“How easy is it to make duck confit?”
This was the question thrown at me from over the desk. I paused for a moment, trying to decide how to answer.
“It’s fairly easy technique, though you are dealing with a face-meltingly hot bowl of fat.”
I’m not sure whether that’s encouragement or not, but it was too late for me. I had the idea in my head and I wanted to make it for myself. Can’t remember the last time I did it.
When I approached it this time, I didn’t have a recipe in mind, only a direction I wanted it to go in… aromatic, though not quite Asian, herby, but not fresh… I was pulled in a few directions. In the end I went with a sweet-spiced curing, serving the breast on the side, partnered with sauté potatoes, steamed carrots, plus a salad of pickled cucumber and carrot. Rich duck leg, meaty breast, tender and sweet carrots, crunchy, comforting potatoes, a sharp, piquant salad on the side, all topped with a savoury port jus…. I was extremely pleased with this one. Towards the end it was a real pot-juggler, with potatoes, stock, carrots, etc. but for a Saturday treat it’s worth the extra sweat.
When it comes to which fat it should be confited in, duck is best though really anything will do. In this instance I had a small bit of bacon fat left over from breakfast, plus I rendered the fat down from the spare skin of the remaining duck carcass. It’s just natural and right that the fat from the bird goes back into the dish. Indulgent, tasty and moreish.
For the confit legs:
2 duck legs
50g sea salt
25g demerera sugar
8 juniper berries, squashed
1 cardamom pod, cracked
Enough fat to cover the legs in your baking dish
- Mix the salt, sugar, juniper and cardamom together with plenty of black pepper in sealable container. Coat the legs thoroughly and leave in the container overnight in the fridge.
- The next day wash the salt mixture off with running cold water. Gently warm the fat of your choice and preheat the oven to 160°C.
- Place the duck legs in a baking dish (make sure you have enough room to let the fat come over the legs) and cover with fat. Cover and bake for 3 hours.
- When cool, shred the leg meat from the bones (I find two forks ideal for this). You can discard the skin. Save the cooled fat for another dish (such as the potatoes).
For the pickled cucumber and carrot:
3 inches of cucumber, diced
1 carrot, diced
100ml white wine vinegar
25g sea salt
3 tablespoons demerera sugar
- Heat the vinegar gently and add the sugar and salt, stirring until dissolved. remove from the heat.
- Combine the vinegar solution with the diced veg and keep in a sealable container in the fridge until needed, though at least 4 hours. Allow to come to room temperature before serving.
For the duck breasts:
2 duck breasts
- Preheat the oven to 200°C and get a griddle pan dead hot. When smoking place the duck breasts skin-side down on the pan. Season the fleshy side.
- Leave for 3-4 mins or until the skin lifts away from the pan easily. If you want luvverly cross-hatching, rotate the breasts 45° and leave for a further minute.
- Flip the breasts over, season the skin and then put in the oven for 8-9 minutes, or until there’s a firm ‘bounce’ when you press your finger on it.
- Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 5 mins, then slice on the diagonal to serve.
For the sauté potatoes:
500g waxy potatoes (e.g. Charlotte), in 1cm slices
Enough fat to cover the bottom of your frying pan (preferably the reserved duck fat from earlier)
Sprig of rosemary
- Heat the oil in a wide pan over a medium heat and spread the potatoes out in one thin layer.
- When crisp on one side flip the slices over (it’s tedious but one at a time works best). Season and add the rosemary whole.
- Keep cooking until the undersides brown and crisp.
For the port jus:
500ml Good stock (preferably duck stock made from the leftover carcass)
1 tablespoon flour
3 tablespoons Port
- Fry the wingtips in a little butter until they start to turn brown and crispy. Discard the wingtips.
- Keeping the heat high, add the flour and mix thoroughly.
- Add the port and scrape to deglaze the pan. When this has bubbled and reduced but half, add the stock.
- Let the stock bubble for a couple of minutes, then adjust the seasoning. Add a small knob of butter at the last minute and stir thoroughly to add richness and shine.