Yes, I repeat. Duck Confit is the easiest yet the most misunderstood food in the world. Let me explain why in this post and show to how to tackle the most sublime epicurean delight, which some might consider ‘too classic’.
But as a devoted listener of A Taste of the Past, I have deep appreciation for traditional foods. This post inevitably made me dig into the album of the best moments in my life.
It was supposed to be written before the duck season in February, or even earlier. Despite its delay, I thought I’d post it after tucking away my second batch of duck confit this week at the winery, in the deepest corner of the fridge, not to be tempted and open it up any time soon. It will sit there for at least one month to further develop the true confit flavours.
If I can make duck confit with a small convection oven, so can you! Neither slow cooker nor sous- vide is required.
Imagine numerous dishes I can make with this a few months down the road, consequently making my trip to the winery extra joyful. This is really a great food to have on hand. This deliberately forgotten jars will show up in those moments when you need special treats or when you’ve run out of inspirations for cooking.
Duck Parmentier(aka.duck shepherd pie) for example!
So today, I’ll try my best to bring to you
The air and flavours of Gascony and the Pyrenees
Just like fermented food, ‘to confit‘ is an ancient method of cooking meat or fruit for preservation. It may sound daunting, but you will be surprised to learn how easy it is to make it at home and how versatile and life-saving it is!
One corner of my pantry is full of duck confit and pate brought in my suitcase from France but my overseas trips have become less frequent these days, and in addition, the taste of store-bought confit has stopped satisfying.
So, when my friend tipped me off that a nearby ecological farm has geese, I couldn’t resist it. We were going to make it together so we got FOUR geese, two each, but I ended up making it all by myself.
Since meat price had gone up, it actually turned out to be more economical to eat goose meat and consequently healthier. So we’ve been eating our way through little bits of goose meat in rice, stew, pizza, pasta and so on.
Am I pressing too hard here to inspire you to make this decadent duck confit? I’m sure one or two people out there will appreciate it and pick up some useful tips here!
If you have ever searched for duck confit recipes, it’s most likely that you get a beautifully plated leg of duck confit in the results, not the actual recipe for making the confit. Even the ones I found weren’t very practical, if not traditional.
What makes my recipe credible is the fact that I learned the art in the heartland of duck confit, Gascony, near the Pyrenees, close to the birthplace of of D’Artagnan, Lupiac!
I wholeheartedly recommend you visit Gascony to immerse yourself in true gastronomy and look deeper into the cherishable tradition in the company of laid-back, unorthodox Gascons! It’s a festive activity, where families and friends spend 2-3 days together, cooking, feasting, chatting and having fun.
This experience set me straight on the whole issue regarding foie gras and duck confit. There was a vegetarian chef, who came all the way from Paris to learn the tradition, and it was truly a curving point in my culinary travels.
So here you go, the most practical
Step-by-step instructions for making duck confit at home.
I’ll share my experience from ‘then’ along with my recent photos.
1 whole duck or goose (or duck legs only)
2 bay leaves, 1 tsp black peppercorns, 1 sprig of rosemary or thyme, 1 star anise(optional)
2-3 cups duck fat (top it off with extra virgin olive oil)
sterilised jars (important!)
#1. The most important step
is to cure the meat with coarse salt for 12-24 hours in the fridge. The longer, the saltier, and the longer it keeps. With a refrigerator and an easier access to duck meat all year around these days, you may want to shorten the curing time and aim to store for up to 6 months instead of 1 year.
And you don’t need garlic, onion or other seasonings because the meat will have its rich unique flavours – you can always make sauce to serve with later – plus, the simpler, the longer storage.
I deboned the two geese – to learn how to de-bone a duck, watch this video – and separated breasts, legs, wings and necks, and since I couldn’t fit all pieces, I saved the breasts for later. I could have made pastirma (dry cured duck breast ham!). But you can confit breasts and all parts.
While the meat was being cured, we hiked the Pyrenees, which was one of the best memories up to this day.
