Many people have seen duck confit on bistro menus, but not too many cooks, in the States anyway, have made it at home. This is a situation I hope to change since duck confit is delicious, easy to make, and surprisingly versatile. I’m such an advocate of this traditional French dish because with just a few pantry staples and this deceptively simple ingredient, I can cook up flavorful dishes in very little time. I use it in the same ways I might use some special sausage or ham: as a rich and delicious main dish, but even more often as a highly effective condiment.
Confit (pronounced kohn-FEE) comes from the French confire, meaning “to preserve.” Duck confit is duck that has been cured with salt and then gently cooked in its own fat. The duck emerges meltingly tender with a rich, slightly salty but mellow flavor—there’s nothing quite like it.
Traditionally, the whole duck is used for confit. Today, however, many chefs confit only the legs, arguing that the breasts get too dry when cooked this way. I like to get the most confit possible from the duck and happily use the breast meat. The texture is admittedly not as lush, but the flavor is just as wonderful. In a dish where the confit stands alone, I only use the more succulent leg meat. But when it’s going into a creamy risotto, where the texture won’t be noticed, then the breast meat works equally well.