! Thanks for the link-up. Will definitely have to come over and check out all the recipes. Now that we've tackled the hardest of the bunch, we've been contemplating doing more from the book.

    The baked cucumbers were particularly awesome!

  8. That looks like so much fun! We've got about 6 pastured ducks on order from a local rancher and I can't wait to get my hands on them.

  9. Ooooh! A new foodie blog to read! Thanks for stopping by to visit - I, like you, also obsess over the food passages in Anne of Green Gables. I feel I have been searching my whole life for that perfect Rasberry Cordial experience.

  10. Ha! What an adventure. You're brave all right. This is obviously a time consuming task, but it's going to taste and look great.

  11. What an adventure you've recounted! Well told. I am looking forward to the end!

  12. Congrats on the JS article and Julia project. You did a fantastic job!

  13. This is a marvelous recipie two pairs of hands would most definately make a positive difference!

  14. Congratulations to the two of you! This is way beyond my skillset. Although, I do regret not being able to use the word "boning" in my story. I'm impressed!

  15. WOW! That looks insane. The pics are terrific....I can't wait to see the finished product!!!

  16. What a great opportunity for you! Nice story and pix. I have to admit, though, that all of Julia Child's recipe described in the MJS story seem terribly complicated and convoluted. I can't see myself making any of them, unless, of course, MJS asked me!

  17. What a great effort! You did a good job with the duck. I commend you for your patience.

  18. I love ALL The pictures. Wish the MJS had add them all as it helps the story come together.

    It's really cool how you and Paul cook together. I know you talk about it on this blog, but it's so true when I see the photos.

  19. i loved this story-especially because the day ended with pizza. the work you both accomplished is astounding and i will dress and truss a duck once in my life. Thanks for the inspiration. Cheers!

  20. You guys are doing a great job! I'm not sure I'd have the stomach for it. I don't like messing with meat as it is.

    What's a grub?

  21. Amazing. I'm smiling over the fact that you were more worried about the dough -- so many people do. You wouldn't think pie dough would have the personality it seems to have, but jeez do I know ; ) Lusting after your square prep dishes, your husband's tee shirt w/your logo and yes, that stuffed duck suit looks just like the illustration. Very nice.

  22. Not sure if "grub" is an official term or not -- but it's like a little garden worm. Something in its larval state... not something pleasant, no matter how you look at it :)

  23. It's a bit weird when I'm first reading the part about the finished duck and then the de-boning... I missed this one for some reason! Love the photo of your in the article! You look so professional doing this...

  24. Wow so you did good effort make a food with duck
    thanks for the sharing

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  25. I would definitely get tripped up on the tying part. That shall be my culinary downfall one day.


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