When I first heard about Charcutepalooza, a year-long foray into the “craft of salting, smoking and curing”, I did not hesitate to sign on.
Cathy Barrow and Kim Foster, the brains behind Charcutepalooza, are buddies of mine not just on the internet (to the point that I “dm” them both all the time on twitter), but great friends in the flesh, as well. I’d be a part of any group they dreamed up, no matter how ridiculous.
Charcutepalooza isn’t silly, though. Fun, yes: lots of breast jokes were made on twitter when we took on the first challenge (making prosciutto involved lots of massaging of our duck breasts, you see). But silly, no.
A craft that was “invented” to preserve meat before refrigeration, charcuterie is something that deeply interests me for the following reasons:
- I’m careful about the meat I eat and make every attempt to eat meat raised in the most natural and humane way possible.
- If I’m going to eat foods like bacon and sausage, I make sure they are preserved in chemical-free manner.
- I love learning about traditional foods and food preparation techniques….things that used to be made at home, but aren’t much anymore.
As mentioned above, for our first project, charcutapalooza-ers were tasked with making duck prosciutto. The recipe, from Michael Ruhlman’s book Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing, is simple (I’m pretty sure more complicated ones will come later); the only challenge here was finding a suitable place to hang the salted duck breasts for 8 days (you need a spot that’s 50-60 degrees, with proper humidity levels).
The unfinished section of my basement worked out perfectly: the prosciutto was delicious and I enjoyed it a number of ways, including in this salad with organic baby spinach, local apples, and cashews.
The duck breasts I used were larger than those of the average duck because they came from moulard ducks raised for foie gras. I purchased them from Hudson Valley Foie Gras, a local company which, unlike most foie gras farms, maintains their ducks cage-free.
Baby Spinach Salad with Apple, Cashews and Duck Prosciutto
- *2-3 cups baby spinach
- *1 crunchy apple preferably a Honeycrisp or Fuji, thinly sliced
- *1/4 cup raw cashews
- *10-12 very thin slices of prosciutto I used homemade duck prosciutto
- *1 small shallot minced
- *2 tablespoons olive oil
- *1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- *2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
- *sea salt and fresh ground black pepper- to taste
- 1. Toss the salad ingredients in a medium bowl.
- 2. In a smaller bowl, mix the dressing ingredients (minced shallot, olive oil, rice vinegar and maple syrup) and pour over the salad. Mix well.
- 3. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper before serving, if desired.