Every big meal starts with a plan. You know I have my game face on when the hour by hour break-down of the meal gets put up on the refrigerator. I had been planning this meal for two weeks. Pouring through books and blogs for inspiration. Sourcing ingredients and prepping as much as I could in advance. I was using six different types of charcuterie. I have been blogging about the different charcuterie I made for this meal throughout the past couple of weeks. You will find the links to those posts throughout this one. For now, I wanted to focus on the meal, the flavors. I was pouring my whole heart into this meal, and I didn't want to miss a beat.
~ The Menu ~
Appetizers: A selection of cold charcuterie and cheeses served with crackers
First course: Roasted butternut squash and pear bisque with pork confit
Main course: Apple wood smoked duck roulade served on a bed of roasted fall vegetables with a side of bacon pine nut stuffing
Dessert: Classic apple pie
The opening Scene
The table had been laid out waiting for the company to arrive. It took me an hour to set up the room, to move out the clutter that usually occupies the kitchen. I wanted everything to be just right. My thoughts? "This isn't just any meal. This is going to be the most extravagant meal I have ever made." It had four courses that I had been busy preparing for the previous two weeks. I've never served a "course" meal before. This meal was going to showcase what I have learned during the past year for Charcutepalooza.
By the time our friends and their children arrived, the duck roulade had been smoking for a couple of hours, the pie had been cooling, and the stuffing and roast vegetables were doing their thing in the oven. The house smelled fantastic. Yankee Candle has nothing on home cooked meals.
Act one: The guests arrive and hors d'oeuvres begin
Weeks ago when our friends had agreed to come to this meal we joked about the meal's "fancy" level. I had warned them that it was going to look nice, and take a long time to get through. Not just due to the amount of food that was going to be served but also because I was going to have to photograph it all before we ate. Since they get my family's sarcastic sense of humor they arrived dressed for the occasion. They were all dressed up but Mr. B was also wearing a paper bow tie and their son was donning a top hat. We clearly had the right family attending this dinner.
All ten of us gathered in the kitchen around my rolling cart which had been laid out with the first course consisting of my home cured salami and chorizo, as well as the Leverpostej pate I had made earlier in the week. To accompany the charcuterie I had a cheddar cheese, a monterey jack, and a blue cheese, as well as some crackers, some homemade mustard, and homemade dill pickles.
Everyone loved the salami and the chorizo. That was the "kid friendly" portion of the first course. There is nothing scary or intimidating about popping a slice of cured sausage into your mouth. The pate on the other hand...could have grown hair on your chest. It did not apologize for the fact that it was a liver pate. However, once coaxed onto a cracker lathered with mustard and then topped with a chunk of blue cheese and a dill pickle you had something very special to snack on while the rest of the dinner came together and conversations flowed. You have to respect a pate that has to be toned down by a hunk of blue cheese.
Act two: The soup is served
Once the stuffing and the roasted vegetables were done, I went and pulled the duck roulade from the smoker. The roulade was only at 135° at that point, which was fine because I planned to finish it off in the oven while the appetizer was served. The appetizer was inspired by a Chestnut Pear Bisque that The Bitten Word posted about a few weeks back. I knew I wanted to make a confit as soon as I saw what the final Charcutepalooza challenge was. I also knew that I wanted to serve that confit on top of a butternut squash soup of some sort. Once I read that post by The Bitten Word, it all just came together. I roasted some butternut squash, garlic, onions, and carrots and combined them with some celery and pears, which I sauteed with thyme from my garden and homemade chicken stock. I crisped up the pork confit I had made a couple of weeks earlier just before serving, and laid the confit over the top of the soup.
The pork confit and the soup came together perfectly. The soup had all of the wonderful flavor that you can only achieve when you roast vegetables, and the pears added just an undertone of sweetness that was recognizable as fruit without overwhelming the vegetables. The confit counterbalanced the soup with its saltiness, and the meat gave texture while still being tender. I could eat that soup every day. Jude ate his, then moved onto what Lily didn't eat, and then had a second helping from the pot. All of the bowls were empty, and (with the exception of Jude) we were getting full. Luckily the roulade still had a good 20 minutes before serving.
~ A brief intermission was had while the duck roulade finished up ~
Act three: The main course
The main course was a duck roulade which I refashioned from Ruhlman and Polcyn's book Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing specifically for this meal. I was serving the duck roulade over a bed of roasted parsnips, carrots, red onion, potato, and turnips. Alongside the roulade, I made my pancetta pine nut stuffing from way back at the beginning of Charcutepalooza. Since I didn't have any pancetta on hand, I substituted some of the homemade bacon I had made for the meal.
The roulade came out perfectly. The smoking had cooked and flavored the duck without drying it out, and the last 30 minutes of roasting it in the oven had crisped the skin beautifully. The figs, rosemary, thyme, and bacon were there without competing with the flavor of the duck. It was a beautiful dish. As fancy as it was, it was still comforting; a perfect late fall meal. The roasted vegetables and the stuffing were the ideal sides. The stuffing was just as good as I remembered it from almost a year ago. The bacon was a fine substitute in the absence of the pancetta.
