Saturday, December 17, 2011

Duck Confit

Confit, noun (con-fee): meat that has been cooked and preserved in its own fat.

The first time I heard that word I thought to myself, "Confit? That sounds detailed and hard to do. After all, it is french." I would later find out that the technique of confit is actually very simple and straightforward. Now, obviously any recipe can be worked into a real difficult thing to make. While that would be fun and all, the point of this entry is to acquaint you with the basics of confit. Maybe in later posts I'll mess around with seasonings and all that but here, we only need two things: duck legs and duck fat. If you aren't familiar with confit, that's okay because luckily, it's simple to explain and understand.

Confit comes from the French word confire, which translates to "to preserve" in English. Not surprisingly, the confit technique was originally used as a way to preserve meats. This was not something people would do because it made their food taste better, they did it because they had to. If they didn't, their meat would be rotting in a small amount of time. This tradition is obviously dead for all intensive purposes as refrigeration is now used to preserve food today. Today, we confit because we want to, and trust me, you really do want to. 

So how does the technique preserve meat? The answer can get very detailed as far as aerobic and anaerobic bacteria are concerned. Since this isn't a biology class, just believe me when I tell you that immersing meat in its own fat and storing it there will stop the necessary "ingredients" (namely oxygen) from entering your food and spoiling your meat.

If you don't know where to get duck fat or for that matter, duck legs, here are two places you should look into:
I should note that a lot of recipes season the meat for an extended period of time before they're cooked. I didn't do this. No salt, no pepper, just fat. With that said, seasoning the legs are fine as long as you don't let it take over the duck flavor. The center of this recipe is the succulent taste of the duck meat, not seasonings.

Also, I should note that these can be eaten right away. They don't need to ripen for a week if you don't have the time. Just take them from the fat and finish them by going to step six and you're good to go.
A leg sitting in the warmed fat.

Duck Confit:
4 to 6 duck legs
1/2 to 1 gallon duck fat
1 dutch over or oven-proof pot

1. Melt the duck fat in the pot over medium low heat. Preheat the oven to 180F, up to 200F.
2. When the fat is completely liquid, carefully place the duck legs into the fat and place the dutch oven or pot into the oven uncovered.
3. Let the duck legs cook for 8 to 10 hours.
4. Remove legs from the oven. Carefully remove the legs from the fat and place in a ovenproof, nonreactive container. Take the fat from the pot and pour into the new ovenproof container with the legs until the legs are completely submerged in fat. Let this sit at room temperature until the fat has solidified quite a bit.
5. Place the confit in the fridge uncovered and let the legs ripen for a week or up to two months.
6. Take the duck confit out of the fridge and let it set at room temperature for about 8 hours.
7. Heat an oven to 425F and put the confit container in the oven to melt the fat completely. Once melted, carefully remove the legs from the fat and place them in a roasting pan. Put this in the oven to melt away any excess fat, about 5 minutes.
8. While you melt the excess fat, get a large saute pan going at medium high heat with a tablespoon of duck fat in it.
9. Remove the legs from the oven. Add the legs to the pan skin side down and crisp the skin, doing so in batches if necessary.
10 Add the legs back to the roasting pan skin side up and put this back in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes.
11. Remove the legs from the oven and let the legs rest 5 minutes. Plate the Confit with some potatoes and a simple green salad.
Before

And after

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