Sunday, October 3, 2010

Installment two of the dinner on a budget series>>>>DUCK CONFIT!!!!!!!!!

So, I was feeling a little cash poor today, and was thus motivated to continue my little series on how to make great dinners without spending great sums. Today, we are going to transform duck legs (above) into one of the most delicious forms of poultry known to man, duck confit (below). A quick disclaimer, this is not ever going to appear on 30 minute meals, not only because it is beyond Rachel's viewership talent range (that was below the belt, and kind of untrue, because this is actually a very easy dish), but because it is a multi-day process. First we cure the leg (24 hours, but only about 5 minutes of actual work), then we confit the leg (overnight in the oven, but once again, you just pop it in there and go to sleep), then we actually get it ready for eating. So, it takes a little commitment, but oh so worth it in the eating.

First, just to define what we are doing here...the term confit refers to slowly cooking something in (its' own usually) fat. This means, yes, you are going to buy duck fat...however, it is an incredibly useful thing to have around the kitchen, keeps forever, and can be used to make the best roasted potatoes you have ever tasted. I'll give you that recipe at the end of this one....maybe.

And so, without further ado........LA RECIPE
Stage 1:Curing your duck legs
4 duck legs
3 tblsp sugar
3 tblsp kosher salt
4 juniper berries, coarse ground
1 tblsp black pepper, coarse ground
1 tblsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fennel seed, coarse ground
1 tsp coriander seed
1 tblsp herbes de provence

1)Mix all ingredients together, and thoroughly coat duck legs in the salt mixture.
2)Wad up some aluminum foil and place in bottom of deep tupperware container
3)Place coated duck legs atop foil, cover, and leave in fridge for a minumum of 24 hours and a maximum of 48 hours. Pretty easy so far, right?

Stage 2:confiting, confit?
All you need is your now cured duck legs and a tub of duck fat (roughly 2-3 lbs). Simply place your duck legs in a thick oven proof dish. A cassoulet pot is best, but you can improvise. Then, top with your duck fat, so that the duck will be completely covered once fat melts. Place in the oven at 250 degrees for 6-8 hours (or so). Just check and make sure the duck looks like it's about to fall apart tender and you're good to go. I just put it in around 11pm as I'm getting ready for bed, and take it out when I wake up in the morning. As a side note, some chefs like to put things like garlic or herbs in with the fat at this step....up to you. Once you pull the duck from the oven, leave it in the pot with the fat and refridgerate. If you try to mess with the duck at this point, it will more than likely just fall apart.

Stage 3:Getting it ready to eat.
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place confit skin side down in a nice, thick saute pan. Put duck in oven, and leave it there until the skin has rendered out and is nice, golden, and crispy.

My favorite way to serve it is either
1)atop a nice simple salad of arugula, maybe with some grapes, and pistachios
2)atop a nice simple white bean stew (white beans, mirepoix, chicken stock, and a few fresh herbs). This would be pretty close to the traditional french way.

As far as wines go, I like a nice, fairly fruity red with this's probably one of the few things that i'll recommend a pinot noir with. The SLIGHT gaminess of the duck is paired nicely with a little sweet fruit.


Oh, I almost forgot. Once you have crisped up and eaten your confit, what to do with all that duck fat. Strain it, and it will keep in the fridge for over 6 months. Saute veggies in it. Make a warm vinaigrette with it instead of olive oil. Or roast potatoes in it, they will be the best potatoes you have ever eaten.

2 lbs idaho potatoes, cut into one inch cubes
1/8 cup duck fat, room temp
1 tblsp fresh thyme, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Toss all the ingredients together and let sit on counter for 15 minutes. Then place in 375 degree oven for 30-45 minutes. Then, go hide somewhere, and eat all 2 lbs of potatoes by yourself. Just kidding.........maybe.

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