When my husband and I were about to be married, we did what many couples do and set up a registry. Rather, I did what many brides do and set up a registry. Husband-to-be wasn’t especially keen on the idea, but when I explained that whether we registered or not, people would be buying us gifts and we might as well let them know what we’d most like, he relented and gave me his wish list. On it, a smoker. Uh. Okay? Really? A smoker? And a lawn mower. Alrighty then. A smoker and a lawn mower. He got both.
Well, I’ll admit, I was a silly girl to question the smoker. Over the years Mike has made fantastic smoked salmon, bacon, brisket, smokey pulled pork, smoked trout. He’s smoked eggplant for me to make baba ganouj, smoked peppers and zucchini stuff with pork sausage. All good.
|Bacon, Summer 2009|
For Christmas a couple years ago, I bought him a copy of Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman. Good stuff got even better as Mike’s understanding of curing and smoking developed. Recently, good friends bought a house with its own freestanding smokehouse. Right smack in the middle of suburbia.
Those two guys are always looking for an excuse to fire up the smoker and we wives are happy to oblige them.
|The Guys Smoke Ribs for a Party, April 2010|
Myself, I don’t mess with smoke, but have made gravlax, pickled salmon, liverwurst, and goose liver pâté (not technically foie gras, as the liver came from the well- but not over-fed goose we raised in our backyard). I also fantasize pretty regularly about making salami at home though I have yet to act on those fantasies. When I stumbled across the Charcutepalooza challenge to make something from Ruhlman’s book every month for a year, I signed us up right away.
I hope we’ll get to salami.
Duck prosciutto was a particularly fitting first challenge as last year I finally discovered how much I love duck and tucked several locally raised Pekin ducks in the deep freeze in the fall. Mike took care of the preliminaries late at night, after I’d gone to bed, so no pics of him cutting up the duck, setting the breast halves in a bed of salt, or, 24 hours later, wrapping each in cheesecloth and hanging them up to cure. We set up our basement bathroom as our curing area, opening the little window to let in the cold winter air. After 8 days, the duck breasts had not lost 30% of their initial weight, but I took down the smaller of the two as it did feel sufficently firmed up to me. I sliced it and found this:
I immediately cut the slices into bits and fried them like this…
And added them to my morning eggs:
For dinner that evening, I made a salad starring thin slices of prosciutto, with mandarin oranges poached in zinfandel*, blood orange segments, water chestnuts, and black sesame seeds drizzled with ginger-miso-blood orange and grapefruit marmalade* dressing: