Duck Confit

Damn you Terry Durack, damn you to hell.  A piece he wrote for Vogue Entertaining in 2004 has had me hooked on goose fat ever since.  For this, I thank him.  What I curse him for is the light and healthy campaign – with accompanying cookbook – he and his wife, Jill Dupleix, embarked upon some years later.  You can’t create the addict then crusade against the drug!  If I met him I would like to slap his cheeks with that book.

Confit is a method of cooking where meat that has been rubbed with salt and left overnight to remove excess moisture  is then cooked slowly covered in fat.  Its an old way of preserving meat before refrigeration was invented, but it also happens to be a fantastic way to cook it.

Duck confit is stunning – the meat retains all its moisture and texture in its goose fat-bath, yet it still crumbles off the bone and the flavour is intense.  If you’ve never made it I urge you to try it, because its also surprisingly easy.

Once you’ve made duck confit, you can use the duck pieces in a variety of ways – crisp them up in the oven and serve as you would a roast, make a cassoulet, or shred the meat off the bones and put on top of crostinis for an entrée, as I have done in the photo here.  See below the recipe for how to make these.  This recipe is my adaptation of the Diane Holuigue method Terry reproduced in Vogue Entertaining in the aforementioned article. You will need to start this the day before you wish to use the cooked duck.

If you are reeling at the health implications of goose fat, remember that you hardly actually consume any of the fat the meat is cooked in. Besides, you would probably make this dish once or twice a year. Its hardly going to matter.  The French cook in goose fat all the time, and they are neither obese nor over-represented in heart disease statistics.  Far worse, in my book, to eat plasticky margarine every day. Urgh.

  • 6 duck marylands
  • 4 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled & squashed a bit
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 2 x 320 gram jars of goose fat (from delis, markets, specialty stores)

Rub the duck legs with the salt and thyme, place in a bowl, cover with clingwrap and leave overnight in the fridge.

The next day, rinse off all the salt and pat dry thoroughly with a clean tea towel.  Place the duck pieces in a heavy casserole or baking dish with the garlic cloves and bay leaves.

Melt the goose fat in the microwave (you can just put the jars straight in the microwave, without the metal lids of course).

Pour the melted fat over the duck, enough to cover completely.  Two jars should be just enough for the amount of duck you have, but you may need more depending on your baking dish size.  Carefully place the dish in the oven (uncovered) and cook over the lowest heat possible, so the bubbles barely break the surface, for two and a half hours.

If you are using the duck legs straight away, put them in a new, dry roasting pan or non stick tray, and bake on a high heat (about 200c) for 15 minutes.

If you are storing the duck for later use, say in a cassoulet, transfer the duck pieces to a lidded heatproof or ceramic pot and strain the fat over to cover completely.  When cooled, seal the jar and refrigerate for up to six months.

Leftover goose fat can be strained into a clean dry jar, kept in the fridge and used for roast potatoes.

To make the crostini in the picture: remove the duck pieces from the goose fat, put on a baking dish to crisp up a little and render any fat away. Remove the meat – this won’t be hard! – shred, place on top of garlic crostinis and top with my caramelised onions:


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