Jude showed his true colors once again when he peeled the skin off his piece of roulade and slurped it down like a strand of spaghetti. He then proceeded to do the same with his sister's. Everyone really seemed to be enjoying the meal. Once again, the plates were empty as they made their way over to the sink. We decided to take another break and relax a bit before dessert. It was at this point that Brian leaned back in his chair and said, "I've been training for this all year. This is my stamina." He rubbed his belly and motioned to its roundness with his eyes. I do love that man. He makes me laugh.
~ A longer intermission to allow dinner to settle in our bellies and the kids to settle in their beds ~
Act four: Dessert
Once we had allotted some time to relax and let all the charcuterie settle, I sliced up the apple pie. If you happen to be thinking that this was the only course of the night left untouched by a meat product, you would be wrong. The secret to the bestest, flakiest, most tender crust is lard. If I'm going to take the time to make the crust, I want to make sure it's just as good as what is going inside the crust. That only makes sense, right?
This apple pie doesn't disappoint, and it made a nice finale to the autumn inspired charcutepalooza dinner. Apple pie isn't ever daunting and seems to always bring a smile to people's faces. I was worried when I put this menu together that it was going to come off as "show-boating" to our friends. While I wanted to do justice to the final Charcutepalooza challenge (because, let's face it, I've been doing this for a year) I felt a need to balance it out so it was still "me" serving the dinner. When you come to my house I want you to be comfortable and relaxed. Apple pie has a way of doing that.
When I started out in this year long adventure of meat, I wasn't participating to win, I saw who the competition was. I had never made bacon. I didn't even know what charcuterie was, and it took me a minute to learn to pronounce it properly. I knew about all the things we made this year (well, most of them), but I didn't know there was an all encompassing term for those things. Knowing that I was more than the underdog, I set out to learn and have fun. I did have some goals in mind. I wanted to expand my horizons in the kitchen. I wanted to push and challenge myself, not just in what I was making, but also in coming up with recipes to use it in. I wanted to learn more about where my food came from, and do my best to put the highest quality foods that I could on the table for my loved ones. I like to think I accomplished all of those things. I may not have been able to say "I've been doing charcuterie for a decade" at the beginning of this year, but ask me again in ten more years and I'll have a different answer for you.
Something else happened that I hadn't planned on. Over the past year I have come to know some wonderful people who are just as dorky and passionate about food as I am. A bunch of crazy, overachieving meat freaks. A real sense of comradery developed over the year. I found myself anticipating deadlines to get a peek into everyone's kitchens and minds. To see what we all had come up with, and find out which way we had run with the challenge for that month.
My hats are off to Cathy and Kim as well as to everyone who participated in this competition. I feel honored and humbled to be standing amongst such fine company. This wasn't some competition you could just throw stuff together for, there was a great deal of creativity and integrity that took place in each and every one of our homes during this past year. But one thing is for sure - whoever wins Charcutepalooza has earned it. But win or lose, I feel I've already won.
Roasted Butternut Squash and Pear Bisque with Pork Confit
Inspired by The Bitten Word's Chestnut Pear Bisque
- 1 1/2 - 2 cups of prepared pork confit (recipe can be found in Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn)
- 2 lb. butternut squash; peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
- 1/2 lb. of carrots; peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
- 1 large red onion; peeled and cut into 2 inch segments
- 4 cloves of garlic; whole and unpeeled
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil; divided
- 2 stalks of celery; finely chopped
- 4 tablespoons of fresh thyme
- 4 pears (I used Bosc pears); peeled, cored, and diced
- 64 ounces of chicken stock
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400°. On a large baking sheet toss the butternut squash, carrots, red onion, and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast vegetables until soft when pierced with a fork, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Mix the vegetables around every 20 minutes so they roast evenly and don't stick to the baking sheet. Set aside.
- In a large stock pot heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil is heated add in the celery and saute until soft. Then add in the thyme and cook for about 30 seconds until you start to really smell the thyme. Once the thyme is aromatic add in the pears and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Then add in the roasted vegetables and saute for 8 minutes more.
- Add in 32 ounces of chicken stock, or enough to cover all of the vegetables. Bring the soup to a boil then reduce the heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for 40 minutes.
- Meanwhile crisp up the confit over medium high heat in a saute pan until the sides are a nice golden color.
- Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until it is completely smooth adding more stock as needed until the consistency you are looking for has been reached. I used all 64 ounces of my chicken stock and that left me with a nice thick bisque. I wanted it to be thick enough to hold the confit on top. Check for seasoning and add in salt and pepper as needed. Rewarm soup if necessary after adding in the additional stock.
- Shred the pork confit on top of the soup and serve.
