Don’t you just love confit duck? Those crispy, glistening, moist and luscious ducky legs so beloved of the French? Often served with equally fattening cubed potatoes fried in duck fat and a crisp green salad, Confit duck is a French classic that is surprisingly easy to make and, because it keeps for ages, is a brilliant get ahead dish to serve at Christmas!
Here’s a really simple method, so you too can get a jar, with its promise of simple but delicious Christmassy supper in 30 minutes. We’ll have ours on the big day itself with my Fennel and Coriander Rubber Pork belly as well. Delish! This recipe is for 4-6 duck legs.
Step One: Cure the Duck Legs
Put the duck legs flesh side up in a single layer in an earthenware dish. In a mortar and pestle gently crush 1 tablespoon of peppercorns, 30 grams of rock salt, and 3 bay leaves. Add the leaves from 3 or 4 sprigs of thyme, and 6 cloves of garlic finely sliced. Sprinkle all over the duck legs and massage in gently. Cover with clingfilm and leave to cure overnight or for up to 48 hours. I once left them for 72 hours and they were still fine if a little over salty!
Step Two: Confit the Duck Legs
All confit-ing means is cooking gently in its own fat – it’s really like poaching in fat. So you’ll need a lot of duck fat! Once you done this once, keep the fat you’ve used in a clean kilner jar – it’ll keep forever in the fridge, makes wonderful roast or fried potatoes, and will be there for the next time you want to confit duck. First time round you’ll need to buy your duck fat, but happily this is now available from most supermarkets in little tubs. You’re going to need 3 or 4 tubs.
So remove your duck legs from their curing dish, and rinse off the excess salt and spices and pat the legs dry. Put them in the bottom of a heavy based lidded casserole dish. Melt your duck fat gently – it musn’t boil – and pour over your duck legs, covering them. If the meat is not quite covered by the duck fat, turn the legs once or twice during cooking. Cover your casserole and put it in a preheated oven at 140 degrees C for 2 hours, after which time there will be the most wonderful ducky aroma in your kitchen.
Step Three : Store the Duck legs
Once the legs are cooked and very tender, you need to store them in a suitable container. I like to put mine in a tall clip top jar as it seems rather authentic but any lidded container will do, or even the dish you’ve confit-ed them in – as long as you can exclude air and the duck is completely covered in fat. They benefit from at least a week in storage and I’ve used them 3 months later and found them delicious, but if you’re going to use them in a couple of days, frankly, I’d cool them in the fat and store in the cooking pot! If storing in the fridge for a while, it makes sense to me to sterilise the jar I’m using as an extra precaution. To do this I simply put the jars in a super hot dishwasher cycle and use them hot. So…carefully put your duck legs into your jar or container, and pour over enough fat to cover. They need to be completely covered now as all air needs to be excluded. Fill your jar as close to the top as you can get. Seal and put in your fridge. You may feel rather smug at this point!
Step Four: Cook the Duck legs
Traditionally the duck legs are pan fried skin side down before serving but I have always preferred to roast the duck legs on a stoneware dish. To remove them from the jar or container I usually melt the fat by standing it in a large bowl of hot water. But don’t throw the fat away – put it in another jar or container and keep it in the fridge. It’s very precious stuff! Before roasting the duck legs don’t look too appetising – rather pale and fatty – but after roasting in a hot oven at 200 degrees C for about 25 minutes or until piping hot, they will have crisped up, browned nicely and be lip-smackingly tender and tasty. We’ll be serving ours Christmas day with all the usual accompaniments but otherwise serve with a green salad with a nice spiky dressing to cut through the richness and enjoy!