Oh, how I love duck confit. The crisp skin, the unctuous flavorful meat. There are few things better. Seriously. It’s up there with bacon. Not only is the taste of it profound, the very idea of it is too. Here, the ultimate in utilitarian food techniques—preserving ducks in the fall to enjoy throughout the winter—transforms the duck into something spectacular. Beans you grow and preserve yourself, whether by pickling or canning, are never as good as straight off the vine and quickly boiled. But duck only gets better with time. The above duck had been in the basement fridge, submerged in fat, since November.
Duck and olives is a perfect combination with infinite variations. Here I’m using cerignola olives, the lightly cured, meaty olives grown in the Italian region of Puglia—along with a salad of arugula and red onion macerated in sherry vinegar.
Why don’t people make more duck confit at home? It should be a staple, something you always have on hand. Need a quick canapé for surprise guests, duck confit on a crouton spread with a little Dijon. Use it to fill a ravioli or a crepe. It turns some plain white beans into a fantastic dish. It would make an awesome hash.
One reason people don’t make it more oftne is perhaps because most recipes call for quarts of duck fat to poach it in. But I’m here to say, olive oil is just as good. Salt and season it for a day, rinse it off, and poach it in a low oven in olive oil for 8 hours or until the fat is clear and the legs have sunk to the bottom of the pot. Chill it completely and it’s ready to go.
I’m crazy for confit, and in Charcuterie we’ve got recipes for duck with ginger and star anise, peppery goose confit, pork confit, pork belly confit (heart-rendingly delicious) and rillettes made from confit. Here’s a basic confit from the book, slightly amended:
Olive Oil Poached Duck Confit:
6 duck legs, about 5 pounds/2.25 kilograms
Salt as needed (or if you’re unsure use .3 ounces of salt per pound/8 grams per 500 grams of duck)
4 whole cloves
3 cloves/25 grams garlic
3 bay leaves
olive oil as needed
1. Sprinkle duck pieces all over with salt, a generous amount, the way you would a roast chicken or thick steak before you cook it.
2. Roughly chop cloves and peppercorns with a knife and distribute evenly over the duck pieces
3. Slice garlic and press slices onto each piece of duck
4. Break bay leaves in half and press one half leaf onto each piece of duck.
5. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 48 hours.
6. Rinse ducks under cold water, wiping off all garlic and seasonings. Pat dry.
7. Place legs in a pot and cover with olive oil. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat, then place uncovered in a low oven (180 degrees F./80 degrees C. is optimal for 6 to 10 hours or until the legs are completely tender, the fat has become clear, and the legs rest on the bottom of the pan.
8. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature then refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Be sure the duck is completely submerged. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to a month.
9. The day you plan to serve the confit, remove it from the fridge several hours before reheating to allow fat to soften. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F./220 degrees C. Remove the legs from the fat. Place them in a pan or on a baking sheet and roast until the meat is warmed through and the skin is crispy, 15 to 20 minutes. If you want a really fast and quick way to ensure crispy skin, simply deep fry them for a minute or two!
UPDATE 3/15: Thanks for the lively conversation and comments! Natalie, poach duck in fat–you will be amazed! You're not eating all that fat! Victoria, I don't know why Jessica's Biscuit has Ratio already?! I'm not ready! General responses: of course duck fat is better to use, though frankly i think the cure has more influence on the flavor than the fat. So regular olive oil, not expensive evo, is fine. I get duck legs at our farmers market, but i have also bought a regular long island duck at the grocery store, and rendered all the fat I could, saving only the breasts and skin, and it was just enough to confit the legs. Sous vide is a great method, especially in that it allows you to confit with less fat. Cookbooks say you can keep it for a month because they're afraid, I guess. Duck fat sets up better than olive oil so it's better for preserving but olive oil is fine if refrigerated. If you want to preserve for a long time, put the legs in a container and pour only the fat over them (reserving the gelatious salty stock for a sauce or vinaigrette). It will keep in fridge indefinitely if it's stored well. Reuse the fat until it gets too salty, a few times or so. And you can confit many meats this way. The more confit in this world, the better the world will be, that's all there is to it.