The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Totally not bread: Confit de canard

hansjoakim's picture
hansjoakim

Totally not bread: Confit de canard

I admit there's not a speck of either lactobacilli or saccharomyces cerevisiae on the ingredient list this time, but that doesn't mean it's no good... I've been busy in the kitchen (breadwise and otherwise) the last few weeks, but my blog's been sadly neglected. This weekend's dinner is something that really looks after itself once you've popped it into the oven, so I thought I could use the opportunity to snap a few photos.


Ever since I bought Ruhlman and Polcyn's book on charcuterie, I've wanted to try the confit method of cooking and preserving meat. Back in the day, after harvesting foie gras, French farmers of Gascony and the Dordogne had great quantities of duck meat and duck fat, but no easy way to conserve the meat, save for the confit technique. Today, with refrigeration, the main reason for using confit is the unique tenderness, texture and flavour of confited meat that make the technique worthwhile.


In brief, the meat is first dry cured with salt (add pepper, coarsely ground cloves and a clove of garlic if you like) for 24 hours. Rinse off all excess salt under cold, running water and place the meat in an ovenproof pot or casserole. Pour over rendered fat (or oil) so that all the meat is covered and place in a low oven for 8 - 12 hours, until the meat is beautifully tender and settled on the bottom of the baking vessel. Keep the meat submerged in the fat and cool to room temperature before covering the vessel with foil and refrigerating it. Both Ruhlman/Polcyn and Robuchon have great recipes for duck confit, that, if followed accurately, produce confits that can be kept for up to 6 months in the refrigerator. As the fat turns solid, and prevents air to reach the meat, the confit technique is a way of hermetically sealing meat.


I had problems obtaining duck fat, so I used a cheap olive oil as the poaching medium instead. The olive oil doesn't turn solid in the refrigerator, so this will not make a fully conserved duck confit. According to Ruhlman, it can still be kept for up to a month in the fridge, but mine won't last that long. Promise.


So... Rub your duck legs with generous amounts of coarse sea salt, a few ground cloves, pepper corns and a crushed clove of garlic. Place in the fridge for 24 hours, then rinse and place in a tight cooking vessel. The tighter you can place the meat in the vessel, the less fat/oil you need to use to cover the meat:


Duck confit


Fill it up all the way so that all meat is covered in rendered fat/oil:


Duck confit


Now, a good idea is to first warm the pot over medium-high heat until the oil is close to the simmering temperature of water. This will give the legs a good thermal kick in the beginning (otherwise you might have to extend the baking time in the oven by several hours). Then place in a low (approx 80 - 85 dC) oven, uncovered, until the meat is absolutely tender. One way to check whether it's finished, is to gently pierce the meat with a skewer. If the fat that runs out is a thin, liquid stream, it's done. My four legs were done in roughly 8 hours. Remove from oven and let the vessel come to room temperature before you cover it with foil and refrigerate it.


A simple but tasteful dish of confited duck legs can be made by cooking the legs at 220dC for 15 mins (the last few minutes with the broiler on to make a ridiculously crisp and delicious skin) and serving them with a ragu of lentils (I used green du Berry lentils), carrots, shallots, garlic, asparagus beans and a potato purée. Shredded duck confit is amazing in salads as well. Oh, and did I mention that this is great with bread too? A tasty duck rillette on freshly baked pain au levain... sacrebleu. Bon appétit!


Duck confit


 

Comments

davidg618's picture
davidg618

For heart-health reasons--although, I ocassionally challenge my Lipitor--I've avoided confits for two decades. Olive Oil! I never would have thought it. I've been curing hams and sausage, and smoking meats for three or four years, so this book seems a welcome addition to an already large food library.


What really sold me, however, was your absolutely delicious photographs, and mouth-watering description, especially "...a ridiculously crisp and delicious skin".


Thanks for posting.


David G


P.S. Where does one get asparagus beans?

arlo's picture
arlo

Great to see one of your inspiring culinary posts Hans, they have been missed!


 


Arlo

MadAboutB8's picture
MadAboutB8

Great and informative post, Hans.  The dish did come together really nicely.


