Sandwich #122: “You Butchered It!” Duck Pastrami on Rye

DSC_0694 I debated posting this sandwich. When E’s reaction to the sandwich was “you butchered it!” I figured it wasn’t my best work.

E spent a week making homemade duck pastrami from Emeril Lagasse’s recipe. He brined it for two days, then slow roasted the breast and let it sit in our refrigerator for another five or six days while it cured. E showed such love and care with the meat, that I, too, had planned to show that same care with a sandwich made with his duck pastrami.

But somehow I used a dull knife to carve the meat and ended up slicing the thickest layers of duck pastrami for the sandwich. They were cold cuts alright, but cuts a bit thicker than I’d planned.

When I served E the sandwich—I used rye bread and a red currant jam for sweetness—he looked puzzled. “A bit thick.” he said. “And no toasted bread?” Silly me, I thought I’d change it up a bit. Plus I like soft rye bread rather than toasted. Damn, you’re ungrateful! I thought. Wait, he DID spend a week making the pastrami. Guess he thought the least I could do was respect the meat by toasting the bread.

The meat itself was delicious. It was flavorful and savory, and it tasted like it was slow cooked on a professional farm. E had every reason to be proud of himself. But I felt insecure about the sandwich for a few days, until we discussed it later. “It wasn’t bad, you just sliced the meat a bit thick.” I guess we’ll need to get one of these next. Though I’m not sure we’ll have the counterspace for it.

The recipe was relatively easy and produces tasty meat, so I recommend it for you to try. E carefully brined and cured that meat and turned it out successfully, and now I want to try a summer pastrami one with different flavors (mango? mint?) after following him through a week’s worth of steps. Even if it’s not necessarily my best sandwich, I’m posting it anyway to celebrate E’s great work. Relationships are about celebrating and learning from each other, and that’s what this sandwich represents.

It also reflects the need to always have a knife sharpener around. But whatever.

1 whole boneless duck breast
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
3 teaspoons dried thyme
3 bay leaves, crumbled
1 teaspoon whole cloves
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon whole juniper berries, plus 1/3 cup coarsely ground juniper berries
4 cups water
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup coarsely ground black pepper
2 slices rye bread
1 handful mixed greens
1-2 tablespoons red currant jam (or any other seedy berry jam)

To make duck pastrami (this will take you a week, so plan accordingly):
Start by making a brine. Combine peppercorns, thyme, bay leaves, cloves, garlic, and 1 teaspoon whole juniper berries in a small bowl. In a saucepan add the water, brown sugar and salt, and bring to a boil. When done, stir and remove from heat, add spices and let sit for an hour. Get your duck breast and place in a glass or plastic tub and pour brine over duck to soak completely. Cover, and let sit in refrigerator for 48 hours, turing several times over the two days.

After 48 hours, remove the duck breasts from the brine and rinse thoroughly under running water. Pat dry.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

In a small bowl, add crushed juniper berries and ground black pepper. Grab the meat, and press 2/3 of the berry and pepper mixture into the underside of the breasts. Press the rest of the herbs onto the top side, or the skin side. Place the breasts, skin side down, on a rack in a roasting pan. Let bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Once done, remove from heat and let cool for 30 minutes. Then wrap the meat tightly in plastic wrap and place in an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator for at least 1 week before using.

To make sandwiches, slice thinly (!) on an angle. Grab rye bread, slather on red currant on inside of both slices. Layer on mixed greens, then meat, and top with another slice of bread. Enjoy.

Recipe is Emeril Lagasse’s duck pastrami goodness.

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