Monday, January 18, 2010

Easy duck confit? Who knew it was hard?

Maybe I'm biased because I make my own duck confit for cassoulet a couple times a year and never had the slightest bit of trouble with it, but I didn't find the New York Times justification for a new "easy" duck confit recipe very compelling:
My husband and I gobbled them up, stripping the bones. Then I sadly realized I’d probably never make them again.

It wasn’t that they were that difficult to prepare. But they did involve getting close and personal with two quarts of liquid duck fat, which is not only messy but pricey (upward of $40).

Given that, it is actually cheaper (and easier) to buy prepared duck confit, which is nearly as good.

I don't know why you'd need two full quarts of liquid duck fat (besides the fact that duck fat is AWESOME and thus more is better), unless you are doing it in some gargantuan roasting pan... and it's not like you need to throw it away after you use it... just strain it back into your containers and put it back in the fridge. I certainly have never spent upwards of $40 on duck fat, and I get mine at Savenor's, which is probably the most expensive butcher in Boston. The more you use it (and thus get it up to temps that will kill any bacteria) the longer it's going to keep, so the idea of never making confit again when you have this giant tub of duck fat seems precisely backwards. Maybe I'm living dangerously, but I usually make confit for cassoulet twice a year and replace my duck fat yearly and have yet to see any evidence of spoilage... and since I usually only make 4-6 legs, I can get by with only a quart of fat in the right size pan. I suppose it might be slightly more problematic to recover the fat if I was storing the confit in the fat instead of using it immediately, but once you've used the last of the legs, just bring the fat up to liquid temperature before straining, cooling, and storing and I'd bet you'll be fine.

Here is the confit recipe I used at Thanksgiving (from Cook's Illustrated):
  • 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.
Does that really sound that hard? C'mon, anybody can do that! In fact, the New York Times recipe strikes me as more complicated... all in the service of avoiding having a tub of duck fat in your fridge. Which since we've already established that duck fat is AWESOME, really makes very little sense.

Damn. Now I'm hungry for duck confit. Maybe I'll make it this week for a duck confit salad.