October Challenge: Stretching

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All year long, we'll be hosting Charcutepalooza, the meat extravaganza masterminded by bloggers Cathy Barrow (our own MrsWheelbarrow) and Kim Foster.

Each month brings a new challenge (e.g. duck prosciutto, salt curing), and a new roundup of the best posts -- which we'll feature on Food52. 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.

Read on below for Cathy's breakdown of October's challenge: Stretching!

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october challenge. stretching.

by Cathy on September 15, 2011

Post image for october challenge. stretching.

There are days in the kitchen that kick your butt. Tasks that ask you to stretch your skills.

This month, we’ll be experiencing all the terrors and the thrills of the kitchen. We’ll be extending foods to make tasty appetizers. We’ll be lengthening the time we can keep foods edible, safely. You’ll be working hard to make beautiful presentations – and stretching the number people you can feed with one chicken, or one duck.

For the Apprentice Challenge, please make rillettes or confit, any meat (or fish!)
For the Charcutiere Challenge, please make a galantine or a roulade.

Post on the 15th. Tag your post charcutepalooza and we’ll be sure to see it. Share your blog post with Punk Domestics. Cross post and upload photos on Charcutepalooza’s Facebook page and Flickr page. And don’t forget to share all those great original recipes on Food52.


It’s likely that you’ve already made rillettes sometime during this year of Charcutepalooza. It’s an easy, satisfying technique that makes the most of the bits and bobs, the trim, those little pieces of meat you might have stored in the corners of your freezer.

Rillettes can be made with any meat or fish. I usually make pork rillettes with shoulder and belly trim. Lamb is exquisite and gamy and rich. Duck (confit the wings!) is rich and elegant. Imagine smoked salmon and trout rillettes as an alternative to Passover’s gefilte fish.

To make rillettes, poach the meat in fat very slowly so the fat renders completely. Rendered fat is clear and beautiful, never cloudy. The trick is not to let the meat fry, as you might with Carnitas – it must poach. To keep the temperature consistent and low, just add water to the pot. The water will reach the boiling point and as long as there is water in the fats, the overall temperature will not exceed 212°. Isn’t Science cool?

I made a simple rillettes and added about a cup of water to the initial mixture, then added another half cup twice during the cooking process. Eventually, all the water will have cooked off and the fat will be beautiful and clear. If the fats have not completely melted or if the meat is not tender, add more water and continue poaching.

Once the fat has cleared, allow the meat to cook in the clear golden fats for about ten minutes. I didn’t let it get crispy, but it was heading there. I believe this last bit of cooking gives the rillettes the deepest, meatiest flavor. Do not let the meat fry up crispy, as the texture of your rillettes will suffer.


As in rillettes, confit is a way to preserve food in fat. The classic, duck confit, is a close contender (pancetta) for favorite charcuterie item stashed in my refrigerator.

Inspire a tart arugula salad with a crispy duck confit. Whip up cassoulet in no time at all. Shred the duck meat for a burrito. Duck confit is a dinner party in a jar.

For the very best, most sensible confit technique out there, I go to Melissa Clark’s New York Times piece. No need to have quarts of duck fat on hand!

I add water to the mixture, as with the rillettes, to control the temperature of the fats as they render. Overall, I added nearly three cups of water, and the legs cooked for six hours in a Le Creuset shallow casserole.

I used a four pack of Moulard duck legs from D’Artagnan and converted them to a happy glass container of duck confit and glorious, beautiful, exceptional duck fat.

render the fat and save the cracklings from duck skin trimmings

While this is a food preservation method, and I’ve been assured the duck would be stable on a shelf in the cool, dark basement, I’ll admit I’m too cautious. My duck confit lives in the refrigerator.


When I took the chilled galantine out of the refrigerator and made the first cut, a visiting neighbor said “Wow. You made fancy food.”

I’ll admit, I knew the technique was an important skill to build in our year of Charcutepalooza, but, jeepers, what was I going to do with a cold chicken roll in aspic? Call the girls over for a game of mah-jong?

Prepare to be shocked. There are so many reasons to make a chicken galantine. First of all, it’s delicious. It’s impressive. And it’s the perfect tableau for a great condiment.

photo by hannah wyatt

I made Cumberland Sauce, and it was – in a word – fine. Boring. Dated. Not for me. On the other hand, Ian Knauer’s Spicy Tomato Ketchup was the PERFECT accompaniment.

