We’ve got duck legs

One of my winter break projects this year was making homemade duck confit. Even though I love duck confit, I’d resisted making it because I thought it would be hard.

It was a snap. I used eight duck legs, three pounds of duck fat, and the recipe from Paula Wolfert’s Cooking of Southwest France, which you can find online. I cooked it and put it up (okay, put it in the fridge) two weeks ago, without a hitch, and tonight we cracked into it and had roasted crispy confit for dinner. “Can I get one with a duck bone?” asked Iris. She could. This confit was as good as any I’ve had anywhere, albeit a little light on the salt, which will be easy to fix next time.

A few notes on making confit. First, the process takes three days, but the first day (dry-rubbing the legs) and the third day (layering the top of the container with lard) take ten minutes or less. The actual cooking done on the second day is extremely simple: put the legs in the fat, bring them up to temperature, cook until tender, put away. That took about three hours.

The main thing to know is that the first batch is the expensive one, because you have to buy the duck fat, unless you cook a lot of ducks (hi, Liza!) and render the fat. Once you have the duck fat, you can reuse it for additional batches of confit for several months, at which point you’re looking at a marginal cost of a couple bucks per leg. Per serving, that’s cheaper than fresh chicken breasts, and (I measured) thirteen times better.

There are four legs remaining in the fridge, and I’m going to let them sit tight for another few weeks and see if the flavor changes.

Oh, while Iris was eating her duck leg, she pointed to a piece of cartilage and said, “I think that’s the duck’s gill.” Perhaps we haven’t adequately explained the whole waterfowl concept.

18 thoughts on “We’ve got duck legs

  1. mamster Post author

    Laurel, I got both the duck legs and duck fat at University Seafood and Poultry. I’ve also seen duck fat at Whole Foods.

    Wendy, yes. Eggplant parmigiana comes to mind.

  2. Andrew

    You can also get duck fat at Uwajimaya.

    There is an even simpler way to make duck confit at home. Paula Wolfert mentions it in the newer editions of her books, and it’s also how Thomas Keller does it:

    Cure the duck legs in salt just like you normally would. (I add 6g of pink salt per 2.25 kg of meat)

    Then rinse them, pat them dry, and vacuum seal them with just a few tablespoons of duck fat. I make packages of 2 legs each, because that’s a serving for me and my wife, but you could do more or less in each package.

    Once their sealed up, just drop them in a water bath at about 180F overnight. If you are really cool, you have a thermal immersion circulator. If you are only slightly cool, you have a temperature PID controlling your crockpot (it’s what I do). If you don’t have either of those, just fill a crockpot with water, set it on high, and dump the stuff in. Most crockpots are in the 180-190 range naturally.

    Once your duck is done, pop it in an ice bath to cool, and then store it in the refrigerator. Since it’s already vacuum sealed, there’s no need to change container and pour sealing fat over it.

    I’m not sure how long it will keep in the fridge, at least as long as traditional confit I’m sure. I’ve never gone more than a month or too without eating it though!

  3. caleb

    Is it okay if I chop up some ducks and use the wings and breasts also, or is it better just to use legs and have the other parts for other dishes?

  4. mamster Post author

    Caleb, Paula says the breasts don’t make very good confit. I was saying to Laurie that the ideal situation would be if I really liked sauteed duck breasts, and then I would make them often and have plenty of legs and fat for confit, and carcasses for stock. But I really only like the legs.

    Andrew, sous vide is probably the next thing that makes me nervous but I’ll try it and it’ll turn out to be easy.

  5. an oeuf

    i’ve always taken my duck legs out of the cooking container to remove the (very flavorfiul but not fat) duck jus, and used it for something else. Do you find a difference in letting the legs hang out with the jus in the sous vide bags?

  6. shauna

    Danny makes duck confit so often that I have lost any fear of the vast amount of duck fat necessary.

    We have a duck confit recipe in the book, and it may be even easier than this. So good.

  7. mamster Post author

    A proportional-integral-differential controller, Neil. Obviously.

    Shauna, I am pleased to hear that you have conquered your fear of duck fat. Now, since everybody is saying there’s an easier way to do it, would someone please post a link to a recipe that would not require any additional equipment (including a crockpot)? Thanks!

  8. matt wright

    The thought of cooking something in hot plastic makes me a lot more nervous that 3lb of duck fat I have to say…

    In all honesty I don’t know how it gets much easier than just leaving something in a pot in the oven for a few hours… Like you Matt, I did my first duck confit last week, and now wish that I had started doing it years ago. Talk about easy, very tasty stuff.

    And since I now have a bunch of duck fat sitting there, it just means I have to do more and more..

    I would be very interested to hear how you get on with sous vide.

  9. mamster Post author

    Oh, I cooked the confit in Le Creuset and transferred it to Rubbermaid after it cooled.

  10. Dana

    Now that you have left over duck confit, you can make something us pro cooks make as a pre-shift snack, (particularly when we are a little hung over.)

    Baked Potatoes with chives, creme fraiche, and chopped duck confit heated in a little duck fat.

    It’s pretty killer, I have to say. I enjoyed one just this afternoon

  11. mamster Post author

    That sounds like what I should make for Laurie, who is the baked potato lover in the family.

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