I have been thinking for a while now how sad it is that duck has never really caught on as a staple poultry in this country. It has always been one of my favorite fowls and I never fail to order it if I see it on a menu. So, when I had the opportunity to pick up a nice New York duck for a reasonable price I jumped at the opportunity. I am not really too big of a fan of roast duck and that is a kind of a boring preparation anyways, so I decided to do a series of posts dedicated to the many delicious dishes that can be prepared from a single duck. As I hate wasting precious protein I am going to utilize pretty much the entire carcass, hence the title of this series, "Everything but the Quack." The first thing I decided to do is to make the indomitable delicacy that is Duck Confit. Here is the beautiful bird that I began with.
I began by dissecting the duck into breasts, legs with thighs attached, and wings. I will be using the legs and wings to make the confit. The delicious looking duck breasts will be reserved for a future posting.
After removing those pretty restaurant portions of the duck we are left with the "fifth quarter." That is to say the neck, giblets, bones and fat. I perish at the thought that there are people populating this earth who would dump this stuff in the garbage. All of these beautiful morsels will be appearing in the near future once I think of something delicious to do with them. By the way, no chortling about the duck neck, I know it looks sort of obscene.
The first thing you want to do for a duck confit is salt the legs and wings with some good coarse salt and leave to cure in the fridge for 24-36 hours. This aids in drawing out some of the moisture from the meat. This will allow the meat to keep for a relatively long time once prepared.
The next step is to trim all visible fat from the remaining duck parts. You will be left with a nice size pile of quivering, milky white duck fat.
From the fat of one duck one can render out about a cup of the unrivaled king of culinary lipids- pure duck fat. Duck fat adds a delicious richness to anything you put it in and I personally love the flavor. To render the fat I cooked it along with a cup of water for about 3 hours.
Eventually, all of the water will evaporate and you will be left with just the liquid fat. Drain this through some cheese cloth and you are left with about 8 ounces of pure amber liquid.
If you are not familiar with Duck Confit, than let me explain. Confit simply means "preserved" in French. As we discussed in my last post (the one about potted meat), sealing up meat under a layer of fat is an effective way of preserving it. Confit is simply meat poached in fat, transferred to a vessel, and then submerged in fat which then solidifies allowing the meat to keep for several months in a cool environment. Besides being a way to preserve surplus meats, meat cooked in fat has an unrivaled flavor.
Traditionally for this dish you would use only duck fat to cook and preserve the duck pieces. But since you are only going to get about 1 cup of fat from 1 duck, and you probably need about 3 cups of fat to make this work, I substituted good ol' lard to make up the balance.
Lard is a perfect supplement to the duck fat. It has a neutral flavor which will not interfere with the ducky essence of the real stuff. Not to mention that at 1.39$ for 16 onces it is much more economical than purchasing ready made duck fat. At your local gourmet store you are talking at least 20 bucks for 16 onces. I melted the lard in a small pan with the duck fat, it looked like a melting lard-sicle.
After giving the duck legs and wings a good rinse to remove the salt I patted them dry and put in a shallow oven safe dish. Over this went the rendered fat. You want the fat to completely submerge the meat.
This goes into a low oven (225 degrees) for 4-5 hours, until the meat is meltingly tender. I then carefully transferred the duck pieces into a jar and poured the fat over. You want to make sure to cover the meat completely with fat, a good inch on top of it will do the trick.
When cooled, you can fish out a portion. A duck leg confit is one of the nicest and most satisfying things that you can hope to prepare, just look at it.
If you were to buy the amount of confit that I made from this single duckling you are looking at maybe 10-15 dollars. Seeing as I only paid 10 dollars for the entire duck this is a bargain. Duck Confit is a nice, gourmet luxury item that is fairly simple and economical to prepare at home. It will keep for a couple of months in the fridge and there are myriad good uses. You can simply saute a piece and eat as is, throw it in a cassoulet, or make one of my personal favorites rillettes (probably will make this in a future post, it is fairly similar to making potted meat).
Well, this is a good start. I hope to get 3 or 4 more posts before I am done consuming this worthy bird so if you are interested, stay tuned.