Le Grand Charcutepalooza Party

March 12, 2012

All last year, FOOD52 hosted Charcutepalooza, the meat extravaganza masterminded by Cathy Barrow (our own MrsWheelbarrow) and Kim Foster. Each month brought a new challenge (e.g. duck prosciutto, salt curing), and a new roundup of the best posts -- which were featured on FOOD52.

At long last, Charcutepalooza has come to an end, with Peter Barrett walking off with an amazing grand prize (details here). We knew you'd want just a little last taste of the boisterous celebrations that marked the end of the Year of Meat, so here, MrsWheelbarrow writes in from Gascony (and shares a recipe for Duck Breast with Prunes, Camont-style).

We give you: le Grand Féte! 

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Belgian blogger Emma Ellington, Charcutepalooza winner Peter Barrett, Eat Boutique's Maggie Battista

After four glorious days in Gascony chronicled in daily postsCharcutepalooza grand prize winner Peter Barrett arrived in Paris to be properly féted.

Jack Dancy of Trufflepig Travel

A star-studded group gathered at Le Volant, a small charming restaurant of the sud-ouest just a few blocks from the Eiffel Tower. Charcutepalooza sponsor, Jack Dancy of Trufflepig Travel, located this perfect setting, and ordered up spectacular platters of the house-made charcuterie. There was rabbit terrine, mild, herbal and divine, sensational duck hearts with bacon, coppa, paté and blood sausage, all served up with either red or white wine.

Ariane Daguin, Arnaud Daguin, and Kate Hill

All the generous sponsors were present: Kate Hill from Camont, Ariane Daguin, President of D'Artagnan, Florence Casterede from her eponymous Armagnac company and Toma Haines Clark, The Antiques Diva, all were delighted to salute Peter's accompished year of meat.

David Lebovitz strikes a Gaullic pose

The English-speaking, European blogger community was well represented... David Lebovitz, Judy Witts Francini from Divina Cucina, Erica Berman from Haven in Paris, Beth Arnold from the Huffington Post, LaMomParis, bloggers Alison Lightwine, Perfectly Paris',  Gail Boisclair, and familiar Food52'ers Heena Punwani and Boston-based Maggie Battista.

Judy Witt Francini and Kate Hill

The conversation flowed smoothly, like a bateau mouche on the Seine, and until nearly midnight, laughter, meaty chat, and great food combined to make a memorable evening.

Duck Breast with Prunes, Camont-style

Serves 2

Last Fall, when I traveled to Kate Hill’s culinary wonderland, Camont, the first meal was what can only be described as a gorgeous plate of Gascony. Charcutepalooza’s winner, Peter, had the same welcome, which had me craving this recipe. A melding of the local terroir, just duck, Pimenton d’Espalette, prunes, and Armagnac come together simply, quickly, and elegantly. Since returning, I keep a jar of prunes soaking in Armagnac on the counter. It’s a sure way to elicit moans of Gaullic satisfaction. 

2 duck breasts
A few springs of thyme, stripped
12-18 pitted prunes, rehydrated in Armagnac, Cognac or brandy
A pinch or two of Pimenton d’Espalette
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Trim excess fat away from the duck breasts, leaving a fat cap on only the top surface of the duck breast. Render that fat! Don’t throw it away! Make the best fried potatoes EVER.

2. Score the top of the duck breasts by cutting through the fat layer, but not through the meat, using a cross-hatched pattern. 

3. Insert a slim knife into the meat of the duck breasts, vertically, from each end, creating a pocket. Wiggle your fingers into the pocket to make sure it goes all the way through.

4. In a small bowl, mix the prunes with the thyme, pimenton and liberal amounts of salt and pepper. 

5. Stuff the pocket full of the spiced prunes.

6. Allow the duck breasts to rest on a rack over a sheet pan for an hour. Alternately, prepare this well in advance and refrigerate, then bring the duck to room temperature before cooking. This dries the surface, forming a pellicle, and ensures the duck will get beautifully crisp.

7. Preheat the oven to 425°.

8. (I prepared the duck in a well seasoned cast iron skillet. You may also grill them, as Kate did, preferably over a wood fire.) Start with a very hot skillet and cook the duck, fat side down, without crowding, for 6-8 minutes. Do not mess around with the duck, just let it sear.

9. Now, turn the duck over and slip the pan into the oven for another 8 minutes.

10. Wrap the duck breasts in foil and allow the meat to rest for a few minutes.

11. Slice and serve with roasted potatoes and haricots verts.


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My new book, PIE SQUARED. Irresistibly Easy Sweet & Savory Slab Pies is available for preorder and on shelves October, 2018.


gluttonforlife March 22, 2012
So many bon vivants, such an illustrious occasion! Congrats to all!
Linda's K. March 17, 2012
Ditto what krusher said. Sometimes I feel like north Idaho is as far away from the rest of the U.S. as Australia. All the lovely Charcutepalooza experiences are so vicarious.
dymnyno March 14, 2012
When I get back from South America, my first dinner will be this duck. ( of course with Petaluma duck)
WinnieAb March 13, 2012
Looks like a blast! Thanks for the report, and this wonderful recipe Cathy :)
mcs3000 March 14, 2012
What @WinnieAb said.
ChefJune March 13, 2012
yum. I have prunes soaking in Armagnac right this minute. Guess what's for dinner (this weekend when I have time to cook)?
MotherWouldKnow March 13, 2012
Vicarious enjoyment is the order of the day! Thanks and congrats to Peter.
cheese1227 March 13, 2012
Reminds me of the NYTimes social pages -- only the who's who in meat! Congrats to all!
cheese1227 March 13, 2012
And a little bit of pastry since Mr. Lebovitz was there!
krusher March 12, 2012
So much thanks to you, Kate Hill and everyone else involved in the charcutepalooza adventure especially the Paris joyful coming together. I have enjoyed vicariously from Canberra. I have armagnac from my September visit with Kate and duck breasts in my fridge so no prizes for guessing what part of my house I am heading to right now. Duck breast with prunes Camont-style ... yum.