Cross-Season Confit

Today’s post is quite befitting of this abysmal weather we’re having in the UK right now. It embraces the constant reminder that humans are mere pawns and slaves to the weather, dwarfed by Mother Nature’s awesome power. I actually really wanted to write about this last Winter, but I never got my hands on any nice duck so I didn’t really have the chance. Well, there’s, my not-so-discreet secret given right away.

I know it might not be the quickest recipe to make, but it’ll be one of the most rewarding in taste and reaction. If you’ve ever had confit de canard on holiday in France you’ll know how amazing, how satisfying it is. How it sets off every single Umami-detecting cell in your body and delivers only a cloud of comfort and serenity upon it’s consumption. The reason I chose to write about this wonder today is partially because of the heavy rain beating at my window, but also because I’ve had an unusually high amount of visitors from Australia and New Zealand over the past month or so, and I know you guys are heading into the (slightly) colder months.

Don’t worry my little friend, you won’t be eaten today!

As I gave away, my post today is about Duck Confit, streamers, whistles and all that to be fired at will. I am aware that most of my blog is dedicated to lovely sweet treats, and I really don’t pay attention to the massive world of savoury cooking. I noticed it more when I was searching by ‘category’ on my very own site and noticed I had only fifteen posts with savoury content, out of just over fifty posts. Most of those were merely additions to sweet posts too, so I feel it time to get my savoury on and get some meaty goodness flowing through my humble little blog.  

Time for a few basics before I dive in with the recipe. Confit is the French word for preserve, not that difficult to grasp really, but I thought I’d stay simple to begin. The traditional way of making it is to slightly cure the meat with salt (as well as other ingredients for taste such as garlic, rosemary or thyme) to preserve   it for long winters, for special occasions or for just mighty fine eating. The salt draws much of the water out of the meat, reducing the chance of bacteria, and actually killing some common strains of bacteria altogether. To stop you getting ill. Isn’t that clever, thanks alot sodium you old dog!

Then salt is then washed off and it’s then slowly roasted in duck fat slowly over a long period of time – anything from three to ten hours – until the meat is tender and delicious. After everything has cooled the whole thing it’s usually followed by being submerged in a clay pot or a jar of some description and covered with fat. Before the invention of fridges it could keep in a cool place for anything up to 8 months. Gotta love the classic ‘canning’ mind set of our neighbours. 

This is by no means my recipe, i’m not French, not even a far descendant – as far as I know at least – so I thought I would take a wonderful Frenchman’s knowledge, and spread the joy to some more people. Instead of, you know, Anglicising the whole thing and taking it away from where it really came from. A need for good food, all year round. Oh! For the record, it’s Raymond Blanc’s recipe…slightly edited by me.

Confit de Canard
4 large duck/goose/chicken/turkey legs (at around 200g each, don’t worry about them all being perfect!)
30g rock salt
1 tblsp black peppercorns, crushed
5 garlic cloves, all peeled and sliced up (optional: + 2 unpeeled, but bashed around a little, cloves)
6 sprigs of fresh thyme
800g duck fat (you can get this stuff in bigger bulk from butchers) 
2 bay leaves

– Lay the duck (i’m just going to say duck all the way through this, but substitute it with whatever you’re using) on a tray, rub on the salt, garlic and thyme. Cover it in cling film and leave it in the fridge overnight to chill and let the salt do it’s preserving thing. It needs to be at least overnight, it really can’t be rushed unfortunately.
– Before you start the next step, get a casserole pot (not too wide), and preheat the oven to 120C/100C fan oven/gas mark 1 (I know it’s not an equal conversion, just trust me here!).
–  Take the duck out of it’s cling film prison and wash off the marinade completely, and pat it dry. If you want to be doubly sure there’s not too much salt in it, you can wash it again and dab it dry. 
–  Put the duck legs, with the duck fat into the casserole pot with the bay leaves and, if you’re using it, the bashed garlic. Heat it up til the fat is almost simmering and then transfer it to the preheated oven. Cook for about 3 hours. 
– Poke it a bit with a stick of some degree to see if it’s tender, if it is, remove with a slotted spoon, pop it in a ceramic dish/or a Kilner jar with an airtight lid and let them cool for an hour. If you’re serving them on the same day, crisp them skin side down in a pan with a little duck fat for about 5 minutes. If you’re not, wait until the fat has completely cooled, strain it, and pour it over the duck in the jar/ceramic dish until it covers it completely. 
– The beauty of this recipe is that it will last for months and months in the fridge or even in a cool pantry, it actually tastes better after it has been left for at least a few weeks.  And as long as the fat covers the top of the duck it will be lovely and will keep for a very long time. 

It can be served in the winter with a tonne of lovely garlicky lentils or beans, a pile of buttery mash, or it can be eaten in the summer with a leafy salad. Rocket salad and sweet potatoes go really nicely with a super crispy duck skin. It’s awesome, it’s versatile, it’s not really that taxing to make, and it is actually amazing tasting. A good backup for dinner parties too (do people still have those nowadays?).

I’m not going to lie, the last time I made this, I was far too cold and hungry to take a photo, so here is somebody else’s lovely picture instead. Thanks to Chrystian Guy on Flickr for letting me use it! 
With the warmest of hugs to my down-under neighbours, my drizzly UK friends and for anyone who likes duck.