Friday, October 23, 2009

What We Made for Dinner: October 23, 2009

Pate de canard en croute.

No, I am not kidding. A while back, after seeing the film Julie & Julia, my sister and I resolved to make this monster (in English, boneless stuffed duck in pastry). We are not used to making fancy and complicated food, but we really like eating it. Amy decided the time was now, and we had ourselves a project.

We were out of our depth. We are home cooks. Home cooks with day jobs and small children. We are used to making simple meals in a reasonable amount of time. This recipe is seriously complicated and designed for people who have nothing else to do all day long but wrap fancy meats in pastry.

First, you have to make pastry dough. And then, you have to take the bones out of a duck, leaving the skin intact. Both of these jobs are way beyond my skills and interests. Amy came over last night to make the pastry.

We had the butcher at McGonigle's bone (or de-bone? Either way sounds vaguely dirty) the duck, and he did a darn fine job of it too.

Then you make a "stuffing," which is really a "meatloaf." That's right up my alley. Meat? Seasoning? I'm your gal.

Here are the softened shallots and reduced cognac.

Here is the meat mixture: Veal, pork, and butter (the recipe calls for pork fat, but I just couldn't do it), eggs, and herbs. Add the two bowls together, and it's an extraordinarily fancy meatloaf mixture.

Then stuffing meets duck:

and then came the first very hard part, which was stitching up the duck around the stuffing. At first, I was left to try to figure it out by myself.

Harrumph. But I proved so positively inept that Amy had no choice but to step in.

We tried like four times before we finally figured it out. There might have been some yelling. Eventually, though, we managed it and made up with each other and had a more-or-less tidily trussed duck to brown.

Then came the second very hard part, which was wrapping the browned duck in the pastry dough. This part did not go well. We didn't even take any pictures because it was so frustrating to try to get the pastry dough to adhere to the sides of the duck. We finally settled, or gave up, depending on your viewpoint, and put the whole thing in the oven to bake for two hours.

Here is the finished product. Josh took one look and named it "the very ugly duckling." The bottom pastry did not adhere, so it flopped down as sort of a lower crust. Technically our duck wasn't in pastry, it was on and underneath pastry. You could call it pate de canard près de croute.

C'est la vie, I guess.

It was pretty good, actually. The duck and the stuffing were very flavorful, and the pastry served as a convenient duck fat delivery system. In fact, the whole thing had so much fat content that we could only eat tiny little portions or we risked making ourselves sick. That would not have been a happy ending to the Saga of the Duck.

Here's a great ending, though: My niece, Grace, devoured both duck legs all by herself.


  1. You did it! And when you do it again, you'll figure out how to render off more duck fat, and get the pastry to stick. Can I taste the leftovers, and how did the other kids like it?

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  3. Dear Anonymous,

    Josh thought it was delicious. Predictably, Alex and Noah wouldn't come anywhere near it. Eli would not taste the duck and insisted on hitting me with a plastic dinosaur while I was eating.

    I would happily share the leftovers, if only I knew who you were and where to find you. Alas.

    Love, Jodi