Introduction: Duck Leg Confit
Making confit is an old cooking method. Actually it was a way of preserving meat over a longer period. My grandma used to make pork ribs this way in huge quantities that she would then store in a ceramic vessel covered with lard in the pantry, and just use as much as she needed from time to time.
Duck leg confit is a French classic, the best thing that could ever happen to a duck leg. The extra bonus is that though the process itself is quite long (especially if you chose slow cooking like I did), the time you actually have to spend standing in the kitchen is negligible.
To summarize, confit is salting the meat down, then cooking it in fat. It is all about keeping things simple, ideally you use duck fat for duck legs.
The way I make duck legs confit takes about 20 - 24 hours, so usually I start to cure the meat in the morning, and transfer it from the fridge to the oven (low heat) late in the evening and cook the meat at least 10-12 hours. You can cut down time by setting your oven at a higher temperature, 160 Celsius for two hours.
Since the oven is on all night, it’s worth to work with large batches: for me it is a minimum of 8 duck legs. The good thing is that the confit can be stored in the fridge submerged in fat for weeks and besides it is truly versatile. You may just pick a leg, crisp it or you may pull the meat off and add it cold to salads, you can serve it with polenta or mashed potatoes. However, our family favorite is a sort of pâté that we use for making irresistible sandwiches.
Step 1: Ingredients
8 duck legs (around 250 g each)
1500 g duck fat (roughly – depending on the saucepan or casserole you are using, may be replaced by lard.
If you are interested in how to render fat, you can check it here.)
4 tablespoons salt
freshly ground pepper
8-10 bay leaves
20-25 sage leaves
Step 2: Prepping
Wash the duck legs, dry them with a paper towel.
Step 3: Curing
In the morning I started off with a salt cure.
Massage salt and freshly ground pepper into the duck. Layer the duck into a saucepan, add half of the bay leaves and the sage leaves, then repeat: place the next layer of duck and then the rest of the herbs. Cover and put it into the fridge for 10-12 hours. The longer the better.
Step 4: Cooking
In the evening, wipe off the salt from the meat, rinse and dry the saucepan and lay the duck legs back. Put back about half of the herbs you used for curing. Cover with fat completely, than cook in the oven at 85 Celsius for 10 -12 hours. The aim is to cook the meat gently so it is close to falling off the bone and to render out as much fat as you can.
Step 5: What to Do With It?
You can store it in the fridge as it is, duck legs submerged in fat for weeks, but I can assure you that it's so delicious that it won't stay there so long.
The most simple way to use is is to warm it in the fat in the oven, then take the duck legs out and crisp the skin under the grill.
My favorite way is to remove the skin (our dog jumps for joy if she gets it) and then the meat from the bone (after a whole night's slow cooking it more or less melts down). Then I cut the meat into tiny bits with a knife. It seems time consuming but it’s actually fairly quick to do. I heard that a few people like to get around this using the food processor but I think that the goal is to have a nice and tender pâté and not mashed duck after all, so I suggest using the knife. Last thing to do is to mix the meat with as much fat as needed to make it mouth-watering and easy to spread - I added about 4 tablespoons of fat per duck leg. It’s lovely in sandwiches.
Step 6: Enjoy!
This is the end result. It's great with fresh bread, with something sour like pickles or surprisingly something sweet: for example dried prunes.
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