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Monday, January 23, 2006

Duck, Covered: Part 2

Because I had duck legs left over from my other recipe, I decided to do something I've been thinking about for a long time: making duck confit.

To tell you the truth, I'm still a little fuzzy about what the taste of duck leg confit is. I've had it only once, and that was at Fringale. Because I was with other folks and my mind wasn't totally on the food, I don't remember any specific flavor.

Because I only had two legs, I decided to drop by a place in Chinatown to pick up more. Although I shouldn't have been surprised at how cheap they were, I was. If you compare the duck legs from Chinatown to the ones that were frozen, you'll see that they definitely have more color to them.

Chinatown duck legs on the left, previously frozen on the right.

I won't mention how cheap they were, but let me just say that from now on I'll buy all of my funky duck legs in the CT.

The confit recipe I used was from the Bouchon cookbook.

It's a pretty simple recipe. Just take some kosher salt and grind it up in a spice mixer with parsley, thyme, bay leaves, and white pepper. This will give you a "green salt" with which to rub your duck legs with. I only had thyme, no parsley, so that's what I used.

Making the confit is truly a "slow food" recipe. It takes at least two days. This is because you first cure the meat with salt, and then slow cook it in its own fat.

Sometimes I wish I could be cooked in my own fat!

I made the mistake of removing all of the skin from the duck legs I carved from the bird. But with the legs I bought in Chinatown, I merely removed the excess skin and fat. The reason why you want to leave the skin on is that later you'll want to fry the confit legs and have a crispy texture on one side and a succulent meaty texture on the other.

To start the confit, wash and dry the legs.

Then rub each leg with the green salt (about 1 to 2 tablespoons per leg). Afterwards, cover in a container and store in the fridge for at least 24 hours (or longer).

Meanwhile, render your duck fat. You can also buy rendered duck fat, but it's pretty pricey. And also, while this may seem blasphemous, I think you could also substitute lard if you don't have enough duck fat to render.

To render the fat, take the chunks of fat and skin and process in a food processor until you get something that resembles fat pudding.

Then take that creamed fat and add it to a cup of water in a large pot. Heat on low until all of the fat has liquified (this could take several hours).

Once liquid, strain the fat through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl set in ice water. Once cooled, the fat should be easy to separate from the jelled liquid below.

After your duck legs have cured, take them and wash the salt off of. Dry with a paper towel.

Then, take the rendered fat and dump in a heavy stock pot that is set on a stovetop burner on low. Melt the fat and then add the duck legs. The fat should cover the duck legs. If it doesn't and you need more fat, reach for the lard or extra duck fat, if you have it.

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees. After it has come to temperature, take the pot with the duck legs, cover it, and stick it in the oven for about 10 hours.

After that time is done, remove from the oven and let it cool in its own fat. When cool, place in a container and cover the legs with the fat it was cooked in.

As you see, I still have a lot of meat juices in my confit jar. What I will, and you should, do later is remove the juices so that there is nothing but the duck legs and fat in the jar. That way the confit should last several months.

Let the confit sit in the fridge for at least 2 weeks before eating.

Now it's a waiting game. Look for a follow up in 2-3 weeks!



Anonymous Jozef said...

Hi, i've been wanting to make duck confit for a while now and I came upon ur recipe, which is very straight forward and easy to follow. I just have once question, what do you mean by "remove the juices so that there is nothing but the duck legs and fat in the jar"? What juices are you refering to and how would I remove them? once it has cooled and the fat has re-solidified?

10:08 PM  

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