Nice Legs

Cured, rinsed, dried off, and arranged to use the minimum volume possible so that my two quarts of fat will cover them.

For Christmas eve dinner, we went to a party nearby with dear friends. This was a change from our original plan, but fortunately the original plan called for eight legs of duck confit so we were well prepared to arrive in style. The only hard thing about making confit is remembering that you need to do it at least the day before, preferably two. Weeks ahead is actually better, since the flavor improves over time, but it’s not crucial. Besides timing, the rest is almost as labor-free as cooking gets.

First off, you rub the lags all over with a mixture of salt, garlic, and herbs. Some people like to purée the salt and herbs together to make green salt which guarantees even distribution, but I sort of like it chunky, rustic style. Fat and muscle alike, rub it all over and layer the legs in a glass baking dish, covered, in the fridge for 12 hours or so. That’s day one, which took about five minutes. The next morning, you rinse them off thoroughly. Pat them dry. Nestle them in a deep pot that fits them with some clearance on top (you don’t want hot fat sloshing over the sides when you take them out of the oven). Pour melted duck fat over them so they are just completely covered, and bring the pot to the gentlest of simmers on the stove before putting it in an oven preheated to 180˚F. Duck fat can be ordered on the internets if you don’t have any on hand. Day two: five more minutes of effort.

Snug in their fatty bath, and ready for the oven.

Leave them in there, uncovered, for ten hours. That’s it. When you take them out, they will have shrunk and sunk farther down in the pot. Gently remove the legs–they’ll be falling-apart tender–into another container that can hold them all. Carefully strain the fat, either into the container with the legs, or into jars if you’re going to eat the confit that day. Again, five minutes of work. Make sure not to mix the duck liquids at the bottom with your fat; that magical jellied goodness should be put into its own special jar in the fridge and spooned into anything that you want to taste like hot sex.

The next morning, rosy-fingered dawn illuminates the glory of confit.

The legs, covered with fat, will keep in a fridge for months and months. Just bring it to room temp and gently coax them out of the softened fat. Then crisp the skin in a heavy pan until it’s a deep golden hue. Flip them over to heat the other side, and serve. If possible, use the fat and fond in the pan for cooking mushrooms or greens. One leg per person is a lavish feast, but in the case of this party, after crisping and heating them on their stove–filling the house with a divine aroma–I gently shredded all the meat off the bones and arranged it in a serving dish, topped with crunchy shards of skin with scallions and parsley to provide a bright green accent. The party was ostensibly all finger food, since they didn’t want to deal with dishes, so we just ate it with our fingers. It was extremely good; actual French people rolled their eyes in nostalgic transport. There wasn’t a scrap left by the end.

Factoring in the crisping/heating/serving, we’ve added maybe ten more minutes. That’s about 25 minutes of cooking over two or more days for one of the very best foods in the entire world. It should go without saying that humanely raised, local duck will taste much much better than other duck. This same technique also works frighteningly well goose and turkey legs, as well as pork belly. The fat does get saltier over time, so adding fresh fat now and then is a good idea. It makes for an insanely good cooking fat if it’s too salty for confit-making. Duck fat fries, anyone?

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  1. December 27

    This is great. Duck Leg Confit is one of my favorite things to eat and I’ve always wanted to try making it myself. You make it look so easy, I just might try it. Thanks!

  2. December 27

    Oh YUM. I think fat is the one great rediscovery this eat-local journey has taught us all, especially with preservation. I just had goose rillettes for breakfast (leftovers from my own xmas eve party).

    You know, Peter, you might want to consider ducks instead of chickens. Although they’re an immense PITA to pluck, a Pekin or a Rouen will go from adorable fluffball to confit in 8 weeks, give or take. I know you can get them locally. I am just sayin’.

  3. December 27

    I’ve got to try these! First…must order duck fat.

  4. December 27

    I made duck this weekend, too! Was gonna roast it whole, but why ruin breast meat? I have them to sear tonight, last night was the legs roasted tight in the pan with the carcass (the fat rendered out and self-basted the legs perfectly).

    The great thing about confit is that it can be translated easily to other birds. Gamey turkey legs, slow-poached in duck fat, are such an easy way to garner food-boners from your dinner guests (you want a lavish feast? eating confit off the bone of a leg as big as your face is it).

  5. December 28

    Y’know, I have never sampled duck confit. Shameful admission. BTW, My Beloved’s daughters LOVED the bowls you made and were quite impressed with their precision and the glazes. I had a hard time giving them up but was pleased that I did as their reactions were so enthusiastic.

  6. Peter
    December 28

    Cheryl: You should; let me know how it turns out.

    El: I think at this stage all I want from domestic poultry is eggs. I don’t see a lot of killing, plucking, and butchering going on here.

    Pam: Yes, order duck fat. You’ll be glad you did.

    Blanche: Hell, it works with chicken too.

    Zoomie: What?!?! Get thee to a duckery!
    I’m glad they were happy. There’s a kiln firing right now with lots more inside.

  7. December 30

    I’m so glad you shared another recipe! I had duck confit for the first time last year and have been dreaming about it ever since. I have been wanting to make this but finding local duck is not very easy. After seeing your post I’m determined to conquer duck confit in 2011! Thanks so much for linking up to Simple Lives Thursday!

  8. January 5

    Oh my heck! I am drooling. Hubby will be thrilled. Thank you! BTW checked you out from the GNOWFGLINS Simple Living Thursdays.

  9. Peter
    January 5

    Diana: There’s not much to conquer; it’s really easy. If you can’t find local duck, the same sources for fat can ship legs (though it can get expensive).

    Melissa: I’m glad you’re inspired. Let me know how it comes out.

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