“Oh, while Iris was eating her duck leg, she pointed to a piece of cartilage and said, “I think that’s the duck’s gill.” Perhaps we haven’t adequately explained the whole waterfowl concept.” – Matthew Amster-Burton, Roots and Grubs
Before moving out of France and on to Italy, I decided that this was a good place to share a recipe for Duck Confit. The recipe comes from my friend, Larry Edwards. Larry and his wife, Sandy, were our traveling companions in Provence and Alba. Larry first served his incredible Duck Confit to us several years ago and has since kept us well supplied in exchange for some of the jams and pickles that Karel and I make. I am definitely getting the best deal here.
Today, duck confit is made all over the western world, but it was originally a specialty of Gascony. Simply put, confit is a technique that consists of salt curing meat (generally duck or goose) and then cooking it in its own fat. Like so many centuries-old processes, it originated before refrigeration as a method to preserve meat. Harmful bacteria can’t thrive in dense fat, so historically confit didn’t have to be chilled to stay fresh. The legs and thighs are the fattiest of the duck so became the parts that were used for the dish. Once the confit is finished, you can keep it for months in the refrigerator totally submerged in duck fat. As a bonus, the remaining duck fat makes an extremely flavorful fat in which to fry potatoes, eggs, or whatever!
Duck Confit is delicious in many dishes. Most popular, of course, is to simply heat it by frying or broiling to crisp the skin and dive in. It can also be used for Duck Rillettes or Duck Ragout. You can put together a super salad by simply shredding it over some fresh greens.
Here is Larry’s recipe:
- 6 Whole Duck legs
- Kosher Salt
- 8 Cloves Garlic, crushed
- dried thyme (used fresh thyme this time)
- Dried bay leaves
- Duck fat to cover
- Season legs with dried thyme and crumbled bay leaves.
- Press meat side of legs in kosher salt to coat.
- Season skin side of legs with kosher salt.
- Place seasoned legs in large bowl or baking dish, meat side to meat side in pairs.
- Sprinkle peppercorns and garlic between legs. Cover bowl and chill overnight.
- Remove legs from the bowl, and rinse thoroughly under cold water.
- Pre heat oven to 250.
- Put half an inch of fat in the bottom of Dutch oven. Place legs in the bottom of the pot in a single layer.
- Add enough melted fat to cover legs by about an inch.
- Bring to a slow simmer over medium to low heat. Put the pot in the oven, uncovered, and cook for 1 1/2 – 2 hours.
- The duck is done when the leg will fall off a fork with a little shake. The meat should have retracted from the leg bone.
- Remove duck from the pot, and place in a non-reactive terrine, or pot.
- When fat is lukewarm, strain it through a fine sieve. Pour off the fat from the juice.
- Cover the duck in a terrine with strained fat, and allow to cool to room temperature.
- Store in refrigerator, or very cool cellar. Confit will keep for up to 3 months.
- To serve, remove duck from fat, and clean off excess fat.
- Brown in skillet, under a broiler, or deep fry.
Confit duck can keep for several months if stored in a cool place. There should be no liquid in the fat used in the terrine. Pour fat off of liquid in a Dutch oven, and heat to ensure purity. Place a little kosher salt in the bottom of the terrine. Allow legs to cure for at least 4 – 6 weeks before serving.
Images shown within the recipe are courtesy of Larry Edwards.