Monday, January 25, 2010

Duck Confit

Last week's New York Times article on "easy confit" inspired me to go to Savenor's and pick up some dug legs and make some confit the old fashioned "hard" way, so that I could document how straight forward of a process it is. Really, if I can do it, anybody can. I've also only ever made it before immediately putting it into cassoulet, so I thought I'd make six legs and use two for a duck confit salad and save the other four for cassoulet in a couple of weeks.

Here is the confit recipe I used:
  • 1/4 cup table salt
  • 1 large onion, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 6 medium garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
  • 12 parsley stems, with leaves attached
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 duck legs
  • 4 cups duck fat
  1. Process salt, onion, garlic, peppercorns, parsley, and bay leaves in food processor until smooth paste with some small chunks forms, about 30 seconds, scraping down side of bowl as necessary. Massage duck legs with salt mixture and place in gallon-sized zipper-lock bag. Press out air, seal bag, and place in refrigerator 12 to 18 hours
  2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Rinse duck legs under cold running water, rubbing off any salt mixture. Pat legs dry with paper towels. Heat duck fat in large saucepan over medium heat until completely transparent. Add duck legs, making sure they are completely submerged in fat. Transfer pot to oven and cook until meat offers no resistance when poked with fork, 3 to 4 hours.
What you see above is 6 dug legs in a gallon zip lock bag all covered in that salt mixture. I miscalculated a bit when I salted them Friday night at 5 pm, meaning I'd not be sleeping in on Saturday... but who doesn't want to spend their Saturday morning elbow deep in duck fat?

Be sure to thoroughly wash off all the residue, or you might find yourself with some really salty confit... it tends to be on the salty side by default, so be careful.

That's about 2 pounds of duck fat which works out to about 4 cups melted (I think). Set me back about $12. Contra the recipe, I believe in melting the fat in a separate pan and then pouring it over top of the duck... that way I know the duck legs fit and won't be splashing duck fat all over the place.

The hardest thing about the entire confit endeavor is finding the right size pan or pot. You want the fit to be cozy so that you don't have to use as much fat to cover the legs... if I was only doing four I'd use a saucepan, but six take up too much real estate so I pulled out a 9 x 13 baking dish. The problem there is no handles and you have to pretty much fill it up to the brim, so there is some hot duck fat spillage danger... just be careful. You'll notice that I didn't quite have enough fat to completely cover the legs, but I'm not really that anal about it anymore. They'll just float up as they cook, so it's a losing battle in my humble opinion, but if you want 'em fully covered but find yourself running short of duck fat... no need to run out to the gourmet shop for another pound of duck fat... just pour some canola oil on top... I won't tell anybody.

I'm not sure you can really over cook confit, but what you are looking for is to see all the meat bunched up top like a duck lollipop.

And here is a duck confit salad. A salad that is delicious with or without the duck by the way.

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