I found the confit duck to be quite salty, well, it could have been me not washing the salt off properly. I have only made it once and it put me off from making confit duck again. I still have half a kilo of duck fat sitting in the fridge. Though I found duck fat is still useful for Chinese chicken rice and roasted potatoes.


Sue


http://youcandoitathome.blogspot.com/


 

hansjoakim's picture
hansjoakim

Thanks so much :)


David: Thanks! I'm sure you'll have lots of fun with the book. Ruhlman's a great food writer and Brian Polcyn brings years and years of experience to the table. Many consider it to be the best book around on charcuterie for the home cook. Look out for a follow-up book that Polcyn and Ruhlman are working on at the moment - not sure when it'll be out, but Ruhlman have mentioned it in some posts on his blog at ruhlman.com.


Substitute any kind of sweet green bean for the asparagus beans - especially any kind of haricots verts would do!

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Thank you for posting this very informative method and Canard recipe. I have been experimenting with Sous Vide lately, on the stove top. There are some interesting similarities between the confit and sous vide. Both are essentially slow cooking at the most desirable eating temperature in an air free environment, for long periods of time. The sous vide is done in a vacuum sealed plastic bag in water held at the appropriate heat level. I have been cooking chicken breasts at 135F for 2-1/2 hours or longer. After cooking in the water bath, I crisp up the meat in a very hot iron pan for about 1 minute per side just to caramelize the exterior. The meat is perfectly tender through out and the skin is nicely flavored.


I'll have to try your method of crisping the skin in the oven. That would probably render more of the fat out from under the skin. 


Eric 

hansjoakim's picture
hansjoakim

Indeed, in that respect it's similar to sous vide. I have read blogs on the net where people are describing their experiences with combining sous vide and confit (much less fat required).


I've wanted to try out sous vide myself for some time, but I would have to invest in some kitchen equipment first. That has put it on hold for me for now...


I guess you already have a vacuum sealer - do you use a ricer cooker or any special equipment for the water bath and temperature control? I've read that many upscale restaurants, not to mention those of the gourmet-food-as-high-art cooks, use sous vide extensively. It's really an ideal method to get the perfect core temperature of your meat - all you have to do afterwards is sear it a minute or two in a pan.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

It's great to have you posting again. I missed you.


Duck confit is one of my favorite foods. I've not made it at home. I do make duck legs fairly often - usually roasted in the oven instead of browned in fat, then braised with fruit or a vegetable that gives off enough liquid to not require dilution ... well, some recipes use a bit of stock or wine.


I like the idea of using olive oil for confit, although by the end of cooking I'd guess that there is quite a bit of rendered duck fat in the oil.


David

Mary Fisher's picture
Mary Fisher

I make duck, and pork, confit fairly often and love it but would never use olive oil OK, I recognise that you didn't have any but surely you could have bought some? We can in UK. Confit just isn't as luscious without using the appropriate fat.


Yes, I HAVE had it :-) Although i didn't cook it, it was at the table of a health freak friend.


Mary

Franko's picture
Franko

Wonderful post Hans, coming at just the right time for me, as our local grocer has a sale on duck at the moment. Unfortunately it's not fresh, but the price is right. I've had duck confit several times in the past in restaurants and have always wanted to try making it for myself. The recipe looks like it would be perfectly suited to doing in my new  counter top slow cooker that I've been using recently.


Thanks for posting the recipe and your gorgeous photos of the process.


Best Wishes,


Franko

bikerbaker's picture
bikerbaker

Nice post and thread on confit!


Re: duck fat vs. olive oil, I'm with Mary. For me, the taste difference is too great a sacrifice for the increase in convenience.


Admittedly, I might be over the top on this one, but I regularly keep a supply of confit in my frig. The problem of having enough fat was a problem only the first time. I solved it by keeping the fat from every roast duck we made for a 2 months, being sure not to season the duck (and seasoning the side dishes instead). Then I bought 4 ducks at once and made confit. I carved off the breasts and froze them in pairs. I made ravioli from the small bits of meat, then used the wing tips and carcasses for broth. I rendered the big flaps of fat, added my stored fat to it and made the confit legs.


I store the confit in Mason jars. Once the fat is solid, you can lay the jars down on their sides, making them able to fit into any number of easy places in the frig. As we eat a jar, the fat is added to the fat jar(s) for next time. Plus, as "MadAbout" said, the fat is great for potatoes. Not to mention rice, stir frys and zillions of other things.


