A couple of years ago we chose to serve a hearty cassoulet for a dinner we were hosting for a few friends. All of the ingredients were readily available in local markets except one, duck leg confit, or confit de canard. After exhausting all of the prospective local resources I ordered a tin containing six legs with thighs attached from a gourmet food importer whom I found on the internet… for sixty dollars! That painful pinch to the pocketbook convinced me that it was time to prepare our own confit here at home!
Confit de canard is made throughout France but is regarded as a specialty of Gascony, also reputed for its foie gras and Armagnac brandy. It is simply meat, often duck and sometimes goose or pork, that is cooked in its own fat before being canned or preserved in it. It is easy to prepare… and much less expensive than an imported tin! We’ve created a technique that is a bit atypical but capitalizes on the rich flavors of the garlic and herbs as the meat is slowly poached.
Confit de Canard
Rinse and pat dry with paper towels:
8 duck legs
Sprinkle both sides of the legs with:
3 – 4 T kosher salt
Rub in the salt and place them on a platter or in a large flat dish in a single layer. Season both sides with:
1/2 large bunch fresh thyme leaves, stems removed
5 -6 fresh bay leaves, minced
2 shallots, minced
Turn the legs once or twice to distribute the seasonings and place them skin side down.
To the dish add:
10 – 12 whole peeled garlic cloves, halved
Cover the dish with film and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Preheat oven to 275 degrees. In a medium saucepan melt over moderate heat:
- 4 lb lard
Rinse the duck under cool running water, discarding the solids, and pat dry with paper towels:
Heat a large 12-inch skillet or sauteuse over moderately high heat. Add:
- 1 T lard
When the lard has melted and begun to shimmer add the duck legs skin side down without overcrowding. Cook in batches if necessary:
As the legs brown the fat will begin to render. When the skin is golden turn the pieces over with a pair of tongs and brown the meaty side:
When browned on both sides transfer the duck to the side:
To the rendered fat in the pan add:
- 2 shallots, minced
- 10 – 12 whole garlic cloves, halved
Saute until just beginning to brown:
While the shallots and garlic are browning arrange the duck in a single layer in a Dutch oven or large baking dish. Pour the browned ingredients over the legs and add:
- 1/2 large bunch fresh thyme, stems intact but separated
Cover with the melted lard, all pieces submerged, and place in the preheated oven:
Poach for 3 – 4 hours and remove from the oven. The herbs, shallots and garlic will be dark brown:
Remove the legs from the dish and set aside. Using a ladle, carefully strain the hot lard through a fine sieve into a saucepan or large bowl to remove the solids. To preserve the duck place a ladle of fat into a container that your refrigerator will accomodate, ovenproof if possible. Pack in the legs and completely cover them with the seasoned fat with an additional 1/4-inch allowance on top to ensure a good seal. The excess flavorful fat can be stored in an airtight refrigerated container and used in a variety of ways… its rich flavor is a welcomed addition to oven roasted potatoes as well as sauteed vegetables.
Store the confit covered in the refrigerator for at least one week to allow the flavors to mellow. Refrigerated, it will store safely for one to two months. Confit de canard removed from the bone and warmed makes a glorious salad with fresh garden greens and, of course, is magnificent in a hearty, palate pleasing cassoulet… Bon Appetit!
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