If you can cross over to Spain, like Napoleon did until he got baffled by Cirque de Gavarnie, which is named after the amphitheatre-like valley, and its size from the bottom(800m diameter) to the top(3000m diameter) is just impressive and out of this world.
What a breathtaking and magnificent view! We managed to get down before we froze to death and headed home passing the Napoleon Bridge, which was built in order for him to have access to cheap Spanish wines.
#2. The next day,
you shake off the salt and prepare the fat for cooking the duck.
What internet recipes never tell you is this. Mincing the fat! This is the secret.
Yes, it’s A LOT OF fat. But you need a lot of fat to submerge the meat in oil. Trim any excessive fat and process it. It helps render the fat quicker, AND most importantly, you waste nothing and are rewarded with an amazing treat at the end!
I added the duck fat I’d saved from the last can of duck confit to the minced fat. Duck fat is a wonderful thing and is the only animal fat that is in a liquid form at room temperature. It’s healthy fat so you don’t need to freak out!
If you don’t have access to duck fat, you can top it up with extra virgin olive oil, med quality. Don’t worry, it won’t go to waste because you’ll use up the fat in cooking after eating the meat.
And you render the fat over the stove and when the fat starts to simmer, add the duck. You can turn the heat to is lowest possible and keep cooking OR pop it into the oven, preheated to 95-110’C (200-225F), and forget about it for 4-6 hours.
The cooking time varies depending on the meat of course. Mine was wild goose so it took good 8 hours at 110’C but the duck you buy from a market will take 4-5 hours(lower temp, longer cooking, therefore more succulent)
While the duck is cooking, you feast and celebrate with food and drinks. Or go about your daily affairs, if not home and only if you feel like it, you can turn around the meat from time to time.
Floc de Gascogne is a regional aperitif (a bi-product of Armagnac) and drunk chilled with salty charcuterie, and of course, a tasting of Armagnac in a different year; 1988 and 1994. And of course, the local wine, Madiran, made from Tannat.
Like I said, it is an ultimate slow food and no waste food tradition. I was so stunned when the roasted rib cage was served in front of me at the table. Everyone worked on it, taking every bit of the meat of the bone. And the green beans cooked in the duck jus were the best I’d tasted in my life!
I cooked the remaining bones and made ‘rillettes’, shredded meat similar to pate. You can throw in some green or dried beans and make casserole. Yum!
#3. Now the meat is ready to go into the jar.
I know you will want to eat it right away! However, fight the temptation and wait for a few weeks. Your patience will pay off with bountiful flavours that will stick out with you for the rest of your life.
Only legs, or a leg and breast or only breasts, with necks and bits thrown in to fill the space.
And then pour the fat into each jar to cover the meat, and bring out more local wine to celebrate the treat that I’d mentioned above. Graisseron!
Fishing out every pieces of meat and straining out the fat, you get this delightful little treat, graisseron in French.
It’s the scratchings left at the bottom of the pot and it’s insanely delicious.
Save this by all means and eat it on crusty bread with a glass of light red or use in cooking vegetables.
#4. And the final stage of sterilisation comes.
It’s an important stage for long storage of your precious duck confit. It’s done at 100’c for 2-3 hours.
In our modern lifestyle, I’d skip this stage but I made sure the jars were sterilised before being stuffed.
These are the goose confit and rillettes I made and the geese, so big, didn’t fit into normal jars so I had to find bigger jars. As you’ve noticed, this one has more brown liquid of gelatin because I cured the meat less, hence more water content in the meat. I didn’t plan to keep it for too long since I had another batch to make.
The bountiful jars of duck confit are like treasures. Because of the effort involved and the memories shared, you’ll appreciate every jar, savouring every bite with gratitude and joy. That’s the essence of duck confit in the era of commercialised, fast, processed food that we’re accustomed to. No wonder the Gascons are known as boisterous; they have the best food!
I’ll share some photos when I start opening the jars. So exciting!