Confit Duck (Traditional French food) : 14 Pro Tips to make it unique

Feb 25, 2022

 

Confit duck is a speciality of French cuisine. The word Confit comes from the French verb confire, which comes from the Latin phrase conficere, meaning "to do, to produce, make, and prepare".

Confit is a cooking term that describes when food is cooked in grease, oil or sugar water (syrup), cooked at a lower temperature than deep frying. While deep frying typically takes place at temperatures of 325–450 °F (160–230 °C), confit preparations are done much lower—an oil temperature of around 200 °F (95 °C) is typical.

The term is usually used in modern cuisine to mean long, slow cooking in oil or fat at low temperatures, many types of meat are suitable for this type of cooking, but the most celebrated is duck confit.

 

What is Confit?

Confit is a technique for preserving meat. The word "confit" means "to preserve" in French. Confit consists of submerging and cooking meats such as duck, goose, pork, or vegetables in their fat, usually with seasonings.

Preparing the meats and cooking them in fat makes the core melt-in-your-mouth tender; the heart will become very moist and flavorful.

The French are famous for using this method to preserve duck legs and duck breasts as well as goose legs and goose breasts. It was initially used to keep meats before refrigeration was invented. But it is still popular today because the confited meats taste so good, both hot and cold.

 

How to make Confit Duck

My favourite dishes taste as they took me all day to make, but in reality, it didn't take a lot of effort. I love coming across these recipes and hanging onto them because when I'm short on time but want to impress the dinner guests or feel like a big win in the kitchen, they come in handy.

 

Ingredients for making Confit Duck

  1. Four tablespoons of duck fat
  2. 1/4 cup flour, spooned and levelled
  3. 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  4. Three tablespoons of Cognac or brandy (optional)
  5. Two tablespoons minced shallot (from 1 small shallot)
  6. One sprig of fresh thyme
  7. One bay leaf
  8. Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Cooking the Duck: Heat the oven to 300 degrees F. Remove the meat from the brine, pat it dries and season with salt and pepper.

Brown the Legs: Heat a deep roasting pan over medium heat and add enough rendered fat to cover the bottom about 1/4 inches thick. When it is hot (but not smoking), add all of the duck legs in a single layer, skin side down. Cook until they are golden brown on both sides, turning once, about 8 to 10 minutes total time.

Cook the legs for about 2 hours, or until fork-tender. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature.

Store in Jars: If you're serving immediately, keep warm by wrapping each leg tightly in foil and returning to a warm oven until ready to serve. Or place one leg in each of 4 pint-size canning jars, along with some rendered fat, and seal with lids. Refrigerate for up to 3 weeks or freeze for up to 6 months.

Serving the Legs: To help, remove one jar at a time from the refrigerator or freezer and allow thawing if frozen. When thawed, the meat should easily lift off the bone; pull it into shreds using two forks or your fingers.

 

 

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14 Pro Tips to make Confit Duck

  1. Remove the duck legs from the refrigerator and allow coming to room temperature for about 2 hours.
  2. In a large pot, heat the duck fat over medium-high heat until it reaches 140 degrees F.
  3. Meanwhile, season the duck legs generously with salt and pepper. Place in a large bowl and toss 12 thyme sprigs and eight garlic cloves.
  4. When the fat is ready, add the duck legs to the pot. Put skin side up, along with any marinade that's accumulated in the bottom of the bowl. Lower the heat to very low and cook for 4 hours. It is used for skimming any impurities from the surface of the fat periodically. When pierced with a knife, the meat should be tender but not fall off the bone.
  5. Use a slotted spoon to carefully remove the duck legs from the pot (they will be very tender at this point) and place them on a wire rack set atop a rimmed baking sheet. Allow cooling completely before refrigerating overnight in an airtight container filled halfway with rendered duck fat and fat can be saved for future use.
  6. Slow-cooked confit duck is incredibly tender and juicy inside, while the skin is crispy and packed with flavour.
  7. The duck is submerged in duck fat, so it's hard to overcook. But keep an eye out for the meat falling off the bone. If that happens, take it out because it'll be too dry.
  8. You can use the same method on other kinds of meat. For example, lamb shanks are an excellent choice and a great way to use up all your duck fat!
  9. Duck confit is best when it's served warm, so remove the duck pieces from the refrigerator an hour before cooking to let it come to room temperature.
  10. A meat thermometer will tell you if the duck is done. The internal temperature should be 165°F. Ensure not to touch the bone with the thermometer for an accurate reading.
  11. Duck meat is somewhat fatty, so it is essential during the cooking of the duck to keep an eye on the degree of fat rendered as well as the cooking process. Overcooking can lead to an overly dry texture, and undercooking can leave you with a raw centre.
  12. Once cooked, duck confit can be eaten immediately or stored for future use by placing it in sealed containers and filling them with rendered fat from the cooking process. It will keep for several months if properly stored.
  13. Make sure to pat the duck very dry before seasoning and covered in fat.
  14. Strain out and discard any remaining solids from the fat you cooked the Confit overnight (and save that too).

