That’s right folks, today we’re cooking pieces of duck in a pool of duck fat. At this point you are either revolted or salivating, either way take a moment to regain your composure before proceeding. Just in case anyone was revolted, cooking duck (or other meats) like this does have a (historical) purpose. Before the advent of refrigeration, people would use a process similar to what I’ll show below to preserve meats. First the meat would be salted to extract much of the water, it would then be slowly cooked in fat, and finally stored totally submerged in the fat to protect it from spoilage. If properly made and stored in a cool place, duck confit can be stored like this for months; I’m not sure I am brave enough to test that part out for myself…
adapted from “Bouchon” by Thomas Keller
1/4 c kosher salt
2 T parsley
1 T thyme
1 bay leaf, crumbled
a few black peppercorns
1. Place the salt, thyme, bay leaf, parsley, and peppercorns in a coffee/spice mill, food process, or mortar and process/grind until the herbs are incorporated.
2) Coat the duck legs with about 1 tablespoon of green salt per pound of duck. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 18-24 hours (if you go more than this the duck will be overly salty).
3) Heat your oven to 180 F. Completely rinse the salt and herb mixture off the duck legs, pat dry, and place the duck legs in a small ovenproof container. Cover the legs completely with melted duck fat. Cook the legs, submerged in the fat, for 6-10 hours, until the duck is meltingly tender.
4) When the duck is done cooking allow it to cool to room temperature in the fat, transfer the legs to a storage container, strain any meat juices from the fat (they will settle to the bottom of the cooking container), cover the duck legs in the fat, and refrigerate.
Ok, so now we have some duck legs packed away under fat in the fridge. What do you do with them? There are lots of potential uses (google is your friend here); here is one example from the Bouchon cookbook. I won’t go over it in exhaustive detail (I think this post is long enough and there is already an excellent blog post about this recipe at The Paupered Chef), so I’ll just tell you that I plucked the confit from the fat (scraping off any extra that clung on), heated a nonstick pan over medium-high heat, and placed the confit skin side down for about 7 minutes to crisp the skin. The idea here is to contrast the crispy skin with the very tender meat…
After that I boiled some brussels sprouts, whipped up a sauce of shallots, thyme, garlic, chicken stock, dijon mustard, and creme fraiche (you can use sour cream in a pinch; remind me to write a post on how to make your own creme fraiche sometime), and served it like this:
Next up: Warm duck breast salad…