Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 large duck legs and thighs (attached), about 3 pounds
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon juniper berries
  • 15 sprigs fresh thyme
  • About 4 cups rendered duck fat or lard

This recipe contains: Meat

Recipe notes: Duck fat is delicious for cooking potatoes and other dishes. To render, that is, melt, the fat off the skin, put it in a pot with 1/4 cup water and set over medium-low heat. Cook until the fat has melted, the water has evaporated, and the skin has lightly browned, about 40 minutes. Strain and discard the skin. The rendered fat will keep in the fridge or freezer for months. The confit is best if it is made well in advance—up to a month or more. But it can be eaten as soon as it is made. The confit will keep covered in fat for months in the refrigerator. Leftovers can be used in anything that calls for cooked meat, such as duck salad, hash, or stuffing.

RECIPE

Duck Confit

Mitchell Davis

Executive Vice President, the James Beard Foundation; author of Kitchen Sense (Clarkson Potter, 2006), Host of Taste Matters on Herirage Radio Network

"Confit is an old French technique for preserving duck legs in fat. Although most people no longer have to keep duck through the winter without refrigeration, the technique is still used a lot because it makes for delicious eating. The only difficult part is coming across enough luscious duck fat—you can order it from www.hudsonvalleyfoiegras.com or www.dartagnan.com. You can render duck fat yourself, or you can substitute lard. Once you make confit, you can keep it in the fridge for months."

–Mitchell Davis

Yield: 4 servings

Method:

Place the salt in a bowl and blend with the sugar. Holding one duck leg at a time over the bowl, rub a generous amount of the salt-sugar mixture all over the leg, into the skin and flesh. Repeat with the remaining legs. In the bowl or another container, pack the salted legs on top of each other, layering them with the peppercorns, juniper berries, and thyme. Sprinkle with any remaining salt mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours.

The next day, unpack the duck legs and rub off any salt and spices with paper towels. Pat dry. Melt the fat or lard in a wide heavy-bottomed pot just big enough to hold the legs. Add the duck to the fat; it should be submerged. Simmer the duck very slowly for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat browns, shrinks off the bone, and is very tender when pricked with the point of a knife. The fat should never go much above 220ºF during the cooking time. Remove the pot from the heat and let the duck cool in the fat to room temperature. You can either eat the duck as it or transfer it to a storage container, cover with the strained fat, and chill until ready to use.

To serve the duck, pull a leg piece out of the fat, being careful not to pull out the bone and leave the meat behind. If you can't get the piece out, you can let the fat come to room temperature, heat it in a microwave, or warm it in a water bath in a large pot on the stove. Scrape any excess fat off the meat. Heat a dry frying pan, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat and place the leg in the pan, skin side down, to crisp up and heat through before serving, about 6 minutes. (Alternatively, you can brown and crisp the duck, skin side up, under a broiler for about 8 minutes.)