January Challenge: Duck Prosciutto

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We're thrilled to announce that over the next 11 months, we'll be hosting Charcutepalooza, the year-long meat extravaganza masterminded by bloggers Cathy Barrow (our very own MrsWheelbarrow) and Kim Foster, on food52. With Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing as their guide, these two women will salt, smoke and cure their way through a mountain of humanely raised meat, with more than 300 bloggers joining them in the adventure.


Each month brings a new challenge (e.g. duck prosciutto, salt curing), and at the end of each challenge, Cathy and Kim will select a short list of the best posts on the subject -- which we'll in turn feature on Food52. On the 15th of every month, Cathy will announce the upcoming theme, and at the end of each month, Kim will present the "best of" list. Charcutepalooza will culminate in a competition offering an amazing grand prize (details here). You can see a list of past challenges here, read the rules here, and see a list of the bloggers who've signed on here. Bring on the meat!

See Cathy's announcement of January's challenge, Duck Prosciutto, here. Below is Kim's post on the monthly roundup for the January challenge.

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Kim Foster

Pepper Mill and Pork Belly

Just to up-date you: We've been focused on our pork belly around here. There's been lots of work with a pepper mill. It was not always easy. We had to use a little muscle.

Pepper and Pork Belly #2

And there was the copious use of herbs. Every herb I had in the fridge. Whether they went with pork or not. Because herbs are pretty. Like wild flowers.

Pork Belly with Herbs

And the bacon has been in the frying pan. And the pancetta is up and hanging.

We are on our way in the February challenge. But before we go there, what about the January challenge? What about the duck prosciutto?

It's my job to give you a round-up, some the best, most funny, thoughtful, provocative Charcutepalooza posts from the January challenge and offer you a monthly prize, a small token of our gratitude for playing along. I have to admit, this month I wasn't organized. There are nearly 300 of you now and it's taken me some time to read all the posts, make sure no one has been forgotten, and get a sense of who you are. It's been a pleasure, for sure. But a little bit of madness, too.

Here's what I know about the round-up: Whether or not, we pick you for a round-up has nothing to do with the grand prize. That is it's own thing. Being in the round-up seven times will not help you win the grand prize, and not ever getting mentioned here will not weigh against you. The grand prize has specific parameters - the winning post must have great writing, a terrific recipe using cured meat, lovely photos, the whole package. This monthly round-up is different.

What we're looking for is much more nebulous - Really, we're looking for a story. The thing that makes charcutepalooza different is the stories, the people, the community. It isn't really just about the meat, or the pink salt, or threats of botulism, or whether the belly should be rolled or hung flat. It's about how the process of curing impacts you, changes you, drives you batty, makes you do something crazy, brave, nutty, stretches you, helps you learn about yourself, causes an argument with your spouse, shines a new beam of light on something you didn't know about yourself.

This weekend in the New York Times, Neil Genzlinger wrote a controversial piece called "The problem with Memoirs". It touched people, rankled them. Ruhlman came out in support of memoir on twitter. God knows I love them -- a well-crafted memoir is a beautiful thing. But the piece was a reminder not to simply write for the sake of writing. Let's face it, hanging your duck breast in the cellar and checking it obsessively isn't exactly riveting. Think of your blog post as your memoir. It takes some work to make that curing process interesting, to give us some perspective and history, to grab us with details and exploration.

At the end of the Times piece, I think Genzlinger nails it. He writes, "Maybe that’s a good rule of thumb: If you didn’t feel you were discovering something as you wrote your memoir, don’t publish it."

I have to agree.

If you are going to be doing a year of Charcutepalooza with us, and your blog is your memoir, you might as well be discovering something new, something bigger than how to make pancetta, something you can dig into, something that will change you, change us - your community - just by having read it.

So, when we look for great posts for the round-up each month, we're going to be searching for good photos and people who get white balance, of course, and we definitely want to feature some fabulous recipes, recipes that inspire us to take to the stove and re-create them. But mostly, we'll be looking for pieces of you. Insight and discovery.

Here are our picks this month in no particular order. Read them. Enjoy them. We can't wait to keep reading every single one of you this year. And next month, I'll be much more organized. Promise.

1. Charcutepalooza makes vegetarians start eating meat.
Eat, Drink, Man, Woman, Dogs, Cat

2. Prosciutto & a Tartine
Taste Food

3. Triple X Nibbles
Bona Fide Farm Food

4. Killer salad with duck prosciutto.
Healthy Green Kitchen

5. People turn their wine refrigerators into curing chambers.
Bite me new England

6. A cookbook author laments what to do about her small breasts.
Poor Girl Gourmet

7. Duck prosciutto pizza.
Oh Briggsy

8. Duck cracklins.
Foodie with Family

9. Duck Prosciutto, Chanterelles & Spicy Tomato sauce over Pasta. (and the cat likes the Duck Prosciutto)
Eat Live Travel Write

10. Duck Prosciutto Two Ways (and Ruhlman's favorite post of the month)
One Vanilla Bean

Now, for the giveaway. Our January prize is this beautiful tile, hand-painted by Renee at Kudos Kitchen. Go over to her site, visit her, give her some love. She is beyond talented and her tiles - I've seen a few now - are gorgeous.

This tile can easily be yours. All you have to do is be a part of Charcutepalooza and leave a comment here and tell us about your writing, your blog, what you want to get out of making all this meat this year. Lay it on us. We'll randomly pick a winner and let you know who that is on February 15th, when Cathy and I announce our March Challenge.

Love having you all with us. As Cathy says, "Go forth and cure..."

xo Kim
One of the Dames of Meat

Charcutepalooza loves our sponsors. D'Artagnan offers 25% off the meat-of-the-month. If you aren't receiving your email with the secret code for Charcutepalooza members, register here. And the trip to France - an awesome grand prize deliciously designed by Trufflepig and Kate Hill at Camont.