Saturday, 23 January 2010

Duck Confit

I have been fighting the urge for the last month to make endless puns about Cold Confit Farm, and seeing something nasty in the fridge. While T is a knowledgeable type, unfortunately this knowledge does not include pre-war satirical novels. Or iconic French ways with water fowl.

When I first suggested making duck confit, T did not sound impressed. The idea of duck legs encased in a kilo of fat did not sound appealing. However, I bloody love a bit of duck confit, so stocked up on legs and fat and got to it.

I went with a Valentine Warner recipe, as I felt his enthusiasm and simplicity would be better than going with something more complex and elaborate. The recipe began by curing the duck for 2 days, with salt, herbs and juniper berries. Gin flavoured duck!

Then the legs were simmered in fat and white wine for 2 hours on a very low heat. I didn't quite have enough duck fat to cover the legs, so I topped up the pot with a little lard. Yum.

We had stuff in the fridge that needed using up, so it was a few days before I excavated 2 legs from the tub of fat and stuck them in a hot oven for 15 minutes. To go with it, I stewed some lentils in herbs and red wine, and sauteed some potatoes in the duck fat I'd scraped off the legs.

Duck Confit

It lived up to and beyond expectations. I think it helped that the potatoes were some of the best I've ever done, and the earthiness of the lentils helped to tone down the richness of the duck a bit. But that duck...! It was tender, flavourful, with crispy skin and the residual taste of the aromatic cure. If I could have gnawed on the bones I would have.

Look at the crispiness!

Duck Confit (From 'What To Eat Now' by Valentine Warner)
Makes 8

Juniper berries
8 duck legs
750g duck fat
150ml white wine

1) Rub each duck leg with salt and pepper. Layer in a tub with sprigs of rosemary and thyme, and some bruised juniper berries. Leave for at least 24 hours, and ideally 48.
2) Brush the salt and aromatics off the duck legs, while melting the duck fat in a pan on a low heat.
3) Arrange the duck legs in the pan with the fat, and add the wine. I found arranging them in an overlapping circle worked best - the shinbone from each leg rest on the thigh of the one next to it, so the meat is submerged. Duck fat melts at quite a low temperature, so you can do this without worrying too much about spitting fat or getting burnt. If you can't get all the meat under the fat, add more fat.
4) Adjust the heat so the fat is barely bubbling. The lower the heat, the better. Put a tight lid on the pan and check it frequently to see if it's too hot or cold.
5) After 2 hours, take a leg out and try to push the meat away from the bone. It should fall off with a bit of pressure, but obviously don't take it off the bone yet! Just give it a prod to see if it is coming away from the bone. If it still seems too solid, put it back in the pan for another 20-30 minutes.
6) Once the meat is releasing from the bone, gently stack the legs in a glass, china or plastic container. When the fat is cooled (but still pourable) pour this over the legs. The fat will help seal the legs from bacteria, so they will last for ages in the fridge.
7) When you want to eat the confit, put your oven up to about 200c, or its highest setting. Excavate the required legs from the fat, and put them in a deep baking dish (quite a lot of fat will come out of them so you don't want it slopping over your oven.) Cook for 15 minutes until the skin is crispy.


Chele said...

Duck is my new all time fave food! I'll pick it everytime off a menu when we are out but I've not yet tried a confit. May need to follow your lead on this one.

Nora said...

Strangely enough, I'm with Chele - have been developing a real love of duck of late. And confit is one of those things that I never quite knew what it involved, but it sounds simply spectacular. Ooooh, that crunchy skin!

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

I've been a bit scared of doing stuff with duck, worried about the mess with the fat spitting all over my oven. I did some breasts last week and they were ok so maybe I'll give confit a whirl soon.

Jenny said...

Definitely go with the duck, I love it so much!

Sarah - As long as you use a baking dish with a good lip on it, the fat won't mess up the oven. Although the book warns that this recipe can be messy, I didn't find this at all. Have some kitchen roll nearby to wipe your hands or any spills and it shouldn't be too stressful!