The confit cooking technique was used to cook and preserve duck legs in the days before refrigeration. Duck legs are salted before being cooked in duck fat at a low temperature for a long period of time which results in extremely tender meat that falls off the bone. This recipe for confit duck legs is courtesy of David McAninch, from his book Duck Season.
“Gascon cooks usually make confit in large quantities, in the fall, and preserve the meat in sterilized jars or cans, but you can make confit in small batches for more-immediate enjoyment at any time of year — if you’re able to find enough rendered duck fat. Ask your butcher for some, or order a container of it from the specialty-foods purveyor D’Artagnan.” — David McAninch
- 4 whole duck legs
- 4 kosher salt
- 2 Tablespoons minced fresh thyme
- 6 Cups rendered duck fat
- 1 bouquet garni (3 sprigs parsley, 3 sprigs thyme, 1 bay leaf tied together in cheesecloth
- 1 medium onion, quartered
- 1 garlic cloves, peeled
Trim any excess skin from the duck legs and reserve the trimmings for cracklings.
Mix the salt, thyme, and pepper in a bowl. Rub the seasoning mixture onto the duck legs.
Cover the duck with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours.
The next day, rinse the duck legs and pat them dry.
Place the duck legs, skin side down, in the bottom of a large cast-iron Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot. Turn the heat to medium and cook until some of the fat has rendered out from the skin, about 5 minutes.
Transfer the duck to a plate, add the additional rendered duck fat to the Dutch oven, and let the fat melt.
Return the duck legs to the Dutch oven, submerge them completely in the fat, and let the fat come to a steady simmer over medium-low heat, about 20 minutes.
An instant-read thermometer inserted into the fat should read 200 degrees F.
Add the bouquet garni, onion, and garlic and continue cooking, covered, for another 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours, stirring gently from time to time, until the duck is tender when pierced with a fork.
Remove and discard the onion, garlic, and bouquet garni. Let the duck cool in its cooking fat to room temperature, then cover the Dutch oven and refrigerate, making sure the duck pieces are covered completely in the fat. (You can also transfer the duck and its fat to another container, if you want.) The duck will keep, fully covered in fat, for up to 3 weeks.
When ready to serve the duck, remove the pieces from the fat and bake them, skin side up, in a 400 degree F oven until the skin is golden and crisp and the duck is heated through, 30 to 40 minutes.
From the book: DUCK SEASON: Eating, Drinking and Other Misadventures in Gascony—France's Last Best Place by David McAninch. Copyright © 2017 by David McAninch. Reprinted courtesy of Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.