Football has started, the sky is slate, the air is cold and winter will be here soon. One of the very few excellent things about winter in Cleveland—besides surfing on Lake Erie (see No Rez Cleveland) and Sunday morning fires on the hearth—is the opportunity to eat duck confit all winter long. Best part about duck confit is, make it once, and you've got it on hand till April—it's always there for you. Whether for an impromptu lunch or a fancy dinner (I'm planning a cassoulet for an old friend next Friday), or a last-minute appetizer for last-minute guests.
On Saturday I picked up 12 gorgeous duck legs from Plum Creek Farm. Because I was doing a variation on this pickled chillis recipe that day, I thought I'd use similar seasonings in the cure for the duck.
There are three simple steps to awesome duck confit:
1. Cure (optional but recommended, especially if storing for months): Give each leg an aggressive four-fingered pinch of coarse kosher salt and refrigerate for 24 hours. That's all. Do you want to add flavors? Add them now. Thomas Keller prefers a simple confit, salt, pepper, maybe some thyme and garlic. I've decided to be aggressive with the seasonings (above): plenty of toasted and coarsely cracked black pepper and coriander, brown sugar, garlic and some oregano and thyme for depth of flavor. I'm in Detroit working with Brian today on Salumi, so these will be on the cure for several days, all the better.
2. Rinse and cook: Rinse off the cure and seasonings, return them to the pot, cover them with fat (I use olive oil, gives it a great flavor; they need to be completely covered), and put them in a 20 degree oven for 6 to 8 hours.
3. Chill and reheat: Allow them to cool submerged in the fat for at least 24 hours, but the longer you wait, three to four months is optimal, the better. Reheat them in a hot oven till the skin is crisp and the meat is heated through. (Olive oil can be reused for vinaigrettes, warm for a duck confit salad, for instance; use your imagination.)
Ideas for using duck confit:
On a salad of arugula or spinach, see impromptu lunch above (add a poached egg for more heft).
Cook with white beans (and sausage and pork belly if you wish).
Got company? Pull a few legs from the fat, reheat in a hot oven, then pull the meat from the bone, separate the skin from the meat, finely chop the skin, mix it all together with some finely minced shallot and black pepper to make duck rillettes. Serve with Dijon mustard on croutons for a great canape.
Duck confit is a truly generous creation. There are plenty of confit recipes in Charcuterie, and the link to the impromptu lunch includes an exact recipe, but it's easy to wing this one with whatever seasonings you have on hand.