Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Duck Confit: works better than a government bailout!

The great duck confit deed has been done, and like the government's bailout of the American financial system, it was an unqualified success! What...what's that? The bailout isn't working? And I soon won't be able to afford to eat duck legs? AND I won't have a home to cook them in?? Hmmm, better rethink my definition of success........

Well, even if the government doesn't get everything right, I did when I followed Michael Ruhlman's duck confit recipe (with a couple of adjustments) he posted on his blog. As I stated in a previous post about this very recipe, duck confit is one of the greatest of God's inventions. Moist, succulent meat, a cap of crispy skin around it with that meltingly tender layer of fat underneath. Mmm, just thinking about it makes me have that certain......yearning. And before last week, to satisfy it I always had to go and have someone else take care of my needs. No longer, though, as all I found I needed was a few duck legs (I got mine in Portland at Nicky USA), a whole lot of olive oil, and plenty of time. Luckily, I was fat in all three categories.

Ruhlman's method was to poach the legs in olive oil rather than the traditional duck fat. Which was good, because going to Trader Joe's and grabbing a liter of olive oil was much easier than buying a tub of duck fat. Although I have always wanted to have a tub of duck fat. Just because. Actually it took about a liter-and-a-half to cover the legs (I did two legs in this initial attempt), which is why I used regular oil rather than EVOO. Never having done it, I was worried that the legs might somehow become too infused with the oil flavor after nine hours of poaching (I told you it takes time), but they didn't pick up any oiliness at all. In his recipe he recommends roasting them in the oven to crisp them up after the poaching. I don't know if his oven is different than mine, but that didn't work at all. After keeping them in the oven and seeing no such crisping of skin and worrying about my labor of love drying out, I yanked them out and crisped them in my cast iron fry pan, which is what I should have done in the first place. And I have to say they turned out spectacularly. The meat was very tender, there was this nice layer of fat under the dark, crisp skin. With each bite I knew my life had somehow just changed for the better!
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Olive Oil Poached Duck Confit
adapted from Michael Ruhlman

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
6 peppercorns
3 cloves/25 grams garlic
3 bay leaves
olive oil as needed

1. Trim excess fat from duck legs and reserve. 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.
the legs after application of flavoring agents
before they
went to rest in the cold confines of the fridge
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.
the legs right before they get their poach on
7. Take reserved duck fat, if you have any, and place in poaching pot. 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.
out of the oven, ready for the pan
9. The day you plan to serve the confit, remove it from the fridge several hours before reheating to allow fat to soften. Remove the legs from the fat. Place them skin side down in a preheated sauté pan (preferably cast iron) that has been over medium-high heat. Fry until the skins is crisp, but be careful not to burn. Turn over, and fry for another minue or two. Serve immediately.

bb's cook's note: I took some advice I saw from a similar recipe that Emiril did on FoodTV and strained and refridgerated the lightly duck leg-infused leftover olive oil for future use lke roasting potatoes, sautéing vegetables, etc. He said the oil should last, covered, for up to a month in the fridge.
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one year ago @ E.D.T: an unusual, and unusually delicious recipe for Bucatini with Raw Nut Pesto and Tomato Sauce


Anonymous said...

This looks delicious. I really like the idea of poaching the duck legs in the olive oil - at least in my head, it cuts down on the saturated fat but doesn't eliminate flavor.

dp said...

I've been waiting for this update! Awesome!

I'm glad to hear that the olive oil didn't leave too strong a flavor. Much more heart-friendly ;-)

BTW, I got duck fat from New Seasons. They always have some in their freezer. But I guess we won't need that now.

And I heard that they do a chicken leg confit at Sel Gris. I might give that a go. Simple but decadent, right?

bb said... did nothing but good things. this was really a revelation.

dp...I suppose heart friendly is good. I mean i would use duck fat if it didn't take so much. I've heard that New Seasons is a good source for that most delicious of fattiness. Lots of places do it. I was underwhelmed recently at Sel Gris. I did have a great one at EVOE up by Pastaworks on Hawthorne (which you MUST go to!) a couple weekends ago.

dp said...

I do remember you saying you weren't too impressed about your dinner at Sel Gris. Too bad. And EVOE is on the list!

bb said...

dp...when you go to EVOE I'd be curious to know what you think. shoot me a message and let me know!

Larissa said...

Mmm...I haven't had duck in a long time. This looks divine.

bb said...

larissa...It is quite divine. For as little work as it requires it really delivers!

Beth said...

Quick question, if I don't plan to use all the legs at once, should I still take the whole thing out of the fridge and let the fat soften before using a few? Or should I just remove what I need and let those sit out covered?

I'm interested to see how mine will turn out, this is my first attempt, and looking at your photos I think I trimmed my legs much more than yours (mine appear mostly red, though I did leave some fat on) and I'm wondering if that will affect the taste.

bb said...

beth...I would just take what you need out of the fridge and leave the rest in the bowl.

It's pretty foolproof. I left more fat on because so much melts off, and I love that crispy fatty goodness! Good luck....would love to hear how they turn out!