Duck confit is one of those vaguely fancy sounding foods and I must say, the rich people seem to like it a lot. In the real world, they are not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea, but then nothing is everyone’s cup of tea. Duck confit refers to duck legs cooked and then preserved in duck fat. In fact, confit literally means to preserve in French. Because of all the fat it doesn’t have to be kept in the fridge. It’s a recipe from the olden days, as in, before-the-fridge-olden days. Fun side note, my two under 10-year-olds firmly believe the 90s are the olden days. I file it under things that make me feel old. Here is the what Wikipedia has to say about duck confit. Let me know in comments whose description you think is better?
You can buy duck confit in tins in supermarkets and posh butchers. Here are a few brands that I have tried. The price and quality will vary. In this post I am going to explain how to go about producing duck confit yourselves. I will also share some popular recipes that use duck confit legs. I will go through duck confit rillette, duck confit pasta and duck confit cassoulet methods, plus a load of other suggestions. As per usual, I provide more of a technique rather than hard and fast recipes.
If you embark on making the confit at home, know that this is a 36-hour process. Say you bought the duck legs first thing in the morning, between salting them, leaving them for 24 hours, washing them off the next day, then cooking them, it takes a bit of time.
Your first step is to grab a deep plastic container and throw the duck legs into it. Inspect the duck legs for any feathers. If you find any, plug them out. Next, add some salt and some aromatics. Roughly 2tbsp of salt for each leg. This sounds a lot, but we are washing the salt off after 24 hours. Aromatics can be anything you want, obviously within reason.
I am using juniper berries, orange zest, thyme and rosemary. Mix all the salt and aromatics into the duck legs. As in the photo above, really massage in all the flavours. Once the legs are in duck fat you can’t season them any more. Once seasoned, leave in the fridge for 24 hours.
The following day, rinse the duck legs under the cold tap, removing the aromatics and salt, then place on a clean t-towel (kind of like you do in the coq au vin recipe I shared earlier on the blog). It is important to wash off all the salt and most of aromatics.
Next, take your duck fat and place into a large pot, large enough to fit them all. Add the duck legs to the fat, ensure they are submerged. If you don’t have enough fat, top up with a little light olive oil and water. Bring very slowly to the boil then turn the heat down. You want only a few bubbles, to gently, gently cook the legs. You are now confiting, so the lower and slower, the better.
This will take 2-3 hours.
After 2 hours, carefully and with plastic gloves on begin to test the duck. You do this by lifting out a duck leg and prodding it a bit.
If that bottom bone comes away easily you are ready to go. If it provides some resistance cook for another 15 minutes then test again. When done you will have a pot full of super soft duck legs that are so friggin’ nice you could just eat them as is. They are also a base for a number of amazing recipe
Mash the duck in a bowl with a ladle of the duck fat, little balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Serve warm or from the fridge.
Duck Spring Rolls
Again, mash the duck in a bowl, add hoi sin, lime, coriander, salt & pepper.
Wrap and deep fry.
Little more effort, but basically, add your duck to a sausage and beans slow cooked stew. Fresh parsley on top.
Duck and Eggs
Pull the meat off the bone, add it to some potatoes frying, top with a fried egg.
Sorry, started getting a bit excited here. The way to finish the duck legs is to gently pull the thigh bone out by twisting it carefully, placing between two sheets of greaseproof paper, placing them in the fridge and pressing them with something heavy to flatten them. Doing this provides you with more flat duck skin surface area to evenly crisp up. (Fine dining career background kicking in here…)
You can have these guys stored in the fridge for 5 days. When you are ready to go for it, take them out and give them a little trim.
As you can see, you want to trim all around the duck, as well as clean up the bone a little. This is now ready to be gently pan fried.
Heat a pan and add tiny bit of oil. Use a low to medium heat to colour on the skin side until nice and crispy. When the duck has a nice colour, turn the leg over, add a cup of water and gently simmer.
This is a great way to keep the meat beautiful and soft and the skin crispy. You can also do this under a low grill.
So there we have it guys, a beautiful crispy duck leg. Crispy skin, moistm succulent meat.