An innocent duck breast? That's an entirely different story. It's small. And duck fat? Is that ever a bad thing? I'm sure it will just make me run faster. So here is the story of my duck pancetta.
I started with a lone breast from Brome Lake Ducks. In the future I want to find a locally raised duck but this was what my butcher had so I went with it. This is the Peking duck variety so it suits my spice combination nicely. Rather than just use salt, I decided to add a five-spice blend to the mix.
My spice blend is based on a Chinese five-spice adapted to my taste buds. My background is in aromatherapy and perfuming so I always have that in the back of my mind when balancing my spice blends.
2 ml pink peppercorn - milder than black pepper and a beautiful color!
2 ml cubeb pepper - mix between black pepper and clove, lends a beautiful richness
3 ml fennel seed - gives a gentle anise flavour
2 cloves - I find clove can quickly overwhelm so I just used two buds
2 ml cinnamon - probably cassia rather than cinnamon (that is what commercially sold "cinnamon" tends to be because cassia is cheaper to produce and tastes very similar)
I always toast my spices before grinding. It refreshes them I've heard so these got a quick toast in a dry skillet and then into my mortar and pestle they went!
I wish you could smell the toasted spices being ground. Because of my background in aromatherapy I am very scent-driven, scent-delighted and I almost swooned when the perfume of the spices first drifted up to my nose.
The duck breast was rinsed, plucked (just a few little feather ends remained) and scored. The kosher salt (use a good amount) was mixed with about a teaspoon of the spice mixture and packed into a ceramic bowl with the breast. I felt quite strongly about using ceramic versus a metal or plastic container. It just seemed more respectful to the duck.
And then into the fridge it went and I waited.
According to Michael Ruhlman, the breast only needs 24 hours of salt curing before being hung up to dry. Once the curing period was over, I rubbed the remaining spice mixture into the breast gently, and left it in the fridge to dry out for a week.
I don't know if the difference between the breasts is obvious. It dried out quite a bit, which I think is a good thing. In the recipe it was hung up to dry in a cool spot but I don't have a cool spot so I decided to keep it in the fridge like I did with the pig pancetta. That probably led to it drying out more than it should have but I've decided to use the entire breast in a braised dish so it should turn out fine. I can't wait to try my first attempt at 5-spice duck pancetta.
- I will probably try a different (or no) spice mixture next time
- This really opens up the possibilities of what I can use to make pancetta...
- Speaking of pancetta, I just looked it up and the word originates from "paunch" or "pancia" in Italian, so I wonder if a cut of meat should be from the belly in order to be called pancetta?
"pancetta, n.". OED Online. March 2012. Oxford University Press. 9 April 2012 <http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/240770?redirectedFrom=pancetta>.Duck Pancetta
Chinese Five Spice