If you're a fan of cooking shows, by now you have heard the term duck confit (sounds like duck confee or duck cofee). I was always impressed when fancy chefs said they had made duck confit, and I imagined some torturously difficult dish. Turns out it's an old method of cooking that preserves the meat. The duck was salted rather heavily, then cooked low and slow to release the fat. The meat was stored beneath the rendered fat for up to one month. Pretty handy in the old days. The recipes today vary a little bit from the old method. The good news is that you can make a version of this delicious dish at home very easily!
You know me, I had to make a change. Most recipes call for 6-8 duck legs. Yeah, well, I'm imagining that housewives in France 100 years ago probably didn't slaughter 3-4 ducks just so they could make the confit. And I'm thinking hunters didn't bring home 8-legged ducks. Where I live, ducks are sold frozen, and I wasn't about to buy 3 or 4 just for the legs, so I used the whole duck -- as I imagine French housewives once did. If you happen to find a duck already cut into pieces or your duck won't fit into your Dutch oven, I would think this would work every bit as well with a cut-up duck.
Since we're not actually going to use this method to conserve the duck, we don't have to over salt it or let it sit in salt for days before it's cooked. But, we do need a Dutch oven. One of the very lovely things about this dish is that it requires so little attention. It cooks for 4 1/2 to 5 hours and only requires attention twice after the initial preparation. This is the perfect dish for writers -- pop it in the oven and write for two hours!
I will say that a roast duck makes a prettier presentation, but it's hard to beat the flavor of the duck confit. Most recipes for duck confit have some kind of sauce. Aha, it dawns on me that this could be the reason for the sauces. I should have cut a portion, topped it with the sauce, and photographed it. Frankly, we were such piggies that we dug right in! We forgot all about the sauce and the camera. Sauce is not necessary. This sauce is kind of a no brainer, and tasted fabulous, even without duck.
I bought the duck at my farmer's market from a local farmer. It weighed 2.75 pounds, so was on the small side. It's usually my rule of thumb that one duck feeds two people, three if they are light eaters and there are lots of great side dishes. Ducks don't have a lot of meat compared to chickens, but oh my -- is the meat good! The long slow cooking process produces meat so tender that the duck will nearly fall apart.
Keep the rendered fat from the duck to use in other recipes. I cooked potatoes, then, when the duck was removed from the Dutch oven, I sliced the potatoes and fried them in a few tablespoons of the duck fat. The fat is also good with vegetables like green beans. I think some people even scramble eggs in it for the delicious flavor.
Whole Duck Confit
4 cloves of garlic or 1 1/2 elephant garlic cloves
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Preheat the oven to 250.
Place the duck into a Dutch oven. Cut the garlic into thin slices and rub all over the duck, allowing the excess bits to fall into the bottom of the Dutch oven. Rub the Kosher salt on the duck. Pepper to taste. Prick the skin of the duck all over to release the fat as it cooks.
Turn the duck breast side down and nestle into the Dutch oven. Sprinkle the thyme around the duck and add 1/2 cup of water. Place the lid on the Dutch oven and cook for 2 hours.
After 2 hours, flip the duck over, breast side up. Cook another 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
Meanwhile start sauce and side dishes.
Remove the Dutch oven from the oven and turn the heat up to 400. Place the duck, breast side up, on a baking sheet or roasting pan and roast at 400 for 30 - 35 minutes or until the skin has crisped up.
Save the fat in the bottom of the Dutch oven. It will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks.
After refrigerating, the fat will separate and rise to the top.
Blueberry Cognac Reduction
8 ounces of blueberries (frozen are fine)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Cognac
1/2 cup chicken broth
salt to taste (I salted toward the end because the amount of salt in broth differs widely.)
Bring all ingredients to a boil and lower heat to a simmer. Simmer (without a cover!) about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. It should reduce in volume by about 1/2.