The preparation of bacon is a ritualistic, sensory experience. The sizzle as each slice hits the pan. That sweet, greasy scent, lingering for hours. But to cure one’s own bacon from scratch is to wield total control over the weekend breakfast rite. And when duck is used in lieu of pork, what results is a smoky, salty, sweet and craving-worthy dish that’s crispy and indulgent — comforting in its familiarity, yet wholly unexpected.
From New York City restaurant Jack’s Wife Freda, an icon of downtown cool with an indulgent, somehow still health-conscious menu, comes a recipe for house-cured duck bacon. Transforming a fatty cut into a flavor-infused mass is less daunting than it would seem, requiring little more than an overnight cure and an hourlong smoke. While duck bacon is leaner than pork (ergo, a little bit healthier), it doesn’t strive to imitate; it’s singular in flavor, with a meatier texture and toothier bite that will make you wonder why duck isn’t the norm.
Makes 4 Servings
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 teaspoon pink pickling salt
1/4 cup light brown sugar
4 thyme springs
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 duck breasts
2 ounces applewood chips, for smoking
1. In a small bowl, combine the salts, sugar, herbs and spices; mix thoroughly.
2. Massage the salt mixture into the breasts, making sure to cover them completely. Put the breasts in a zip-top bag, seal, and refrigerate for 12 hours, turning the bag every few hours. As the breasts sit in the cure they will begin to firm slightly. After 12 hours, rinse the breasts and dry well.
3. Smoke the breasts using your smoker’s specifications for one hour. Once finished, remove and chill.
4. Slice the duck breasts lengthwise into thin strips. Cook the duck bacon similarly to how you’d cook the pork version, which tastes best browned on each side for a few minutes over medium to high heat in a cast-iron pan.
This recipe appears in Jack’s Wife Freda, by Dean and Maya Jankelowitz and Julia Jaksic, published by Blue Rider Press. Buy Now: $16