Years ago I was in the South of France on an incentive trip where I had lunch in a medieval castle. The medieval city was great but the Duck we had at lunch was the best meal I have ever eaten in my entire life.
The friend who was with me asked me I could you make it at home and I said sure not certain what the heck we had actually eaten. I experimented with some roasted duck legs which turned out not so good but never dreamed that the dish I had eaten had actually been cooked for around eight hours in rendered Duck fat.
A number of year later I was at a restaurant called La Toque in Napa Valley and ordered Pork Confit and the light bulb went on. The tasty dish I had in France was Duck Confit and that was confirmed by the chef who instructed me on how to make it and other confited meats in the classical French manner.
You may might not like Duck (probably because you never have had properly prepared Duck) but if you like bacon you are just going to love Duck Confit. The similarities between the Duck and Bacon are fat. They are both rich in it. If you know how to master Duck fat you slide up a couple of levels in the cooking chain because it just may be one of the most delectable things out there.
Duck Confit is actually a very simple dish which takes some time in the oven coupled with the right ingredients. The most important ingredient is rendered Duck fat. You can render your own or buy it from a place like Grimaud Farms who will send it to you via UPS within two days at a very reasonable price. You could also use simple lard but why use that then you can buy the real thing inexpensively and continue to re-use it after some straining?
Eight Plump Duck Legs with Thighs
Rendered Duck Fat or Lard
The key here is to take the Duck legs with thighs attached and season them to taste with the above for around 36 hours in a plastic bag in your fridge. What you are doing at this stage is curing and seasoning the Duck. Make sure you use only dry herbs.
Confiting is simply an age old way of preserving meat. Duck Confit can last for six months in the fridge if you follow these simple steps.
After the 36 hour curing period arrange the legs in an enameled cast iron (Le Creuset) pan. Dry the legs off and and completely cover the legs with rendered Duck fat and bake at 200 degree's for eight hours in your oven.
Take them out of the oven and allow then too cool. Cover them with the restrained Duck fat. Make sure you have at least a one inch layer of fat on top of the legs. Store in a canning jar or whatever container you wish. The Duck will continue to cure over time and only get better but you can eat it right away if you wish.
I like to eat mine over greens with marinated olives on the side as an accompaniment. I also use it as one of mine ingredients in Cassoulet which will be the next recipe coming up on the blog. We have it every New Years.
If you are eating it alone I recommend that you heat up a cast iron skillet to around 350 degrees and fry the Duck skin side down until crispy and serve over greens. Ww are talking about really good eating here!
Render your own Duck Fat? Simple just roast a Duck or two for Dinner!
Duck is tricky if you don't know what you are doing. It just isn't as simple to cook as chicken but if you follow a few easy steps you can master this fowl which is much tastier than plain old storw bought chicken.
It is pretty simple to render your own duck fat. All you do is buy a whole duck or two from the butcher. Duck usually comes frozen which is fine because like all poultry it freezes well. You can either butcher the Duck yourself or have your butcher do it for you in advance. Make sure you thaw the Duck slowly in cold running water.
Brine it for at least two hours in a mixture of 1/2 cup Kosher Salt, 15 black peppercorns, one bunch fresh thyme, 4 smashed garlic cloves, and an acidic juice such as pineapple or orange or even a blend of the two. Juniper Berries are also a good thing to add if you want.
Butchering a Duck is easy if you have poultry shears. Simply cut up on both sides of the back bone to seperate the duck in two. Snip off the wings. Reserve the back and wings for making your own demi glace or broth for use later. Seperate the breast from the the thigh and leg portions by making a semi circular cut and you are finished.
The next step is scoring the breasts three ways lengthwise and across with a sharp knife. Set up a steamer and bring it to boil. Add the breast and thigh portions to a colander and steam for 45 minutes.
In the meantime set your oven to 475 degree's and heat up a cast iron frying pan to the same temperature. Place the leg pieces skin side down in the pan and place in the oven for 10 minutes. Add the breast after that and cook for an additional 7 minutes before removing from the oven.
You should have some very tasty and crispy Duck which is great served with some potato wedges fried in Duck fat. Most importantly make sure to skim and save the Duck fat for future uses. Freeze and it will be ready any time you need to use it.