Duck Confit

29 January 2014

Post image for Duck Confit

Confit de Canard is a classic dish found in many Parisian bistros, and it is a dish which my mother-in-law likes to serve whenever we visit. After one of our trips to France late last year, I felt compelled to recreate this dish at home, primarily because I didn’t want to wait so long before eating it again.

Duck Confit is essentially duck slow-cooked in its own fat until it is meltingly tender, and then seared in a pan until the skin is golden and crispy just before serving. It could perhaps be described as the up-market, heart-stopping version of fried chicken, only so much more grown-up and more revered.

Duck legs (typically the drumstick with the thigh attached and sometimes called marylands) are normally used in this recipe but duck breasts also work quite well. The duck is often salted and seasoned generously for 1-2 days to draw out moisture, before being submerged in duck fat and then cooked at a very low temperature until the meat is deliciously tender. Most recipes call for a temperature around 100°C (212°F) – the fat should barely be simmering, or else you run the risk of deep-frying your duck.

Once cooked, the duck can be stored in a clean container, completely covered with more duck fat, and kept in the fridge for about a month. In fact, the recipe for Duck Confit originated from south-western France and came about as a method of preserving duck for long periods of time.

duck confit 2.collage

Unless you live on a farm and are in the habit of rendering down whole ducks for their fat, you will have to buy duck fat which either come in tins or glass jars sold in the refrigerated section. During the cooking process, the duck will render some of its own fat, as well as flavour, into the cooking fat. For this reason, it’s a good idea to keep the leftover duck fat to add extra depth of flavour in a later batch of Duck Confit, or to simply use for the best roast potatoes you will ever taste.

To serve the duck, either straight from slow-cooking or after it has been preserved in the fridge, simply heat a large frying pan and cook the duck legs (or breasts) until the skin is nice and crispy, a benchmark of a good Duck Confit. You shouldn’t need to add oil to the pan as there should be plenty from the duck.

duck confit 2

As with most classic French dishes, there exists a wealth of recipes for Duck Confit.

In French Food Safari, Michael Smith shares a recipe which doesn’t require overnight salting and can be prepared all in the same day. The duck, however, does require up to 1.5 hours of salting with an aromatic rub of peppercorns, juniper berries, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and lemon zest.

Thomas Keller also employs a dry marinade of salt and fresh herbs (including parsley), but cooks the duck at a much lower temperature of 88°C (190°F) for 10-12 hours. In Bouchon, Keller’s recipe for Duck Confit with Brussel Sprouts and Mustard Sauce is one of my favourite ways of serving Duck Confit.

I was surprised to find that the “Chef of the Century”, Joël Robuchon, had a fairly simple recipe for Duck Confit in his compendium, The Complete Robuchon. His salt rub is flavoured with garlic, fresh thyme, cloves and cracked pepper, but, unusually, he adds water to the duck fat to prevent the meat from colouring too much.

Perhaps the simplest recipe I have tried, and which reminds me most of Duck Confit I have eaten in restaurants, is one by Stéphane Renaud in Ripailles, or French Feasts as it is called in the US. The recipe below is an adaptation of Renaud’s recipe, although his book also gives an illustrated description of how to preserve Duck Confit in sealed glass jars for up to 6 months – a handy recipe if you find yourself with a lot of duck to use up.

duck confit 3

If you thought Duck Confit on its own would already exceed your week’s intake of calories, the dish is traditionally served with pommes de terre à la Sarladaise, which are slices of potatoes cooked in duck fat (think coin-sized French fries). If you are going to indulge, you may as well do it properly.

Perhaps a more restrained way of eating Duck Confit is with a simple green salad dressed with a spikey vinaigrette to offset the richness of the duck. My mother-in-law simply serves boiled potatoes alongside.

But potatoes roasted in duck fat are my favourite accompaniment to Duck Confit. Simply parboil some chopped potatoes and roast in a stainless steel pan which has been pre-heated with about 1 cm (1/2 inch) layer of duck fat. Coat the potatoes in the hot duck fat before putting the pan back in the oven for about 45-60 minutes until the potatoes are golden and crispy (the timing will depend a bit on how big your potatoes are).

Go for a brisk walk or a long jog the next day to offset the calories. Bon appétit!