So, get yourself a really nice chicken and have a zen moment. Look it over. Realize that you are going to use every single piece of that chicken. Have a pot ready for stock. Have a bowl ready for forcemeat makings. Have a sheet pan lined in plastic wrap ready. Mis en place is important here.

Cut off the first two parts of the wings and make a cut around the base of each leg. Slit the chicken up the backbone, just through the skin, and then carefully, working with the BACK of your boning knife (the sharp point will puncture the skin – be careful) and gently pushing your fingers under the skin to loosen it, work your way around the chicken, taking off the skin in one piece. When you get to the wings and legs, you’re going to pull the skin off, just as Ruhlman says, as if you were removing a sweater. It’s a little weird, and it’s not easy, but it’s not that difficult. Just work slowly and deliberately.

And when you are all done, take a victory lap. I did.

Chill the skin and then scrape the fat off. This is a hideous job. When you are done, pour a drink. I did. (I stopped at this point and finished the next day.)

Get a very good sear on the breast tenderloins, but do not cook them through. This means hot hot hot skillet. Really hot. Deglaze. Use all the little brown bits to make an awesome Madiera paste. No Madiera? Sherry, vermouth or white wine will all do.

Chill everything well. Freeze the meat for the forcemeat, along with your grinder parts. Small disk.

Then get your grinder going, form the roll with the insert, and roll that baby up.

My mother’s beautiful Dansk fish poacher held the galantine perfectly. Make sure you figure out your poaching pan before you roll. You may need to adjust the size. If you have leftover forcemeat, make smaller rolls wrapped in plastic wrap, make quenelles, or stuff into casings.

I love the idea that one four pound chicken transforms into enough food to feed eight (at least) with the addition of a few common ingredients. It’s so very economical. And fancy, too.


My advice is to make the galantine before you attempt a roulade. Taking the skin off a chicken is so much easier than skinning a duck. And scraping the frozen skin? Misery.

End result? Rich, elegant, textural. We loved it. A beautiful party dish. And, once again, fairly economical. A four pound Pekin duck from D’Artagnan made a roulade that easily served eight, plus 3 quarts of roasted duck stock, sufficient rendered duck fat to cook a pile of marble sized new potatoes, and, admittedly, a smug sense of satisfaction.

These slow cooked, shredded meats, preserved with a layer of fat over the top, make an excellent appetizer on toast points. Add briny cornichons to make it perfect. I store these potted treats in the freezer for easy entertaining. Let the rillettes come to room temperature before serving. While I usually serve a sharp mustard alongside, recently I substituted a small dish of truffle salt. Holy pork fat, that was good.

Every once in awhile, when your good friends have an anniversary, it’s good to pull out all the stops. Happy Anniversary, Paul and Elaine!

Simple Rillettes

Makes about 8 oz.

1 T garlic, finely minced
1 T thyme leaves (picked off each and every stem)
1-1/2 tsp. fleur de sel, divided
1 lb. pork shoulder or belly or mixture, cut into 1” pieces
1/2 lb. pork fatback, cut into 1/2” pieces
1 bay leaf
3 Tbls. dry sherry, divided
Black pepper, to taste

Combine the garlic, thyme and 1/2 tsp. salt and rub it into the pork and fat. Let this rest overnight, if you have time, or an hour, if you don’t.

Place the mixture in a saucepan, adding the bay, 2 Tbls. sherry and water to just cover the meat and fat.

Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce to a very slow simmer and cook for about two and a half hours. From time to time, stir, making sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan, and add more water as needed.

Check for doneness after about two hours. The meat will be easy to shred with two forks, and the fat will be clear and beautiful.

Strain the mixture in a sieve set over a bowl and allow everything to rest for a few minutes.

In a medium mixing bowl, shred the meat and mash the fatback. Mix well, add 1/4 cup of the reserved fat, 1tsp. salt, black pepper and the reserved sherry.

Pack well into a jar, ramekin or pretty bowl. Pour additional fat over the top of the mixture, to create a 1/4” fat (preserving) layer.

Chill for at least one day before serving.

Charcutepalooza loves our sponsors. D’Artagnan , generously offering 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. Love to Kinetic Web Solutions and @CreativCulinary who helps us navigate technology. And, Armagnac CASTAREDE, providing celebratory Armagnac to our Grand Prize winner’s party in Paris.