Homemade Duck Confit
Prepare the duck confit at least one week before serving—the flavor and texture improve as it sits.
Yields 8 duck legs.
8 duck leg-thigh pieces, about 8 oz. each
3 Tbs. kosher salt
Eight 3-inch sprigs fresh rosemary
4 dried bay leaves, broken in half
4 large cloves garlic, sliced
8 medium sprigs fresh thyme
1-1/2 quarts (3 lb.) duck fat
Tidy up the duck legs by pulling off any large bits of fat and trimming any skin that hangs way beyond the meat. (You can put the skin and fat in a small saucepan over low heat to render the fat; save this for confit or for another use.)
Sprinkle half the salt in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Lay out the sprigs of rosemary, the bay leaves, and half the garlic slices in 8 piles, put a duck leg on top of each, then press the thyme and remaining garlic on top of the duck. Sprinkle the duck with the rest of the salt and then spread it with your hands so that all sides are coated. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Put the duck fat in a heavy Dutch oven that’s large enough to hold all the legs (they can be stacked) and heat over low heat until melted. Scrape all of the seasonings from the duck, wiping away any moisture with paper towels. Slip the duck legs into the fat and completely submerge them. Cover the pot and adjust the heat so that the fat stays just about 200°F; do not let it go over 210°F. (Be sure to check the temperature every 20 to 30 minutes to make sure it's not going too high.)
Cook until the legs are completely tender when pierced by a knife, 2-1/2 to 4 hours, depending on the size of the legs. Let them cool in the fat; when cool enough to handle, remove with tongs, taking care not to rip the skin, which will be delicate.
Arrange the legs in a crock, baking dish, or large sturdy plastic container (they can be stacked). Pour the fat through a fine strainer over the legs to cover them completely. Cover the dish tightly and refrigerate for at least 1 week before using (you can use the legs sooner, but the texture and flavor are best after this curing period). You can store the confit for up to 8 weeks.
To use, gently pry out the number of legs you need, scrape off the excess fat, and press the fat back over the remaining legs.
To eat confit as a main dish
Heat the oven to 375°F. Arrange the duck legs skin side up on a heavy rimmed baking sheet and cook until just barely heated through, about 15 minutes. Raise the heat to 425°F. Flip the legs skin side down and continue to cook until the skin is crisp and brown; use a thin spatula to remove them from the pan. If you need just a few legs' worth of confit, heat them in a skillet (preferably cast iron), and crisp the skin over medium-high heat.
photo: Scott Phillips
From Fine Cooking 103
, pp. 58-59
December 30, 2009