Alarmingly sophisticated, I have always been wary of making it at home and, on the face of it at least, with good reason. Widely regarded as the pinnacle of Western cuisine, French food seems to thrive on its reputation that it is impossibly complicated and perceived to be beyond those of us not blessed to be born French, or trained in the art of cordon bleu cooking! The truth is that neither of these “prerequisites” should be an impediment to whipping up your favourite French delight!
Generally speaking, much like many of the world’s other great cuisines, French food is all about making simple food exceptionally well. The devil is in the technique, but thankfully this can be mastered, or at the least, approximated. Armed with the weighty Larousse Gastronomique and some self-confidence, there is no reason why you can’t be tucking into your favourite bistro fare come dinner time.
Which brings me to this recipe. Perhaps the epitome of French cuisine, duck confit is simplicity made complicated, or at least so it seems. To make a confit is, in essence, an act of preservation – in this instance with duck. Whilst the preservation and cooking process is quite lengthy, it isn’t actually particularly complicated, but attention to detail is paramount. Every step of the recipe is essential, and I recommend one reads through the recipe a couple of times to familiarise yourself with the cooking process before starting. Duck Confit is not a recipe that should be rushed, so a certain amount of planning is required when making it. Effectively a dish that takes up to the better part of two days to prepare, don’t think to buy your duck in the morning and expect to be serving it come that evening!
One of the best things about duck confit is its near immortal shelf-life. Stored correctly in the refrigerator, duck confit can be kept for as long as 6 months, making it the ultimate pantry item – perfect for impromptu dinner parties or a special treat!
With all that said, duck confit’s meticulous preparation, prolonged curing time and languid cooking process shouldn’t deter you from making this dish! After you’ve made it once, you’ll realise that it is surprisingly straightforward and is not as complicated as it initially seems. After all, this is French cooking we are dealing with here and it wouldn’t be French if it didn’t at least sound intimidating!
Duck Confit: Serves 4
- 4 duck Marylands (whole leg and thigh)
- 4 cups rendered duck fat
- 3 tbsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp allspice berries, lightly crushed
- 4 juniper berries, lightly crushed
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme, lightly bruised
- 3 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
- 4 fresh bay leaves, torn
- 2 sprigs of rosemary, lightly bruised
- Mix together all the ingredients (except the duck legs and duck fat) in a bowl, making a salt mixture
- Add the duck legs and coat each one with the salt mixture
- Gently massage the salt mixture into the meat
- Cover bowl with clingwrap and chill for a minimum of 24 hours
Making the confit:
- After at least 24 hours, remove the duck from the fridge and rinse each one thoroughly to remove the salt mixture. Using a tea towel, pat the duck dry
- Place the duck fat in a pan large enough to contain all four duck legs
- Gently heat the duck fat until it melts from a solid to a liquid state
- As soon as the fat reaches a liquid state, add the duck legs, making sure they are completely covered by the duck fat
- Bring the fat to a slow boil, allowing the temperature to peak at 100 degrees Celsius. The liquid should release the occasional bubble or ripple but no more. You want to maintain a constant temperature, otherwise your duck will overcook
- Poach the duck legs gently for 3.5 hours
- Remove the duck legs and place in an appropriate container for storage
- Allow the duck fat to cool and pour over the duck legs, again making sure they are completely covered
- Allow the fat to solidify, cover and store. You can keep the duck legs for up to six months in the fridge
- Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius
- When you are ready to prepare your confit, take the duck legs from the container and remove any excess fat (which can be retained for making the most excellent roast potatoes)
- Heat a wide frying pan and gently fry the duck legs on each side for six minutes until golden brown and crisp on each side
- Place in preheated oven for 10 minutes to heat through completely