Duck confit was developed out of necessity, like so many of our delicious dishes. Back in the days before refrigeration, cooking and storing meats in fat kept them from spoiling. Of course, now that we have other, “better” methods of preservation, we eat mainly fresh or frozen food. But many of us still like those ancient preservation techniques, and occasionally we prefer them, gout be damned! In fact, we like them so much, we created a category for them called Charcuterie. Well, not we, exactly; some French people back in the day. Oh, and things like bacon and ham are also members of this category of yummy meats and pâtés.
- 6 duck legs
- 2 Tbsp sea salt, coarse grind
- 3 bay leaves crumbled
- 2 shallots, minced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp thyme, crumbled
- 6 pints duck fat
Duck Confit Recipe: Duck Legs Curred with Shallot, Garlic, Thyme, Laurel, and Salt and Slowly Poached in Duck Fat
- Salt and season the duck legs 2‒3 days prior. Combine the coarse salt with the crumbled bay leaf, shallot, garlic, and thyme. Rub this mixture all over the legs and place them, covered, in a non-reactive dish in the refrigerator for 1‒3 days. Some recommend you place a weight on top to encourage the infusion of salt. Try it if you want.
- Wipe the legs clean of spices. After 2‒3 days of curing, remove the legs from the fridge and rinse them off under cool water. You want to remove all the herbs from the outside. Dry them really well with a paper towel. Chop off the top of a head of garlic and peel off any loose bits. If you have cloves, stud the garlic with a couple.
- Cover the duck legs with duck fat. Put the duck legs in the bottom of a pot large enough to contain them all at once. Add the melted duck fat until the duck legs are covered by 1‒2 inches of fat. Add the garlic and clove, and, over the next hour, slowly bring the temperature up to 190 degrees F. Use a digital thermometer to monitor the temp as it rises.
- Cook the duck legs in the fat until tender. Keep the temperature between 190‒210 degrees F as the legs cook. They will need to cook a minimum of two hours at this temperature, so make sure the fat stays between these two temps and you should be okay. Check the temp every now and then just to be sure. After a couple hours, check the tenderness of the duck legs by poking them with a skewer. It should slide in easily if the duck is done. If not, keep cooking until it does.
- Strain the duck fat to get the nasty bits out. Remove the legs first; be careful, they may fall apart. Place them in a clean non-reactive dish. Use a wire strainer or a cheesecloth-lined colander to strain the fat into the fresh container with the duck. Pour the fat over the legs until covered.
- Refrigerate until ready to use (up to two months). Cool the duck confit in the fridge, uncovered at first. Once the fat has cooled and set, you may cover it. The tighter fitting the cover, the longer the duck legs will last. If you want the duck legs to last a really long time, cover the duck fat with a layer of pork lard. Lard is harder at that temperature then duck fat, so it makes a better seal.
- Broil the duck legs to serve them. Remove the duck legs by warming the dish and fishing them out. To serve them, you will want to crisp up the skin. You can do this by frying them in a pan or by broiling them. Broiling is more effective, so I recommend that. Serve the confit with potatoes or greens also cooked in duck fat. After the confit is gone, you can use the remaining duck fat, so don’t throw it away. Put it in a dish and pop it in the freezer for cooking side dishes, choucroute garnie, or casoule
Tips & Tricks
- The longer you let your duck legs sit in the salt cure, the longer they will keep in the fat later. Also, you may add some curing salt to the mixture to make sure the duck legs survive. Use quick cure or salt petre.
- Make sure to keep an eye on the confit as the temperature rises. Sometimes heating elements go crazy and can get too hot for a minute or two.
- A heavy-bottomed pot will work better for making the confit.
- If the duck confit isn’t fitting well in the storage vessel, you can use a heavy knife and chop off the exposed bit of the leg bones to make more room.