So I just realized that the last 7 posts on the blog have been vegetarian. This is 100% accidental, people! Do not fear – I am not converting to a restrictive diet. (Unless you consider excessive sugar and dairy consumption a restriction).
But seriously, I’ve been holding out on you with my Duck Confit recipe ever since I alluded to it in the I-decided-to-purchase-a-whole-duck-for-the-breasts post over here. Because I didn’t actually want to waste the remainder of the duck. So I confit-ed (how does one turn confit into a verb? Maybe it is already a verb… French experts, I apologize) those little legs until they were beautifully soft and tender tendrils of meat just ready to fall off the bone.Confit is a technique you can actually do with a wide variety of ingredients actually. Have you ever seen garlic confit or tomato confit on a restaurant menu and thought to yourself “wait why is there no duck involved?” I know I have. Basically confit is a method of cooking- it’s where you submerge any ingredient in fat or oil and slow cook it until it is soft. It is not deep frying! The difference is in the temperature. Typically a confit is prepared at 250 degrees or lower.
(Incidentally, you can also confit fruit, but you would use a sugar syrup rather than oil to confit fruit). The idea is that the fat (or sugar) are preservation methods; they create a barrier around the food to prevent micro-organisms from taking hold. To store after cooking, you would keep the food submerged in the liquid and this creates a barrier that will not allow this bacteria from taking hold on the food.
But since we now have refrigeration (thank goodness) confit is less a preservation technique and more of a fancy French method of cooking. And I’ve always wanted to make duck confit, so this is a record of my attempt. Which was quite successful, I might add.
To start, I seasoned the raw duck first with a generous amount of salt and other seasonings. I used garlic, black pepper, and bay leaves. This helps to season the duck but also draws out extra moisture from the meat for a superior confit. You do want to be sure to rinse off all the salt and seasonings prior to submerging in the oil. Your meat will have enough residual salt to be very well seasoned, but you are risking a very salty duck leg if you skip this step. After the brining process, I placed the duck legs in a baking vessel and pour warm duck fat over the entire thing. Then I baked the legs at 225 degrees for several hours, until the duck was very tender and easily pulled away from the bone.
You have several options at this point for what to do with the duck- you can shred it and use it as a topping for salads, or duck fat fried potatoes, or maybe even use it in mac and cheese.. that would be pretty awesome. But here I decided to just sear each leg to crisp up the skin, and served them with roasted carrots and potatoes. A fancy dinner for a random evening in February, I know, but I am nearing the end of my funemployment period so we need to celebrate, folks! I start my new job next week… Doing the same work as a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, but at a clinic that is way closer to my home.
I was really lucky and got to take an entire month off between jobs and have been spending my days cooking, photographing, painting, and more cooking. But now the creative vessel has been filled and I’m ready to get back to reality…
(Kind of). 0:-)
- 2 duck legs with thighs
- 4 garlic cloves roughly chopped
- 1/2 tablespoon table salt
- 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons sea salt or other coarse salt
- 2 bay leaves crumbled roughly
- 12 oz duck fat
On Day 1
- On a cutting board chop your garlic and pour the table salt on top. With the flat of a chef's knife press and scrape the garlic until a thick garlic paste forms.
- Place duck legs in a non-reactive dish. Sprinkle with garlic mixture, peppercorns, sea salt, and bay leaves. Rub the mixture all over the duck until it is well-coated.
- Press plastic wrap over the duck and set another dish on-top, ideally a dish that is heavy to provide some pressure. Top with weights (i.e. cans) if you don't have a heavy dish.
- Refrigerate for 24 hours.
On Day 2
- Preheat oven to 225 degrees.
- Melt 12 oz of duck fat in small skillet or microwave.
- Remove the duck legs from the brine and rinse thoroughly with cold water to remove the salt/ seasonings (if you don't do this, your duck will be wayyyy too salty). Dry very thoroughly with paper towels.
- In a small dish (I used a small loaf pan) place duck legs, then pour melted duck fat over the top of the legs; they should be entirely submerged in the fat.
- Cover with foil and bake for 3 hours or until meat is tender and pulling away from the bone.
- Remove duck from the fat and pour fat through fine mesh sieve into a storage container (optional, but worth it; duck fat is OK to store and re-use later).
- I refrigerated the confit at this stage and saved the duck for when I wanted to actually eat it. You may prepare however you like- searing it whole, or shredding it for use as a topping or accessory to a meal.
- If serving whole, which is what I did here: Heat 1 tablespoon of duck fat on medium-high heat in a non-stick skillet. Sear duck, skin side down, for about 3-4 minutes or until golden brown. Flip and sear the remaining side for 1-2 minutes, or until duck is heated through.