Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Duck Confit

4  duck legs
6 Tbl kosher salt
1 Tbl freshly ground black pepper
scant 1/2 tsp ground cloves
scant 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 head garlic
8 whole cloves
1 – 1 1/2 quarts duck fat *

With a sharp knife, make a circular incision around the bone of each duck leg, about a half inch from the end, just below the ankle joint, cutting through the skin and tendon.

Combine the salt, pepper, ground cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, thyme & rosemary and mix to combine.  Slice the head of garlic in half, and pierce each half with 4 cloves. 

Thoroughly rub the spice mix all over the duck legs.  Add the duck legs, garlic and bay leaf to a medium-sized container, cover an air-tight lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 days.

Rinse off the salt mixture, under cool running water.  Reserve the studded garlic head.

Preheat oven to 250°F.  In a medium-sized sauce pot, melt the duck fat and bring to just a simmer.  Add the duck legs and studded garlic and return to a bare simmer.  Cover the pan with an oven-proof lid or tin foil, and place in the oven.  Simmer in the oven until meat is fork tender and the skin of the leg has shrunk off the bone, about three hours.  Remove from the oven and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes.

Remove the legs from the fat, and strain the fat through a fine sieve. Place the duck legs in a clean, appropriately sized container.  Pour the strained fat over the legs, making sure they are fully submerged.  Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate.  Store until needed, up to three weeks.

When ready to assemble the cassoulet, remove the duck legs from the fat.  Remove the skin and discard.  Remove the flesh from the bones and tear into bit-sized shreds.  Discard the bones. 

To save the fat for another use, add it all into a sauce pot and place over medium heat.  Bring just to a simmer.  Remove from heat, cool about 15 minutes, then strain through a fine mesh sieve.  Store frozen, in air-tight containers, until needed again.


* The trickiest part about making duck confit is having enough duck fat on hand.  Whenever I cook with duck, I render my own - I trim off all the extra skin and fat, combine it all in a pot, and leave it over low-medium heat until all the fat melts and the skin becomes golden brown and crispy (which is a delicious bonus snack!).  Then I strain the fat off through a fine sieve and freeze it in an air-tight container.  A whole duck will only give about a cup or so of fat, but I collect it over time.  You can also buy duck fat from a specialty store or a good butcher, but it’s expensive.  The New York Times has recently published a recipe for duck confit that aside from what’s already on the duck legs, calls for no extra fat.  I haven’t tried it out, but I thought I’d mention it, because this technique could make the whole process more do-able for everyone.  Check it out here.



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