Still no geese. If you read my previous post, you’ll know that I purchased a whole duck and processed the breasts into duck prosciutto. But about the rest of the duck? Like I mentioned before, the bones always go into stock. How about the rest of it, such as the thighs, legs, and wings, and last but not least – the duck skin and fat? Well, since I was already on the path of preservation of this duck, I figured why stop there? I’d been wanting to try duck confit for a while.
So what’s a confit anyway? According to Wayne Gisslen’s Professional Cooking, 7th edition, a confit is “a food saturated with one of the following: vinegar (for vegetables); sugar (for fruits); alcohol (for fruits); fat (for poultry and meat). Literally, “preserved.” ” So there you have it. Duck legs are very nice to make into confit. In order to do so, one must acquire a decent amount of duck fat from somewhere. I had previously rendered duck fat from a previous duck that I had consumed in a roasted fashion – but I won’t go into detail about that. Rendering is quite simple – all you do add a tablespoon or two of water to the duck fat and skin that’s been cut into smaller pieces, then put it in a pot over low heat. The water prevents the fat or skin from browning. It’s done once the water all evaporates and the remaining skin gets crispy. Be mindful that the rendering process can take 5-6 hours, so it’s nice to do if you’ve got a large batch saved up. And save those crispy bits! I salted them and sprinkled it over things that you can traditionally crumble bacon over, like a frisee salad with a poached egg, for example, or maybe in a omlette or in cornbread, perhaps. Be creative with it! By the way – the fat can be reused several times, so don’t throw it out.
While the fat is rendering, season the duck with whatever you want, basically. I decided to go with the ever-present salt and pepper, but added some granulated garlic, whole cloves, crushed bay leaves and Chinese Five Spice. Stash it in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, rinse off the seasonings and pat the duck dry. Place your duck parts into a pan or pot – you want to pack them in tightly as you’ll need to cover everything completely with the duck fat. I actually had to transfer everything into a smaller pot. If you find yourself a bit short, you can add some other type of fat to supplement to make sure everything’s completely covered. Bring the pot to a simmer on the stove, then place uncovered in a 200 ºF oven for 6 hours or until the legs are completely tender and the fat becomes clear. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature in the pot, then refrigerate. If the fat is completely covering the duck, it should keep in the refrigerator for a month if untouched. To serve it, allow the fat to soften at room temperature before attempting to remove the duck. Bake the duck in an oven at 425 ºF until warmed through and the skin is crispy. (This information came from the Charcuterie book I have by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn.)
If for some reason there’s too much confit to handle – impossible, you say! Well, just in case it happens, instead of storing it as confit, one could also choose to make rillettes from it. What is it? In a nutshell, it’s meat that’s been cooked until very tender, then mashed with fat and aromatics into a spreadable consistency. Store in the refrigerator in a little ramekin and seal with a layer of fat. If you’ve already got confit on hand, all it takes is 8 oz of confit meat that’s been shredded, 0.25 cups of confit fat and 0.25 cups of confit jelly. What’s confit jelly? Well if you took your duck out of the fat it was confited (is this a word?) in, and stored all the liquid in the refrigerator, it will separate into fat and the confit jelly – similar to making stock. Except in this case, the jelly is pure duck as no water was added, remember? It’s essentially a block of duck jello.
Throw into a mixer and mix with the paddle attachment until it’s a smooth consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed. And that’s it! Enjoy with some crackers or toast, along with some other condiments.