Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Pate de Canard en Croute--The Trilogy; Part III: So Very Tired

So here we are.  We have one duck that has been deboned, stuffed, stitched up, and then braised in a stick of hot butter.  We're about three and a half hours into this, and we aren't done.  We aren't even close.  The next step was for me, the killer: making pastry.  It looks simple enough--flour, a couple of eggs, water, and of course, because this is Julia Child's recipe, butter.

All to do now is knead it into a dough.  Piece of cake.  I dig in and start to knead.  And knead.  And knead.  It refuses to come together, so I add a little more water.  And knead some more.  And knead some more.  Pretty soon my upper body hurts like I've been lifting free weights all day.  Who knew you could burn so many calories making a dish that is obscenely caloric?  Perhaps I've resolved the French Paradox.

Ultimately, I simply give up.  I've been kneading for what seems like hours and all I have succeeded in doing is coating every surface of my kitchen with a fine dust of flour.  Since the place looks like a construction zone anyway, I bring out the power tools:
Voila!  Now we're getting somewhere.
Now I have a dough that I can actually roll out into a large sheet, and wrap it around my fine featherless friend.  Actually, I make two sheets.  I place the duck on one sheet and lay the other on top of the duck and cinch the two sheets together with some egg whites, pinching, and shamanic prayers.  It works.  It works well enough that I am now confident enough to get all Martha Stewart and decorate the contraption with fun and festive hearts. 

The worst is over.  Now it's simply time to stick duckie in the oven.  Don't forget to vent the top--or all your work may simply explodicate in the oven, which is never pretty.

Bye-bye Birdie.
  After roasting for 2 and half hours at 350 degrees, here's how duckie looks:

Even Julia would be proud.

But because this is the recipe from hell, we're still not done.  Remember that step where we sewed up our duckie friend?  Those were not edible sutures.  So.  Gently cut the pastry just below the part where you cinched it together, and gently remove the entire top half of the crust taking care not to break it to smithereens.  Gently set it aside, and delve into the cavity of the crust and cut out all the strings and stitches.  The only hard part is making sure that you get them all; once identified and cut, they pull out fairly easily.  (But for liability purposes, you may want to duly warn your guests of the inherent risks of this dish).  Next, gently put the top crust back on, and begin slicing.  Each serving (can you believe we're FINALLY ready to serve?) will be a cross-section of crust,duck stuffed with pate, and more crust.

Duck with braised celery root and scalloped potatoes

And because you haven't already worked hard enough, pair your masterpiece with some worthy side dishes, and schlep out your best china, silverware, and crystal.  This is an event to remember so make it as memorable as possible because trust me, you will never, ever, do this again. 

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