Thursday, August 6, 2009

Pâté de Canard en Croûte Part 3: That's Just Fowl! And Other French Delicacies

...continued from Part 2: You're Gonna Bone What??!! and Part 1: In Creativity We Truss

Our Saturday morning started out like many others. We got up, we had breakfast, I puttered on the computer for a while, Peef dallied with a few minor household chores, and eventually we got up the energy to get moving. We knew we wanted to get to the farmer's market for our weekly produce. And, while we were there, we decided to pick up a few things to serve as side dishes with our duck.

Peas, we determined, would be perfect. And how about some baked cucumbers?? We'd never even HEARD of baked cucumbers before paging through MtAoFC; but, they sounded intriguing. And so, baked cucumbers it would be! We pranced off to the market and gathered our wares. When we got back home, it was time to get down to business.

Saturday: 3:25 p.m.
"I'm really dreading this pastry," I said to Peef as we unloaded our vegetables.

"I know," he replied, "but how bad could it be?"

Somehow, Peef always manages to keep a stiff upper lip when it comes to things like dubious pastry dough... which could have something to do with the fact that he wasn't the one planning on rolling it out.

We took the stuffed duck out of the fridge, dried it off with paper towels, and carefully browned it on all sides in a bit of oil.
While the duck was cooling, I cautiously unwrapped the cold, hard blob of pastry dough. I placed it on our marble pastry board, and we both stared at it for a while before I worked up the courage to make the first move.

I started off by pounding it liberally with the rolling pin. As the dough softened and flattened, I shaped it into two relatively flat discs -- one larger, and one smaller. These would form the top and bottom of the crust.
I applied slow, even pressure to each mass of dough until it formed a roughly oblong shape. Despite, my fears, the pastry turned out to be far easier to deal with than we imagined.

"Peef, it's working," I gurgled in half-giddy disbelief. Things were definitely looking up.
Saturday: 4:30 p.m.
We took the larger pastry round and placed it on a baking sheet lined with a silpat. When the dough was adequately centered, Peef placed the duck on top.
I brought the edges of the dough up over the top of the duck, and Peef smoothed out the dough and patted it into place.
I cut an oval out of the second, smaller piece of dough, just large enough to cover the top of the duck. Peef painted the edge of the bottom crust with egg wash, and I placed the oval on top, crimping the edges as needed to get it to adhere to the lower piece of dough.
Peef cut some ovals out of the remaining crust for decoration, and I pressed fan-shaped lines into them with the back of a knife, just as Julia instructed. Then we placed them around the perimeter of the pastry, brushed it with more egg-wash, and prepped it for the oven.
"Wow," I commented to Peef as he was finishing up the egg wash, "it's actually kind of pretty."

He agreed. I sighed -- almost as if relieved -- but held back a bit of anticipatory breath. It wasn't time to celebrate yet. Victory, after all, was still a few hours away.

Julia suggested inserting a brown paper or foil funnel through a 1/8 inch hole in the top of the pate to allow the cooking steam to escape. We did this, and then inserted our oven's temperature probe into the top of the pate. We crossed our fingers and placed it into the oven.
While the pate was baking, we shelled our fresh peas...
... and prepped the cucumbers for baking.
While we were waiting, we called a few of our friends and invited them to come over for an impromptu feast.

Nearly two hours later, the oven beeped. The probe had reached 180º and our pate was finished. We held our breath as we opened the oven door. Inside, we saw a glorious sight. Perfectly browned and bubbling, the Pate De Canard En Croute was almost too good to be true.
Sitting around the table that evening, surrounded by friends, we took our first bites of the dish we'd spent the past two days working on, and we smiled. The dish wasn't quite a revelation. Truthfully, it was more like a glorified meatloaf pie than anything. But, the dish -- redolent with the richness of the duck and buttery pastry -- was so very much more than we could have hoped.
I remembered reading something Julia Child was quoted as saying in her memoir, My Life in France -- "...nothing is too much trouble if it turns out the way it should." And I nodded my head.

It was true. It was really true.

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  1. Finally, and so beautiful. Everything looks truly wonderful. You did great work.

  2. What a great quote. I think that's why I'm so obsessive about doing things the long way whenever I can. If I love the results, it's worth it.

    The duck looks too fabulous for words!

  3. Gorgeous. You eat first with your eyes and that looks like a glorious loafed-meat pie!

  4. So glad this turned out. There is nothing worse than spending a lot of time on something and having it be horrible. This looks gorgeous and tasty - nice job!

  5. Gorgeous. I never would have had the guts to try something like that, I'm wicked glad it worked out for you! :)

  6. Congratulations! That looked like quite the ambitious project, and you guys pulled it off beautifully!

  7. I'm so glad that it was all that you hoped! You guys did a fantastic job and I enjoyed the "ride"!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Oh, did you like the baked cucumbers?

  8. OH.EM.GEE. Seriously. That is completely gorgeous. What a tremendous amount of work. I've always wanted to make the Beef Wellington in MTAoFC, but chicken out every single time. Nice job on this. And, cooked cucumbers? Interesting. Love this whole thing. Okay, now to read the other post I was supposed to read first. :/

  9. Whoa! Congrats! And congrats are totally in order after you did all of that work. Delicious.

  10. Wow that's some meal! I agree with Julia. Did you have a look at Foodista's Week of Julia Child? If not have a look! Thanks for sharing all your hard work with us :)

  11. YEAH! Look at that duck! it's beautiful. Now, I have to say I'm curious about those baked cucumbers. Recipe forthcoming?

  12. Wow, I'm really impressed at the work you did! That duck came out looking absolutely gorgeous! Well done!

  13. How exciting and it turned out so beautiful!!! Congratulations! The boning of the duck doesn't bother me as I've boned a chicken before, it's the length of time to make this extravagance. LOL I've been cooking for MTAFC and learned so much in only a few recipes, everything has been fabulous! Loved the movie too :)

  14. Its looking so nice food i think its so sweet
    thanks for sharing .

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  15. Look at that! The duck looks fabulous. Great job!
    I'm encouraged to try this soon. :)

  16. Wow, this is the step-by-step pictures...just fabulous!


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