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Wednesday 12/15/2021

Duck Confit is an historic method of preparing duck meat, usually with the purpose of keeping it over the winter. While this style of preservation is no longer necessary, the exquisite flavor and texture of a good confit makes it a still commonly used recipe in any modern kitchen. The legs are layered with fat, herbs and vegetables and then cooked slowly, keeping the meat moist and delicately flavored. A layer of fatty skin is rendered down to a paper thinness and then crisped under a broiler until golden brown. Turkey and chicken are also used very effectively with this method, but you really can't beat the flavor and texture of duck.

The ducks we received this week still had the head and feet attached. Usually you don't see this, but I guess things are a little weird in the new COVID world. More flavor for the stock pot! The wings come off as well. The lower part of a duck wing is pretty bony and not good for much else.

Once we remove the head and feet, it's just a regular duck like you would find in the store. When cleaning poultry, I usually start with the legs first. A good sharp knife slices easily through the connecting tendons, fat and bone.

Notice the thick layer of fat surrounding the relatively lean meat. Duck is funny like this, easily overcooked if you aren't careful. The legs are the best part by the way.

So the breast comes off next. We will set these aside for another recipe. Notice that I left the lower part of the wing attached; we can use these as "airline" style breasts or simply take them off later. The remaining carcass/cage is great for making stock.

Ok. now we gather some more ingredients. In a classic confit the legs are salted and left to cure for a time before cooking, this lowers the moisture levels and helps preserve the meat. While it does change the texture a bit, for our purposes that really isn't necessary- a simple seasoning of salt and pepper will suffice. Next we get some onions, garlic, herbs and oranges. There are lots of variations on confit, but this simple preparation makes a nice clean flavor that can be served on its own or used as an ingredient in another dish such as cassoulet.

It is best to use something heavy like this cast iron Dutch oven or a heavy pot. The heavy metal conducts the heat more evenly and prevents burning. Layer the bottom of the pan with onions, garlic or any other aromatics you like. I have found that fennel works very well too.

Lay the seasoned legs over the aromatics.

I have covered it with fresh thyme and sliced oranges. Bay leaves and rosemary are nice, too, but I wanted to keep this dish simple for more versatility later.

Now the best part. cover the meat and vegetables with the fat of your choice. Traditionally duck or pork fat was used, as it was flavorful, abundant, and cheap. Many chefs today use plant based fats such as olive oil. I decided to go with tradition and duck fat is simply heavenly. I also added some whole shallots and more garlic just to fill the pot a little

In the oven at 300°F for a few hours. The most important part is not to cook too at high a temperature. If you aren't quite sure of your oven then go lower. You are essentially poaching in oil, not frying. check it after an hour and make any changes you need.

After two hours, the skin is just starting to brown, and the meat is tender. You don't want to over cook this. The best way to tell if poultry is done is to grab the end [of a leg] and give a twist. If the bone is loose, it is done. If it feels tight, keep it in a while. If you are using right away, remove duck legs and drain. I like to let it cool in the fat overnight and then remove it. One of the best parts of preparing food this way is the wonderful tasty fat that we can use for other things. I like to use the fat drained from Confit to fry Latkes for Hanukkah.

After draining the legs, flash them briefly under the broiler to crisp the skin and you have a beautiful dish of falling-off-the-bone tenderness and robust flavor. The meat can also be pulled off the bone and used for a filling, topping or a snack for the chef.



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