 

What makes Duck Confit so Unique?

The salt in the cure extracts much of the moisture from the meat. Salt is what makes it so unique — once cooked, the meat is moist and tender but with a buttery quality that's hard to achieve by any other means.

The salt cure also preserves and gives you a little leeway in storing your confit duck. You can pack it into jars or an airtight container and refrigerate it for up to two weeks. But I don't recommend this because you'll lose some fat during storage. So instead, I prefer to finish my confit duck within three days of cooking it and store it covered with fat in the refrigerator until required.

 

Here are a few tips for making Confit Duck at Home

Cooking duck at home can be intimidating. But it is easier than you think if you follow a couple of tips and techniques.

The first rule is to buy a whole duck, not parts. That may seem obvious to some, but I still encounter home cooks who are afraid of the bones and end up asking for boneless breasts. The following rule is not to overcook the meat. Duck breast is best-served medium-rare, so don't let it go beyond that. Lastly, always help duck with some acidic fruit sauce, like cherry or orange, which will play off the meat's richness. Cook low and slow so that your result is perfectly moist with crispy skin.

  1. Buy duck legs from a reputable butcher or meat market. The legs should be plump and shiny, with no mould or freezer burn. Frozen duck legs will work, too – thaw them fully in the refrigerator first.
  2. Don't skimp on the salt! It is true of any confit recipe, but it's imperative when cooking duck, which is naturally lean and gamey.
  3. Cook the meat slowly and gently, at a low temperature of 250 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the key to producing tender results if you're cooking with whole leg quarters (instead of just the legs). The low temperature also ensures that the duck fat doesn't separate into layers while cooking, as it will if exposed to high heat (which is something you want to avoid).
  4. Take your time! It's much better to cook the Confit more slowly than to rush the process and end up with tough meat. In most cases, it will take at least four hours for the duck to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F or until its flesh can easily be pulled away from the bone using two forks.

 

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Sauces for Confit Duck

Several sauces go well with a confit duck. The most popular ones include garlic and thyme sauce, raspberry sauce, orange sauce and apricot sauce.

Duck à l'orange: A French dish consists of duck in an orange sauce.

Apricot Sauce: Apricot sauce is usually made by cooking apricots in wine or water and sugar and adding spices like cinnamon, clove and allspice to the mixture.

Raspberry Sauce: Raspberry sauce is made by cooking fresh raspberries or raspberry jam with sugar, salt and pepper (or any other spices). It can be used as a topping for ice cream, waffles or pancakes."

Classic Sauce for Confit Duck

Sauce au Vin is a classic red wine sauce for duck. The basic recipe can be adapted according to the need, with a little more of this or that.

The original recipe is:

1/2 cup dry red wine

1/2 cup duck or chicken stock (or water)

One teaspoon chopped shallot (or onion)

One teaspoon butter

In a saucepan, reduce the wine by half, add the stock and shallot, and reduce again until you have about 1/4 cup of sauce. Add the butter and swirl in to thicken, and then serve immediately.

 

How to get crispy skin on Duck Confit

  • Get your knife and scorer at the ready to score the confit duck.
  • Hold the skin in place with your hand and score using the scorer first; this will punch holes in the skin.
  • Then run the knife over the scored skin, slicing through it to create a diamond pattern, which will help you to render out all of that duck fat for crispy skin!

 

Seasoning and roasting

Generously season both sides of each breast with salt and pepper, then place skin side down in a cold oven-safe skillet or pan. If your skillet is not oven-proof, transfer it to a baking sheet lined with tin foil after browning on the stovetop. You can also use a roasting rack for cooking the duck directly, but I prefer to sear it first in a pan.

Turn heat up to medium-high and sear until golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Flip over and sear on the other side for another 1-2 minutes. The duck should have released some fat by now. You can remove extra fat at this point.

 

Health Benefits of Confit Duck

It has been said that duck confit is one of the healthiest things you can eat! It is packed with omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, which helps fight inflammation in your body, leading to a lower risk of heart disease and cancer. But since duck confit is rich in flavour and can be somewhat decadent, I like to serve it with something light like sautéed greens or roasted cauliflower so that the meal does not feel overly heavy or rich. You can also use the fat from the confit duck.

Confit duck has many health benefits when consumed in moderation:

  • It is high in Protein
  • It is a rich source of Minerals and Vitamins
  • It is a rich source of Iron and Copper
  • It may prevent Strokes
  • It may prevent Cancer

So we can say that Confit duck is one of France's most famous (and delicious) dishes. Although it is a bit of a production to make, you can make it at home very quickly with the right tools and some patience.

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