Duck confit is one of the world’s wonder ingredients. The rich, salty and herb-tingly tasty meat can be used on pizzas, in salads or soups. Or, you can make a quick meal by crisping up a couple of legs in a pan to go with whatever else happens to be around. In France, we’ve bought packages of traditional confit, made by slow-cooking duck legs in their own fat, then preserved by covering them in more duck fat. But here in Gourmandistan, we prefer a simpler recipe, found in A New Way To Cook by Sally Schneider. Instead of slow-poaching in deep duck fat, this version uses an overnight “dry rub” followed by a couple of hours of roasting inside a tight tinfoil wrapper.
Checking on some “traditional” confit recipes, it seems the time involved is really about the same—a day of “curing” the duck legs followed by a couple of hours of cooking time. We think this version produces some exceptional duck legs, very tender and well-flavored, that have surpassed many traditional preparations we’ve sampled in Europe. Since our local Whole Foods unfortunately stopped carrying them, we have to drive our fresh duck legs down from Chicago or order them online. We freeze our confit in 2-packs, and selfishly ration them for native Gourmandistanis only. Sorry folks, you’ll have to make your own—so get to the grocery for juniper and allspice berries, and start badgering your butcher to carry fresh duck legs. You won’t regret it.
REVISIONIST CONFIT OF DUCK LEGS
(adapted from Sally Schneider’s A New Way To Cook) (for 4 duck legs)
In a mini food processor, combine the following ingredients:
- 2 TB kosher salt
- 10 juniper berries
- 1-1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
- 1/2 TB fresh thyme (or less dried thyme)
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 allspice berries
- 1/2 tsp. coriander seeds
- 1/2 tsp. sugar
Grind spices to a course powder. Add 5-6 cloves of garlic, pressed. Rub the spice mixture onto 4 duck legs. Place in a dish or pan, cover and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 300°.
Pat legs dry with paper towels. Prick skin with a fork or sharp knife. Encase 2 legs each in packets of aluminum foil. Crimp foil together to form neat, tightly sealed packages. Place foil packages on a baking sheet. Bake for 2 hours. Remove from oven and rest for about 10 minutes.
Unfold the packages, being careful to avoid burning yourself with the escaping steam.
The confit can be used now, or refrigerated or frozen. You can shred it, as is, for soups or pizzas. But the most delicious use for confit is on its own, crisped on both sides in a dry nonstick skillet. Pretend you’re in southwest France and have a wonderful dinner.