Let me begin by stating the fact that I haven’t ever in my life, or my professional kitchen life, have cooked a Duck Confit. My first encounter with this dish was about seven years ago, in the professional theory cookbook each and every Culinary student has had to have to survive all the food theory classes and practical laboratory exercises as drawn and summarized by the faculty on its student manual. Those manuals were as vague as the step-by-step procedure written down on the two pages of the cookbook about the Duck Confit. I didn’t understand nor comprehend any of the required processes in arriving to the final product. It was, likewise, never taught in Culinary School; guessing that the duck was too costly for each student to experiment on. Moreover, the duck, particularly the Roast Duck, for me, at that time was mainly reserved to be had in Chinatown eateries and was an elegant and expensive bird or game to have for dinner; as many would have also thought. I stuck to cheap cuts as always, but kept my eyes constantly open for an affordable fresh duck somewhere. Most Canadian superstores sold them frozen at very steep prices and I was not buying one for the same reason. I recently discovered frozen ducks in Chinatown which was half the price and were imported from the USA. That was a clear invitation which led me to this duck season.
I was very happy with the Magret, and wished I had cooked more. After about a week at looking and comparing recipes and interpreting the proper procedures in handling a duck for a classic confit, I finally started and made one. I did a step every night for a week until I was able to preserve enough portions for supper or lunch on my days-off. Making the Duck Confit is not really as elaborate as I imagined it would have been, however, it cannot be hurried like a stir-fry or a quick roast. Preparation takes TIME: 4-6 hours for curing, another 4-5 hours of poaching, and maybe another hour or two for straining the oil and preserving the duck before even finally arriving to the actual cooking part. Nevertheless, with all the duck parts preserved, a Duck Confit is only dish from many other sub-dishes which can be derived from preserving these luxurious birds. Hopefully, I’d be able to tackle and extract something more extraordinarily Filipino with all the preserved duck parts I have now.
- Duck Legs
- Sea Salt
- Duck fat
- Black peppercorns
- Fingerling potatoes, boiled
Rub the duck legs with sea salt, minced garlic and finely chopped Thyme. Leave them in an air tight container, adding more sea salt on top of each leg as you go. Refrigerate for 4-6 hours.
Rinse the salt and the aromatics in cold, running water and strain or pat-dry with a towel.
Set a couple of garlic cloves, black peppercorns, Thyme sprigs and a bayleaf in a roasting pan. Set the duck legs after and slowly pour enough duck fat into the roasting pan; an appropriate amount to cover each one. Insert the roasting pan in a pre-heated 100’C oven and poach (oil in a slow murmur) the duck legs for another four hours or until the legs become tender. Remove from the oven and let the pan cool down a bit. Take the legs out of the pan and strain the oil into another container. Return the legs back into the strained oil and refrigerate.
Pan-fry each leg until golden brown using the same duck fat in which the legs were preserved. Do the same with the potatoes, and sprinkle some finely chopped Thyme as garnish. I roasted the potatoes at higher temperature to crisp up the skin.
The salt will help preserve the ducks. This curing process took me back several decades back in time, when growing up, I ate heavily salted and smoked fish from the Philippines. They had to be rinsed-off just the same to remove some of the biting saltiness originating from endless days of drying and preserving before they were packed and sold. I had the same idea in mind when I was making the confit. Salt is as essential as if not as important to making the legs last for quite a long time.
I was also able to extract enough duck fat from the excess skin from the duck I butchered and carved into six portions: two legs, two breast, and two wings. The skin was similar to the Filipino’s Chicken Skin beer-match appetizer. That didn’t go to waste. I kept the carcass in the freezer for future use, and the wings were cut into two and cooked together with the legs. I also included a breast just to see how it can take the entire curing and poaching process for which maybe I may also have a use in the future. I have ideas, but that would be later.
Treat the oil like or similar to butter. It has been infused with flavours and that would further enhance salad dressings and other dishes requiring pan-frying.
Potatoes cooked in duck fat are called ‘Pommes de Terre Sarladaise’ in French. I paired them with the leg and excluded the usual garden fresh salad which was also regularly served with the Duck Confit back in Paris. I prepare salads almost every day and would rather avoid it as much as I can. Baby Bok Choys can be a presentable substitute, too.
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