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Pate de canard en croute (if you dare) (Boned stuffed duck baked in a pastry crust)

August 5, 2009

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Serves 12

PASTRY

6 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2 eggs
About 2/3 cup cold water
Extra flour (for sprinkling)
1. In a big bowl, place flour, salt, sugar, butter, and shortening. Rub the flour and fat together rapidly between the tips of your fingers until the fat is broken into pieces the size of oatmeal flakes. Do not overdo this step as the fat will be blended more thoroughly later.

2. Add the water and blend quickly with one hand, fingers held together and slightly cupped, as you rapidly gather the dough into a mass. Sprinkle up to 3 tablespoons more water by droplets over any unmassed remains and add them to the main body of the dough. Press the dough firmly into a roughly shaped ball. It should just hold together and be pilable, not damp and sticky.

3. Place the dough on a lightly floured board. With the heel of one hand, not the palm, which is too warm, rapidly press the pastry by the two spoonful bits down on the board and away from you in a firm, quick smear of about 6 inches. This constitutes the final blending of fat and flour, or fraisage.

4. With a scraper or spatula, gather the dough again into a mass. Knead it briefly into a fairly smooth round ball. Divide into 2 pieces - 2/3 and 1/3. Sprinkle them lightly with flour and wrap in waxed paper. Place in the freezer for 1 hour or until the dough is firm but not congealed, or refrigerate for 2 hours.

DUCK

5-pound roaster duckling
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Pinch of ground allspice
2 tablespoons cognac
2 tablespoons port
2 diced canned truffles and their juice (optional)
4 cups pork and veal stuffing (see recipe)
3 tablespoons cooking oil
1. Cut a deep slit down the back of the bird from the neck to the tail to expose the backbone. With a small, sharp knife, its edge always cutting against the bone, scrape and cut the flesh from the carcass bones down one side of the bird, pulling the flesh away from the carcass with your fingers as you cut. When you come to the ball joints connecting the wings and the second joints to the carcass, sever them, and continue down the carcass until you reach the ridge of the breast where skin and bone meet. You must be careful here, as the skin is thin and easily slit.

2. Repeat the same operation on the other side of the bird. By the time you have completed half of this, the carcass frame, dangling legs, wings, and skin will appear to be an unrecognizable mass of confusion, and you will wonder how in the world any sense can be made of it at all. But just continue cutting against the bone, and not slitting any skin, and all will come out as it should. When you finally arrive at the ridge of the breastbone on this opposite side, stop again. Lift the carcass frame and cut very closely against the ridge of the breastbone to free the carcass, but not to slit the thin skin covering the breastbone. Chop off the wings at the elbows, to leave just the upper wing bones attached.

3. Arrange this mass of skin and flesh on a board, flesh side up. You will now see, protruding from the flesh, the pair of ball joints of the wings and of the two second joints. Scrape the meat from the bones of the wings and pull out the bones. Repeat for the second joints, severing them from the ball joints of the drumsticks; the drumstick bones may be left in place if you wish. Discard any bits of fat adhering to the flesh.

4. Slice off the thickest layers of the breast and thigh meat, and cut into 3/8-inch cubes. Place them in a bowl. Add salt, pepper, cognac, pork, and the truffles and their juice, if using. Roll up the duck, place it in a bowl, and refrigerate.

5. Add the pork and veal stuffing to the pork meat.

6. Spread the boned duck on a board, skin-side down. Heap the stuffing in the center and shape it into a loaf. Bring the duck skin up over the loaf to enclose it completely. Sew it in place with a trussing needle and white string. Make 3 or 4 ties around the circumference of the duck to give it a cylindrical shape.

7. In a large skillet, heat the oil until it is almost smoking. Brown the duck slowly on all sides. Remove and leave to cool. The trussing strings remain on the duck to hold its shape while baking.

ASSEMBLY

Flour (for sprinkling)
1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon cold water
1. Set the oven at 400 degrees. Have on hand a large rimmed baking sheet.

2. Roll out 2/3 of the dough into a 1/8-inch thick oval. Lay it on the baking sheet. Place the duck on the oval, breast up. Bring the pastry up and around the duck, patting it into place. Roll out the remaining 1/3 of the dough to 1/8-inch thick. Cut it into an oval to fit over the top of the duck. Paint the edges of the bottom pastry oval with the beaten egg. Press the top oval in place. Flute or pinch the edges together to seal them.

3. Using the remaining pastry, make circles or ovals with a 1 1/2-inch cookie cutter. Press fan-shaped lines into them with the back of a knife. Paint the top pastry with beaten egg and press the pastry cut-outs over it in a decorative pattern. Paint with beaten egg.

4. Make a 1/8-inch hole in the center of the pastry and insert a brown paper or foil funnel; this will allow steam to escape.

5. Place the duck in the middle of the oven. Turn the oven heat down to 350 degrees. Bake the duck for 2 hours or until a meat thermometer inserted through the funnel registers 180 degrees.

6. Remove the duck from the oven and leave to cool for several hours, then chill.

7. Cut around the top crust just under the seam of the pastry oval. Lift off the oval carefully so as not to break it. The duck will have shrunk from the crust during baking, so you can lift it out of the bottom crust. Remove the circular trussing strings from around the duck, then cut and pull out the sewing strings underneath the duck. Put the duck back into the bottom crust and replace the top pastry oval. At the table, either remove the duck from the crust and carve it or cut straight down through the crust and through the duck, making crosswise slices of duck with crust. Adapted from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,’’ Volume One