I’ve been having fun curing and smoking the Berkshire bellies. They’ve been coming out delicious–a little bit sweet with a bit of smoke, a black pepper bite, and a nice marble-y crunchy slice after we par-bake then crisp it on a griddle.
Of course I want to see what else we can throw in the smoker. It’s like those early days of line cooks’ experiments with the deep fryer during the slow times with the boss isn’t around. Every cook at some point has thrown his or her share of weird shit into hot fat just to see what happens. Grains, beans, tortillas, plantillas, twinkies, burritos, meat of any size, shape or smell. We’ve sliced vegetables into any sculpture we could think of, and have stuffed every vegetable that needs stuffing with sausage or some internal organ and then fried it. You can bread anything once you know basic breading techniques or a decent tempura batter. The possibilities are endless.
Anyway, I’m always looking for something to do with duck breasts. I order whole ducks that we break down: legs for confit, bones for stock, fat for rendering. The breasts are usually scored, seasoned, and seared. But this week I dry-cured.
After three days we rinsed them off and set them out to dry for another day, then brought them into Lucky 13 for a smoke at 220 degrees until they reached an internal temp of 160 degrees. Really, really easy, and really, really good.
The end result is a salty, almost pastrami-like texture, but with a very distinct duck finish. It is still plenty moist if even a little greasy. The fat is the best part. No longer chewy, it melts in your mouth, and you can taste the subtle hints of juniper berry, bay leaf, and fennel seed.
I don’t know how to serve it yet. A little charcuterie plate perhaps, or on a salad. Or maybe even deep fried. The possibilities are endless.