Yet, rarely does so simple a process alchemize so few ingredients into such culinary gold.
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Modern refrigeration might have banished confit to the history books had the results not been so exquisitely delicious. We no longer need to cure and trap duck under layers of fat where oxygen can’t get to it, but we want to because when you retrieve that tender duck leg from the ultraflavorful fat, crisp it up briefly in a pan, and sink your teeth in, oh my, is it incredible.
Originating in Southwest France as a method for keeping meat from spoiling, “confit” simply translates as “preserved.” It’s just three steps.
- Salt and season duck legs for hours or days.
- Poach them slowly in rendered duck fat.
- Submerge them to “ripen” in the cooled, solidified fat.
Underneath a delicate layer of golden skin lies the tender, subtly spiced meat. The cured duck is dense and somehow silky, with a saltiness that perfectly balances its richness.
Duck Leg ConfitA traditional French method produces succulent, luxurious results.
Our recipe employs a cure of salt, a bit of sugar, and classic French quatre épices (“four spices” made from pepper, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves), which we apply more heavily on the meat than on the skin to allow it to penetrate and fully season the interior. The warm spices don’t overpower but rather blend harmoniously with the rich, meaty-tasting duck.
Allowed to sit for 24 to 48 hours, the cure draws moisture from the duck, making the meat pleasantly dense and incredibly flavorful, while the richness of the duck and the slow cooking in rendered fat ensure that the meat remains succulent.
Confiting the duck in the steady, even heat of the oven keeps it from cooking too fast, which can turn it tough and dry. A relatively low 275 degrees is the perfect compromise between too fast and frustratingly slow, resulting in tender, excellent duck in just over 3 hours.
Frisée Salad with Duck Leg Confit and Cranberry GastriqueA traditional French method produces succulent, luxurious results.
While this confit is exceptional when crisped up and eaten the same day that it’s slow cooked, it can be made up to a month in advance, and it only gets better as it waits under the blanket of luxurious fat.
Reach for it at a moment’s notice to pair with a simple salad for a quick meal, or make it ahead for a festive treat on a special occasion. Either way, this classic preparation will prove incomparably satisfying.