Thursday, February 3, 2011

Duck Confit - Low and Slow

Confit After Party
I've posted quite a few times about making duck confit... normally in conjunction with making cassoulet. In every case I've followed a Cook's Illustrated recipe... most recently this one. However, while I liked the crispy skin and assertive flavors in the context of a salad prepared with it as soon as the confit was cool enough to touch... after a few weeks curing in fat I found it to be a little overbearing and dried out. So I've been looking around for some alternatives that were more gently cooked and seasoned less aggressively. After a little research it became clear the Cook's recipe was very much an outlier in its suggestion of cooking a temperature of 300 degrees. I could only find "easy confit" recipes with oven temps that high, but part of the point of those recipes is to cook the duck in minimal oil and crisp the skin simultaneously so that you can serve it immediately (or immediately put it into cassoulet). I'm not really sure if the need for immediacy is the definitive difference, but for duck confit that's meant to be stored for a bit it seems low and slow is the universal rule. Indeed, Ruhlman calls for a temp of 180.  However, I didn't really want to do the 10-12 hours of cooking his method demands... and because my duck legs never stay submerged in the duck fat, I was a little worried that the exposed parts would be overdone if I didn't turn them every couple of hours...  which is a little fussy, even for me. So I compromised based on this recipe posted on Cookthink. 200 degrees for 4-5 hours and turning once after 2. I didn't bother to cure it (though I did salt it for an hour) since I'm not storing it for months on end...  and I think it came out quite well. The meat was barely holding on to the bones and nothing got over browned.

I guess we'll find out when I make cassoulet in the next couple of weeks.