What is duck confit? Is it a dish by itself, a technique, or one of those fancy French things too snooty for you to even bother with? It's the first two — you definitely want to bother with this and it's decidedly unsnooty. A favorite method of preparing meat in pre-fridge France was to preserve it in its own fat. It's similar to maceration, but instead of infusing booze with fruit, you're infusing meat with fat and flavor. Harmful bacteria can't thrive in dense fat, so historically, confit didn't have to be chilled to stay fresh. That said, please refrigerate your duck confit because we no longer live in medieval France.
The legs and thighs are the fattiest portions of the bird and therefore the ones you want to use. Allowing the legs to sit overnight or longer with herbs imparts more flavor into the meat and fat. Since the meat will be hanging out in the fat for a nice long time as it slowly cooks, it's worth it to seek out high-quality fresh herbs. Now is not the time to reach in the back of the spice drawer for that dusty jar of rosemary or pine needles, you're not sure which one. That's right, we can see into your kitchen.
Once your confit is finished, it'll keep for up to six months (refrigerated — again, don't challenge nature's generosity) and the leftover duck fat can be re-used for frying potatoes, eggs, plantains and (our personal favorite), making popcorn.
- 4 whole duck legs
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 juniper berries, crushed
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 cups duck fat, melted
- Mix all of the seasonings together and coat the duck pieces with the mixture. Place in a container or zip top bag and into the refrigerator for 24 to 72 hours.
- Brush off the excess seasonings.
- Preheat the oven to 225 degrees.
- Place the duck legs in a single layer skin side down in a large pot. Pour the melted duck fat over top and place in the oven for 3 to 4 hours until the meat can easily be pulled from the bone.
- To preserve: Pour fat over cooked duck to submerge completely, allow to solidify and refrigerate.