Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Confit Collective, Part 1

Our friend Mike has helped Abby and I get in touch with the local food scene since we moved to Chicago. Last weekend, we joined him and several other slightly to obscenely obsessed home cooks for an afternoon filled with duck. The purpose of the event was to make confit, which I'll post more on latter once the confit has had the proper amount of time to age, and, for that reason, the group is, at this point, referred to as the confit collective. We'll see if that sticks. If we decide to do something with a whole pig later on, we might call that gathering that pork polity or some other clever alliteration.

While confit was the main event, we ended up doing a lot of other things with the duck as well. At the beginning of the day, we had something like 40 duck legs, 3 whole ducks, 2 large duck breasts, and a couple vats of duck fat. Here are some of the duck legs, waiting for a nice long bath in a vat of hot duck fat... this one.

Several minutes later, here's another vat of duck fat, filled with legs, simmering away at 190F.
Once you get the confit started, there isn't that much left to do, so we spent the rest of the day putting all of the other duck to good use. Everyone brought knives, cutting boards, and various additional kitchen gadgets
so we were able to set up a number of different work stations, allowing everyone to participate in the process of taking apart the whole ducks and doing the fabrication necessary to make the various additional dishes that we had planned.
We separated the breast from two of the ducks and pan roasted half of them and used the other half to make tartare; we used the rest of the meat to make duck sausage; we made stock out of the carcasses, we kept the third duck whole and roasted it, we made cracklins' out of some extra duck skins, and we put together two separate cure mixes to make the remaining duck breasts into duck prosciutto. I'll go over this in a separate post when the prosciutto is ready in a week or so.

I didn't get that many great pictures of the finished dishes since I was too busy eating or prepping, but here are a couple snap shots from the evening. Here's the sausage being made:
and here is the finished sausage
Here's a shot of the cracklins' which we ate as is, added to a salad, and used to add texture to the tartare.
Here's what's left of the roasted duck, which was covered with five spice powder and filled with assorted aromatics such as orange peel and cloves.
and here is the pan roasted duck breast, which was served with a cherry gastrique that Bryan whipped up (Bryan lives right next door to Abby and I and is one of the few people I've met who appears to be more obsessed with cooking than I am).
I didn't get any pictures of the tartare because I was preoccupied by my quest to McGuyver a ring mold out of a paper towel tube and some tin foil...I mean, if your serving tartare, you have to make it look pretty.

After everything was finished, it looked like a bomb had gone off in the kitchen. Empty wine bottles and serving platters occupied every last square inch of the counter top. Good times!
Being the good guests that we usually are, Abby and I had to excuse ourselves before kitchen cleanup began because we had tickets to a play that evening - August: Osage County. It's good, but a bit depressing. It sort of reminded me of The Corrections. Next time, we promise we'll stick around to help clean up.

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