April 14th, 2011
Duck Confit is a very traditional, French, method of preserving duck (probably dating back hundreds of years). It’s thought that this type of preservation originated in Gascony. The duck legs are first, salted with the addition of garlic and thyme, for 24 – 36 hours, then poached gently in duck fat for several hours. The duck is finally transferred to a jar or container, where it’s immersed in the cooking fat and left to cool. Sealed and submerged in fat, the meat will keep for months in the fridge or larder. When one wishes to eat the duck confit, the fat is wiped off and the leg/s are generally grilled, fried or cooked in the oven, until the skin is crispy. Duck confit is often used in the classic French Cassoulet or paired with Puy lentils.
Puy Lentils, originating from Puy in France, are a small lentil variety, which have a delicate flavour and don’t fall apart when cooked.
Duck Confit and Puy lentil recipe:
Chicken stock for cooking the lentils:
1 chicken carcass (ask your butcher or use the leftover bones from Sunday roast)
1 large onion
2 sticks of celery
6 pieces of garlic
a few sprigs of rosemary, sage and thyme
2 bay leaves
a little sea salt and some whole black pepper corns (8 or so)
1 pint of water
I cook the stock by putting everything into a pressure cooker and cooking for 20 minutes when the correct pressure has been reached. Do read the instructions for you own pressure cooker before doing this and if you don’t have one, cook the above with a bit more water for one or more hours. Allow the stock to cool down and strain before using.
Cooking the lentils:
2 cups of Puy lentils
1 medium onion (chopped)
1 large carrot (chopped)
2 sticks of celery (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
1 pint of home made chicken stock
1 dessertspoonful of Balsamic vinegar
sea salt and cracked black pepper
Heat some olive oil in a cast iron casserole and cook the onions first – until they go translucent. Add the rest of the vegetables and stir for a few minutes. Use about 2 cups of Puy lentils per pint of stock – stir the lentils into the vegetables and coat them in oil before adding the stock. If you are using stock cubes then it would be worth including some herbs – since my stock was pre seasoned, I didn’t add any extra flavours.
Bring the casserole to the boil, put the lid on and then place it into a preheated oven at 100º C for about 30 minutes – taste the lentils at about 30 minutes to check that they are tender. Finally adjust the seasoning to taste and stir in a dessertspoonful of Balsamic vinegar. You can set the lentils aside in a cast iron casserole for up to an hour while you cook the duck – the cast iron will hold the heat well. If the lentils are not quite hot enough at the end, just warm them a little on the hob.
My preference for cooking the confit is in the oven. I find that the grill makes everything taste dried out, and cooking confit in a frying pan makes it a bit soggy. If cooked in a hot oven until golden brown (about 20 – 30 minutes depending on the oven), the duck comes out crispy and the meat falls off the bone. Wipe the fat off the duck legs before cooking (they’ve had enough to last a lifetime) and do save the fat for roasting potatoes – it’s excellent and good for you. If your duck has been in the fridge, take it out an hour or so before cooking – it will cook better and it will be easier to remove the fat. Do drain any fat that comes off the duck during cooking – it’s not suppose to deep fry or poach. When done, spoon the Puy lentils onto a plate and put the duck confit on top.
I bought the duck confit from my favourite butchers – they generally sell a vacuum packet of two legs for about £6, or you can preserve them yourself. You can buy Puy lentils from supermarkets, but you get a much better deal from a whole food shop, where they are about half the price and twice the quality – mine came from Bumblebee, where they sell a kilo for £1.90.