Confit of duck

Pekin duck by Shari Thiel

Confit is the salting and slow cooking of either duck, goose or pork using its own fat as the cooking medium. It is not a term that can be used for the likes of salmon, onions or say, oranges, but it gets used anyway. Confit is a traditional way to preserve duck and goose meat, especially after Christmas in France when there has been a run on foie gras, it is a way of dealing with the remainder of the bird making a preserve that keeps in a cellar for 6-7 months. Confit is therefore local to the regions of France that produce foie gras, the South West including the French Basque provinces.

The ingredients for confit of duck are simple, duck, salt, duck fat, a few herbs and spices, time.

Confit is traditionally eaten warm with ceps, potatoes, peas, white beans, cabbage or lentils or cold with dandelion, chicory or a salad of white cabbage (Larousse). In France confit of goose is used in garbue and confit of duck is used in cassoulet, both meats are interchangeable in both dishes.

Confit of Duck

6 duck legs

2 tbsp sel de guerande or another course rock or sea salt

1 tblsp juniper berries

4 cloves garlic ( I used 2 of my mums giant ones that are milder than the usual kind)

500g duck fat (nectar of the duck)

1 tsp black peppercorns

3 bay leaves

1 sprig thyme

Sprinkle the salt over both sides of the duck legs, cover and refrigerate 24 hours. Heat oven to 130 degrees. Rinse and dry the duck. Crush the juniper berries with the blade of your chefs knife to release the flavour. Same with the garlic. Heat the duck fat in a cast iron oven dish with a lid until liquid and warm. Submerge the duck and add the juniper, garlic, peppercorns and herbs. Take a photo as I have or just get on with it.

Make sure the duck fat covers the legs, cover with the lid and cook in the oven for 2 1/2 hours.

Test the duck is done with a knife, there should be very little resistance. Let the confit cool then put the duck legs in a ceramic or earthenware (traditional) container so they fit snugly. Ladle the fat through a strainer or muslin over the duck but don’t scoop up the duck juice from the bottom of the dish as it will not keep. Again the fat has to cover the duck for it to keep well.

To use the confit (and wait at least a day because it will get better) just get it out of the fat and heat, skin side down, in an oven to warm the meat and crisp up the skin. You can reuse the duck fat two or maybe three more times, after this it becomes too salty.

Confit of duck in afternoon light, what a pretty picture.

 

Back to basics. Duck essentials, lesson 1: Rendering.

Teal by Thiel (Shari Thiel)

Firstly thank you to Shari for enriching an otherwise visually boring post with a beautiful drawing.

Duck essentials. There are a few techniques to master (and they are not hard) when cooking duck that are different to any other meat. The most common response I get from people when talking about cooking duck is ‘I love duck but never cook it at home.’ Usually because they don’t know how. Another obstacle is availability but that is, thankfully, changing with more and more butchers stocking duck. If you are in Adelaide, the Central Market has four shops selling duck, outside the Market Feast! fine foods stock duck. Many other butchers have, at the very least, frozen whole ducks.

Lesson 1. Rendering

To render (in food language) is to melt the fat from under the skin of the duck using a low heat. Rendering removes most of the fat, crisps up the skin to make it edible and moistens the meat as some of the fat will go into the meat. You render when you want to cook duck breasts or when preparing duck legs for a braise. The bonus in rendering duck is duck fat! Or as I like to call it, ‘nectar of the duck.’  More about duck nectar later.

Duck breast. Score the skin of the duck with a sharp knife without slicing into the meat. This prevents the breast curling when cooking and allows easy escape for the fat. Heat a pan to a low heat and put the duck in, skin side down. Leave without turning for 8-10 minutes. The pan will fill with duck fat. Tip the fat out (and save) then turn the duck over. Cook for 5 minutes over a medium to high heat then push the pan off the heat and rest the duck still in the pan for another 5 minutes. Done.

Duck legs. I trim the fat from the inside of the leg and chop off the knuckle. Then repeat as above rendering the fat from the skin for 8-10 minutes in a low to medium hot pan, tipping out the fat as it accumulates. The legs are not usually scored like the breasts. Season the meat side of the duck and turn over for a few minutes to brown. They are now ready for any stew or braise.