Duck Confit is one of those true pleasures of life. Its a marrying of textures and flavours in one simple dish. The long slow cooking time gives the meat a rich succulent flavour that is impossibly moist, while the skin, is so crisp it almost shatters in the mouth. Thicker sections render away, leaving crackling almost like puff pastry. It is to die for. Oddly enough the method of "Confit" cooking was never intended as "gourmet", but rather as a means of preserving your hunt. In a world without refrigeration it was possible to keep Confit cooked meats for up to six months - Not that it would last this long. This dish is ideal for a homesteader, survivalist or Meat connoisseur. Why mearly survive, when you can live in style. If the Zombies come, or "the Tax-man" I know I'll be living it up, making freshly caught duck into Confit, camp side.
Here is a spiel on "Confit" from Wikipedia:
Confit (French, pronounced [kɔ̃fi] or in English "con-fee") comes from the French word confire which means literally "to preserve", a confit being any type of food that is cooked slowly over a long period of time as a method of preservation.
Confit as a cooking term describes when food is cooked in grease, oil or sugar water (syrup), at a lower temperature — as opposed to deep frying. While deep frying typically takes place at temperatures of 325–450 °F (163–232 °C), confit preparations are done much lower—an oil temperature of around 200 °F (93 °C), sometimes even cooler. The term is usually used in modern cuisine to mean long slow cooking in oil or fat at low temperatures, many having no element of preservation such as dishes like confit potatoes. In meat cooking this requires the meat to be salted as part of the preservation process. After salting and cooking in the fat, sealed and stored in a cool, dark place, confit can last for several months or years. Confit is one of the oldest ways to preserve food, and is a specialty of southwestern France.
Typically this dish is a two day affair, with one day to cure and one day to cook. This is the speedy version as I'm wanting the flavour only, not the long preservation time. I will provide the two versions as really the only extra step for true Confit is a little more time, more salt, and a little more cooking fat. For now, lets get cooking, Because I plan on eating this tonight, not 2 days from now!
Step 1: Ingredients
- Duck Legs - how many is up to you. Ideally 2 legs per person is ideal. Myself I had one whole duck to cut up - poor hunting :( But, I was only really after the breasts as the confit is actually just to use up the leftovers!
- Dried Thyme - a tablespoon or so
- Coarse salt - a couple tablespoons for the Quickie version - A large box for the true confit version
- Fresh Coarse Black pepper
- Fat - the Quickie version doesn't require extra, but for true confit it has to be submerged. Ideally you have vast quantities of duck fat on hand, real world can use olive or canola oil.
- Pokey bamboo skewers or other means of making many quick holes in the skin - Tattoo gun maybe?
Step 2: Dismember Your Duck - Get the Legs Part!
- Similar to cutting up a chicken, grab one leg and ease back the joint from the body at the thigh.
- Next slice into the flesh until you come to the thigh joint, at this point you can see the joint easily. You can either bend the bone back and dislocate it or slice though it neatly.
- Continue slicing the thigh away from the body, hugging near the body to save most of the meat!
Step 3: Dismember Your Duck - Rest of the Bits!
For the rest of the duck start with the wings
- Just like the legs, bend back the limb and cut in
- Sever the bone joint and continue cutting away. The wing can also be used in confit, but I am saying it for stock along with any other ghastly bits.
- Last the breasts, take your time here to get them in one piece. Slice down the centre between the two breasts.
- Now using mostly the tip of the knife slide it along the inside of the ribs. The knife will guide itself neatly removing the breast. Keep trimming away until you reach the section closest to where the leg was and remove the breast.
- At this point you can just hack the remaining bones into soup pot size chunks. Make sure to include the skin and fat in the stock pot as the flavour from this is incredible.
Step 4: Stab, Stab, Stab - or "Assisted Rendering"
In order for that skin to crisp up you have to assist the rendering process. To do this, take 4-5 bamboo skewers or other sharp pointy things and start stabbing the skin. The point behind this is to allow passage of the fat under the skin to render out. The skin will never crisp up with trapped fat under neath. Try not to skewer the meat, just through the skin into the fat. Make like a human tattoo gun!
Step 5: Cure
For our Quickie version, the cure is more for flavour rather then preservation. All we need to do is to take several heaping tablespoons of coarse salt and rub it into the skin and meat. Use more then you think you need...
- Let it sit for about 30 minutes, go do something, it doesn't need you at this point.
When you get back, the meat will have firmed up a little and gone a little darker. Brush off as much salt as you can, but don't bother rinsing it.
For the true version, you embed the duck in coarse salt allowing almost an inch between duck pieces, then cover it completely in more coarse salt. Hence while you go through an entire large box! Allow the legs to sit in your fridge for 24 hours to cure. They are then rinsed off with cold running water until completely flushed free of salt. They will be much firmer and quite dark in colour. Dry them well by patting firmly with paper towel.
Step 6: Season
Place your duck pieces in a vessel that fits a little snugly. For our version, just touching is ok. For the true Confit they should have a little space between them. Shower them with a tablespoon of dried thyme and a generous grinding of black pepper. I like my stuff on the salty side, so I put a sprinkle of coarse salt on top. At this point you are ready for the oven.
For the true Confit however, you must top up the dish with additional fat. This can be rendered duck fat, olive or canola oil, or even a combo of all three. It must rise above the duck, as you are creating an environment free of oxygen for the "Confit" process to occur.
Step 7: Cook
The quickie version needs about 5 hours at 250 degrees. The fats under the skin will render out after about an hour and self baste the duck. If your around you can always give it a hand every hour or so by basting it a bit, but its not really needed. The results are incredible, crispy-shattering skin, intense almost heady crackling and rich decadent, juices rolling off your chin, meat.
The true Confit version you can drop the temperature down to about 225 and cook for 8-10 hours. The bones at this point can gently be pulled out leaving the legs almost intact. Stored under its protective layer of fat, in theory for 6 months. This still has to be kept cold mind you. I would store it in a fridge, but the whole concept behind this is to store is somewhere cool as you don't have a fridge. Perfect for the homesteader or survivalist wanting to live in style. Hey why suffer some crappy c-rations when you can have Duck Confit!
Step 8: Feast
MMMMM, so good. It kinda makes slow cooked pulled pork, now taste like spam.
On another note, shortly after my daughter and I finished off the 2 legs, the girls scouts came knocking on the door. Chocolate mint girl scout cookies taste awesome after Duck Confit!