*Get a printable version of this recipe here*
Smoked Duck Roulade with Roasted Fall Vegetables
Adapted from Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by Michael Ruhlman
and Brian Polcyn
- 1 Pekin duck weighing about 6 pounds; with liver
- 4-8 oz. of pork back fat (as needed); diced small
- 1/3 pound of bacon; diced
- 1 large shallot; minced
- 1 cup of sherry
- 1/2 cup of dried figs; diced
- 2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary; minced
- 2 tablespoons of fresh thyme; minced
- 1/2 tablespoon of salt
- 3/4 tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large red onion; cut into 1 inch segments
- 1/2 lb. of carrots; peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
- 4 medium turnips; peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
- 2 medium parsnips; peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
- 2 Tbs. of olive oil
*Note: I suppose this could all be done in one day if you are very ambitious and start early. I broke it into two days.
*Note: I suppose this could all be done in one day if you are very ambitious and start early. I broke it into two days.
- Day one: Freeze the blades and bowls for your grinder.
- Following the directions for the chicken galantine recipe found in Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and curing remove the skin from your duck in one piece. (The trickiest parts for me are around the wings and the legs so just take it slow and ease your way through the tough spots being careful not to tear the skin.) Once the skin is removed lay it flat on plastic wrap lined baking sheet with as few wrinkles in the skin as possible. Freeze the skin for one hour.
- While the skin is freezing remove the dark meat from the legs and thighs of the duck and dice it small. Weigh the dark meat and add enough of the diced pork back fat to make the combined weight equal to one pound. Then dice the liver and mix it up with the dark meat and pork fat. Set inside the refrigerator. Meanwhile cut the breasts off of the duck carcass and cut them into a medium dice then refrigerate the duck breast. *freeze the carcase to make stock with later.
- At this point it had been close to an hour for me. I took a break and got ready to deal with the duck skin. Once it had been an hour I brought out the skin from the freezer and grabbed a bowl from the cabinet. With a spoon pointed down scrape off all of the duck fat. There will be a lot of fat. Just keep scraping and turning the baking sheet as you go to get the best angle. Be patient, it will take awhile. Be careful not to rip the skin. Once all the fat is off the skin cover the skin with a layer of plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator while you make the filling for the roulade.
- In a medium saute pan over medium heat cook the bacon. Once the bacon is nicely browned and crispy remove it with a slotted spoon into a medium bowl and set it aside. Season the diced duck breast with salt and add it to the remaining bacon fat and cook until it is browned on all sides but still pink in the middle. Remove the duck breast with a slotted spoon and put it in the bowl with the bacon. Add the shallot to the saute pan and cook until soft and translucent. Add in the sherry to the shallots and scrape up any browned bits. Cook the shallot and sherry mixture until the sherry is about 1/3 of the way gone., about 2-3 minutes. Add in the dried figs and continue to cook until the sherry is almost gone about 5 minutes more. Add in the rosemary and the thyme and continue to cook until the herbs are fragrant and the shallot and fig mixture is almost a jammy paste, about 2-3 minutes more. Put the shallot and fig mixture into the bowl with the bacon and the duck breast. Mix it all together and set aside to cool.
- While the bacon and duck breast mixture is cooling assemble your grinder and grind the dark meat, the pork back fat, and the liver through the small die into the bowl of a stand mixer set inside another bowl filled with ice. Add the cooled bacon and breast meat mixture, as well as the salt and pepper, to the ground dark meat mixture and mix it using your stand mixer on a low speed for 1 to 2 minutes until everything is well combined. Do not over mix. Refrigerate.
- At this point you can do a quenelle test to make sure it is seasoned to your liking.
- After you are sure that the roulade filling is seasoned properly remove the duck skin and the filling from the refrigerator. Position the duck mixture down the center of the duck skin shaping it into a log form. leave somewhere between 1 -1 1/2 inches space on either end (lengthwise) of the roulade to make it easier for yourself when you go to tie it up. Pull out a long length of kitchen twine and have it ready to go. Fold one side of the skin over the filling and roll it until the filling is covered with the skin and the roulade is a log shape. Tie up each end of the roulade making sure that the filling is going to stay inside. Then tie loops around the middle like you would do with a roast so that it is sturdy and will hold together. Roll the roulade up in plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight.
- Day two: Soak your wood chips in the morning. The roulade will take anywhere from 2-3 hours depending on your smoker so back track from the time you want to eat at. Remove the roulade from the plastic wrap and season the skin with salt and pepper. Smoke the roulade until it reaches an internal temperature of 135°.
- While the roulade is smoking pre-heat your oven to 375°. Cut up the red onion, carrots, turnips, and parsnips. Toss them with the olive oil on a baking sheet and season them with salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables for one hour mixing them around every 20 minutes to make sure they roast evenly and don't stick to the pan. Once roasted pull them out of the oven and set aside. You will warm them through at the end.
- When the roulade reaches the internal temperature of 135° bring it out of the smoker and transfer it to a rack set inside of a roasting pan. Roast the roulade in an oven set at 375° until the roulade reaches an internal temperature of 150°. Keep an eye on it. If the skin starts to brown too much you can tent it lightly with aluminum foil. Once the roulade reaches an internal temperature of 150° pull it out of the oven and cover it loosely with aluminum foil and let it rest for 15 minutes before slicing it. While the roulade is resting return the roasted vegetables to the turned off oven and let them re-heat.
- Slice the roulade and serve over the vegetables.
*Get a printable version of this recipe here*