Duck: Duck Confit

posted by Polar Bear 11-04-101 2:55 PM

Duck Confit

6 c water
4 tbsp kosher salt (or 2 tbsp pickling salt)
1 tsp curing salts (available from sausage supply vendors (optional)
4 med duck leg quarters (preferably Moulard or Muscovy) (about 3 lb total)
1 lb rendered duck or goose fat (or lard or shortening)
4 cl garlic
2 med bay leaves (crumbled)
1 tbsp fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp dried)
1 tsp cracked peppercorns
1/2 tsp thyme

Dissolve kosher salt and curing salts (if using) in water; place duck in a ziplock bag, add brine, squeeze out air and chill 18 to 24 hours; drain, rinse and pat dry with paper towels; prick skin all over (don’t pierce meat). Combine bay leaves, rosemary, peppercorns and thyme in a teaball or bouquet garni bag. Melt fat in a 3 qt pot; add duck, skin side down, garlic and bouquet garni. Bring to a simmer (190 degrees) and cook partially covered until very tender, about 2 hours. Remove to a plate and let cool. Strain fat, separating from liquid released by duck (discard liquid, as it will be much too salty to use as stock).

Debone duck, leaving in largish pieces, skin on. Place over a shallow rack in container with a lid (e.g., a 2.4 qt round Rubbermaid with the steamer rack from a 3-1/2 qt pressure cooker). Pour fat over; top off with melted lard or shortening if needed (must be completely covered); seal. Store in a cool place, 45 to 50 degrees, e.g., an attic or basement; or, if unavailable, chill in refrigerator, taking out at night if a cool place (e.g., the garage or back porch) is available then. Let age at least a week, preferably a month, ideally for three months.

The night before using, chill duck; lower briefly into hot water, then invert onto a plate; discard gelled liquid from bottom. Melt fat and remove duck with a slotted spoon. Traditionally, the duck is sauteed skin-on at this point, but for cassoulet, I prefer to remove the skin, cut the meat in 3/4 inch dice and drain on paper towels. Then I cut the skin in 1/2 inch dice and cook in fat, preferably in a nonstick pan, until just crisp (280 degrees), 30 to 45 minutes. Strain cracklings and chill fat for use in recipes.
Braising Options: If preferred, duck may be braised in Step 1 in a 250 degree oven; bring to a simmer on the stove before placing in oven. Or, use a medium crock-pot or other slow cooker (preferably 4 qt); simmer 7 to 8 hours on low (use high for the first hour). Or use a medium (4 or 5 qt) pressure cooker with a rack; bring slowly to 15 lb pressure, cook 20 minutes; let cool 10 minutes and release lid.

a. My approach is nontraditional, even eccentric. For example, traditionally, the duck is salted rather than brined, and boned (if at all) after aging rather than before. I find that brining is more effective and reliable, and that boning before aging accelerates the process by exposing more surface area.

b. Originally, confit was prepared with Moulard ducks as a by-product of the foie gras industry. These are available here (when available) only through specialty suppliers. Muscovy duck makes the best substitute, but Long Island or Peking duck will work. Also, if legs are unavailable, use a 4 to 5 lb duck cut into quarters; only cook breast pieces one hour, i.e., add halfway through Step 1.

c. Gourmets and traditionalists will object vociferously, but chicken thighs can be substituted for the duck. Use 2-1/2 lb bone-in (or 1-1/2 lb boneless) and simmer an hour in Step 1. Won’t be the same as the real thing, of course, but pretty darn good and a LOT cheaper. No point aging more than a week.

d. The curing salts are traditional, give added insurance against spoilage and will keep the duck a nice rich color. They may be omitted though, if unavailable and/or you have a philosophical or aesthetic aversion to nitrites.

e. I believe the reason confit should be aged cool rather than cold is so liquid can seep from the duck and settle to the bottom of the container, but that’s just an educated guess. In any event, it’s the traditional method.

f. The reason I prefer to crisp the skin separately for cassoulet is to avoid overcooking the meat. If serving confit as a dish in its own right, I would use the traditional method.

g. The pressure cooker method will only work with a spring-regulated cooker, e.g., Kuhn-Rikon. There isn’t enough liquid here for an old-fashioned weight-regulated cooker.

Go to Mimi's Archive Page

Return to Mimi's Recipe Request Line