Saturday, January 30, 2010

Day 320 - Duck Confit

I have been dragging my feet for months around making this... and I love duck confit! The issue was getting my hands on a ton of duck fat, but with the deadline looming and two other recipes that depend on Duck Confit as an ingredient (a pasta filling and Cassoulet), I couldn't stall anymore.

Duck Confit (p. 232)

Fariway sells duck fat from Dartagnan in 7 ounce containers, but buying 2.5 pounds would have cost me close to $40. I knew there was a better way. I had tried at Ottomanelli, but that day, they were out of the size I needed. But this week, I was in luck!

I bought their 1.75 pound container ($16) and one of those 7 oz. containers, getting me up to 2 lbs 3 oz, which meant I was just 5 oz shy of what I needed.

Meanwhile, I was going to have to trim the 6 leg/thighs of the extra fat and skin, so I figured I could render at least 5 oz more from that. (I think I ended up with a few ounces more than that.)

The first part of this recipe involves curing these trimmed legs in a salt and herb cure. I've never cured anything before! It's like the dry version of a brine. The ingredients here are garlic, salt, bay leaves, thyme, and another thing I've never experienced before: juniper berries. Crushing a juniper berry brings forth an incredibly distinctive smell - it's really easy to get the connection between juniper and gin.

The duck legs get covered with the "cure" and popped in the fridge for 1-2 days. I went the full two, because I wanted massive flavor.

I was interested to see how the duck meat had changed in color and texture after having been cured. While it went in looking like dark meat poultry, it came out looking more like prosciutto. Fascinating....

Next is the melting of the 2.5 pounds of duck fat in a Dutch oven. (Seeing that much fat in one place is kind of gross, but at least it's not high temperature deep frying, spattering, etc.) The cure gets rubbed off, and the garlic goes in the fat, followed by the duck legs, skin side down. The duck cooks in its own fat for 2.5-3 hours. The temperature is carefully maintained at 200°, so it's a low and slow technique.

Mine were done around 2:50, when they were moved to a glass container. The solids were strained out of the fat, and the fat was poured over the legs and left to cool. Then into the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks to await use!

I expected these to look brown and crispy by this point in the process, but no, they were quite soggy and pale, so I didn't bother tasting them.

Allow me to flash forward to the next day when two of the six legs were browned and brought back to life to be used as pasta filling.

The legs were lifted from the now solidified fat, which was brushed off as much as possible. Then they went into a cold cast iron skillet and heated at medium low until the skin was crispy. Martha estimated this to take ten minutes, but mine took at least twice that long. Also, the skin was sticking very passionately to the pan, and even my offset spatula couldn't successfully separate the two. Luckily, I didn't need good looking legs for this pasta filling recipe. Finally, the legs were flipped and heated through, and I got a little taste.

Delicious!! The amazing thing to me is that the only flavoring came from the curing, which was brushed off pre-cooking. I guess two days sitting in salt is enough for full flavor. Yum!

Jeff: A
Martha: A

Until we eat again....

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