Duck Confit
Recipe adapted from Ripailles by Stéphane Renaud
Serves 4

duck-confit-recipe

Cook’s Notes

If you are not serving the Duck Confit right away, place the duck into a clean container, preferably made from glass or ceramic. Strain the leftover duck fat into a large bowl or jug, taking care not to catch any of the brown meat juices which should be discarded. Completely cover the duck with the strained duck fat, and leave to cool to room temperature. Cover the container and keep in the fridge for up to 1 month. Joël Robuchon gives further instructions to heat enough lard to cover the (set) duck fat by 1 to 2 cm as a method of keeping the confit for longer. Once the lard has set, press a piece of parchment paper onto the lard, completely cover the container and store in the fridge for 5-6 months.

To prepare Duck Confit after it has been preserved, let the container come to room temperature or until the duck can be easily removed from the duck fat in one piece. You could also gently warm the container in a very low oven which will melt the duck fat, allowing you to easily remove the duck.

Any leftover duck fat should be strained of any brown meat juices and kept in a sterilised glass jar in the fridge.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Silver Magpies 29 January 2014 at 10:49 pm

Oh, I haven’t had duck confit in ages! You’ve inspired me….just the thing for a freezing cold weekend.

Thanks.
Nan

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eat, little bird 29 January 2014 at 11:02 pm

Enjoy! It’s a definitely a dish to make when you have time to potter about at home.

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Paula 29 January 2014 at 10:58 pm

Great to see this recipe here!! :) And the instagram photo is great too, your mother in law knows what she does!!

Althought duck leg is my favorite part to confit, confit magret makes a sensational salad. And don’t tell me about potatos roasted in duck fat, the best for me!!

I always think about buying a Stéphane Renaud book, are they a must-have?? :P

Congratulations for your mention in Rachel Khoo’s blog. I almost get excited when I saw it!! Silly me!! :P

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eat, little bird 29 January 2014 at 11:17 pm

Hi Paula,
I also love confit magret. When I was experimenting with recipes, I also used duck breasts and found that they were just delicious shredded in salads. We even ate it Chinese-style with spring onion pancakes and plum sauce!

We received all of the cookbooks by Stéphane Renaud as a gift. They are quite wonderful to have, especially for reading if you are into French food. However, I must admit that I don’t cook from them so often. I seem to use them more as a reference or for comparison.

P.S. I was also very excited to be mentioned on Rachel Khoo’s website! It’s such an honour considering how much I enjoy her recipes :-)

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Donna 29 January 2014 at 10:59 pm

Duck confit is one of my favorite foods in the whole world! I am now inspired to make a batch (which I haven’t done in a very long time) Absolutely lovely!

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eat, little bird 29 January 2014 at 11:19 pm

Great to know of another fan! And that you have also cooked this before yourself. Winter always seems to be a good time for this sort of cooking :-)

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Jennifer @ Delicious Everyday 29 January 2014 at 11:09 pm

I agree with the sentiment that if you are going to indulge you may as well do it properly. :) I know my hubby would love this as he just adores duck!

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eat, little bird 29 January 2014 at 11:23 pm

One of the first meals I seek out when we are in Paris is duck confit with fried potatoes. It feels rather sinful, but then I’ve been denied fried chicken ever since moving to Switzerland (it’s practically non-existent here), and so it’s a rather rare indulgence, I think :-)

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The Food Sage 30 January 2014 at 10:42 am

10/10 and a gold star for doing your homework and comparing recipes … and top marks for sharing your own adaptation because i absolutely love duck confit. I’ll be giving it a try … but doubt i’d ever have the willpower to store this gorgeous meat for 6 months! Thanks so much for this.

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eat, little bird 31 January 2014 at 1:16 pm

For some reason, I always thought making duck confit would be really complicated, but it’s rather easy – it just requires time and preparation. So I had a lot of fun comparing recipes for duck confit :-) We’ve probably eaten more duck confit in the last few months than would be recommended, but it’s addictive!

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Caroline @ The Patterned Plate 1 February 2014 at 11:58 am

Fantastic! I love Duck Confit but never attempted it at home. I indulged in it completely when I visited France a few years ago. And yes, with potatoes roasted in duck fat please, might as well enjoy it to the max! This is taking your homework seriously Thanh, though I doubt your husband would be complaining with such a delicious meal made so regularly!

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Rushi 3 February 2014 at 8:31 am

Brilliant post Thanh, this is something that I must try sooner rather than later. Mmmmm potatoes in duck fat :D

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What Jessica Baked Next... 6 February 2014 at 12:58 pm

This looks so delicious- love duck confit and the potatoes look so amazingly crisp too! :)

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