Recipe by Jenny Lee-Adrian
For years, I enjoyed eating duck confit at restaurants. Confit, (pronounced kawn-fee), is a classic French dish that involves curing the meat with salt and herbs before slow-cooking it in duck fat. Although making confit is not quick and easy, the meal is more meaningful when I sit down and cut into that duck leg, knowing I rendered the fat, cured the meat and slowly cooked it for hours just to get it right.
Previous and current restaurants I’ve worked in made duck confit. For added guidance, I looked to Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, who co-authored Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing.
2 duck legs
2 1/2 cups duck fat or extra-virgin olive oil, a cheaper alternative
1 tablespoon kosher salt
10 black peppercorns, crushed
2 Bay leaves, crushed
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 sprigs thyme, roughly chopped
Mix ingredients for the cure in a small bowl. Rub the duck legs with the mixture. Make sure duck legs are placed skin-side down in a shallow container before covering with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 12 or up to 24 hours.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Rinse salt and all seasonings off duck legs. Pat dry with paper towels. Melt 2 1/2 cups duck fat in a 2-quart ovenproof pot with the duck legs inside. Heat the pot until the temperature of the duck fat reaches 180 degrees. Leave it uncovered and place in the oven. Cook duck legs between 180 to 190 degrees in the oven, until meat is tender and a skewer or the tip of your thermometer easily slides through a leg, about three hours. Cook longer for up to 10 hours if more tenderness is desired.
Take the duck out of the oven and let cool in the duck fat. If serving within a week, leave the duck legs in the pot, cover and refrigerate. If not serving soon, take the duck legs out of the fat and place them in a container. Strain the fat in another container, making sure you leave the duck juices in the bottom of the pot. Pour only the strained fat over the duck legs. Let cool and then cover and refrigerate. A general recommendation is to store confit for up to six months in the refrigerator. Save the salty duck juices for vinaigrettes, sauces or soups. Otherwise, discard the juices.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the container or pot of duck legs on the stove, so the fat melts as the oven heats up. When the fat begins to soften, pull the duck legs out and place on a rack that fits in a sheet tray. Heat the duck legs in the oven for 15 minutes until the legs are warmed through. To crisp the skin, heat a saute pan on high for two minutes, swirl in two tablespoons of oil and sear the skin side of each duck leg until the skin is crispy and golden brown.
Duck fat can be used again and again to make confit until the fat tastes too salty, according to cookbook author Ruhlman.