The first time I ever had duck confit I truly thought I'd died and gone to heaven. Well, I was nearly there as I was in Paris with Peter in a bistro on the Left Bank and he introduced me to one of his favorite meals, Duck Confit with Pommes de Terre Sarladaises (Potatoes cooked in duck fat, with garlic and parsley). The flavors and textures were divine and it's one of the most memorable meals I have ever had.
Back in the states, I did research to learn how duck confit is made and learned that confit means "preserved" and duck confit is prepared in a centuries-old process of preservation that consists of salt curing a pieces of duck, then cooking it a long time in low heat, and finally storing it in its own fat. This renders tough cuts like duck legs more tender, and when stored in duck fat in a cool place, they last all winter." While duck confit is made across France today, it is seen as a specialty of Gascony.
Well in the 21st century, there are satisfactory abbreviated ways to prepare duck "confit" which result in duck as fall-off-the-bone good as following the age-old process. Given that we have refrigeration, storing the duck in fat is unnecessary. I've found numerous recipes for "Counterfeit Duck Confit" but the one we like I found through the N.Y. Times. It's truly easy, although it does take time as you must "cure" the duck legs in a salt and herb mixture over night, and cooking takes almost three and a half hours, but the end results are so worth the rewards.
1 ½ teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf, crumbled
8 foulard duck legs (about 4 pounds total), rinsed and patted dry but not trimmed
- In a small bowl, combine the set, pepper thyme and bay leaf pieces. Sprinkle duck generously with the mixture. Place duck legs in a pan in one layer. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours.
- The next day, heat the oven to 325 ℉. Remove much of the salt mixture from the duck legs with a paper towel. Place duck legs, fat side down, in a large overproof skillet, with legs fitting snugly in a single layer (this is critical). (You may have to use 2 skillets or cook them in batches.)
- Heat duck legs over medium-high heat until the fat starts to render. When there is about ¼-inch of rendered fat in the pan, about 20 minutes, turn the duck legs, cover the pan with foil and place them in the oven. If you have two pans, transfer the duck AND FAT to a roasting pan large enough to just hold the legs snugly, cover with foil and place in the oven.
- Roast the legs for 2 hours, then remove the foil and continue roasting until the duck is golden brown, about 1 hour more.
- Remove the duck from the fat; reserve the fat for other uses.
- Serve the duck hot or warm, over roasted potatoes or noodles with a salad.