I'd also add that crisping in the oven is one option (but it did not work well for me) and browning in a skillet is another. In either case, steaming first for 10 minutes does a great job of gently warming the meat and simultaneously rendering the fat, making confit far more heart-friendly than one imagines it.


A great resource is for all things duck is The Cooking of Southwest France : Recipes from France's Magnificent Rustic Cuisine.

wally's picture
wally

Thanks for sharing, Hans. That looks absolutely delicious! I love the picture of the duck legs covered in olive oil.  I've poached fish in olive oil and the result is wonderfully moist and completely non-greasy.  I hadn't known the history of confit, but it makes complete sense as a way of preserving meats without refrigeration.  Clever people, our ancestors!


Larry

GSnyde's picture
GSnyde

Nice post.


I love duck confit.  I have been meaning to make my own for years, but have been afraid to do so since if I succeed, I will gain 30 pounds, guaranteed.


Looks beautiful, but I'm going to try to keep the confit treat to a couple times a year.


Glenn

SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

Beautiful!   


I've made duck confit a couple of times, when I lived in Paris I brought with me two large containers of duck fat so the first time I made it I had enough to totally submerge the two legs I worked with.    The second time, a few years down the line,  I did not have enough, and completed the volume with normal oil - not olive oil, but if I remember correctly it was sunflower.  I had read somewhere that a milder tasting oil would be better.


 


Both times I ended up using the crockpot to cook the meat, set on low - worked very well.   One of our favorite dishes ni the world,  I must make it again...

Mary Fisher's picture
Mary Fisher

I ended up using the crockpot to cook the meat, set on low - worked very well


The crockpot! How obvious - and what a splendid idea! Thanks for that. I'm shopping this morning, some duck legs might just jump into my trolley :-)


Thanks!

hansjoakim's picture
hansjoakim

Thanks for all your kind comments and replies, everyone!


I was also under the impression that to make real tasting duck confit, one had to use proper duck fat to get the right flavour. It makes sense: Use fat and meat from the same animal.


To be honest, I've only had duck confit once before, in a Parisian restaurant two years ago. And boy was it fabulous. I did read a bit about confits before doing it with olive oil instead of the real deal, and many sources suggested that it could be done with e.g. olive oil with great results. I loved my confited duck legs, but my memory is blunt, and I can't compare it to what I had those couple of years ago.


I really welcome a discussion about confit, and hope everyone with experience can weigh in with their thoughts and ideas! Belive me, I trawled the city for duck fat, but the only option I was given was by a butcher who could order it for me at a high cost and with a long delivery time. I was both surprised and disappointed, because duck fat has so many other applications...If I had had duck fat readily available I would definitely have used it instead of olive oil. Then I would've known what it "should" taste like, and be in a better position to compare with olive oil as poaching medium instead.


I promise to try harder next time :)


Dr. Nathan Myhrvold, one of the authors behind the upcoming monster "Modernist Cuisine", has said in a NY Times article that the poaching medium isn't as important as most people think. The choice of fat imparts flavour to the skin, but not the meat itself. Far more important for the flavour, is the ageing or ripening of the meat. Back in the days when the confit was kept for months (meat submerged in hardened duck fat), the meat itself acquired a more distinct flavour as weeks went by. I believe it is McGee, in his book on cooking, who said that a certain "rancidity" was not unheard of, and actually valued.


Dr. Myhrvold expanded a bit on the NYT article in an eGullet forum post:



"The NYT piece only covered this briefly. Here is a better discussion of the issue. Most chefs believe that cooking meat at moderately low temperature (typically 160-180F)submerged in fat - called confit - produces a special flavor and texture profile to the meat. The classic dish is duck leg confit, which was traditionally used to store duck legs - the legs would be salted, then cooked in fat, and after cooking the fat allowed to congeal around the meat which would tend to isolate the meat from air and help it keep longer. Sous vide confit puts some fat in the bag with the meat, and that seems to work very well. I experimented a bit with that (see the sous vide thread, and a thread on duck confit). Sous vide confit is a lot less messy than a big pot of fat, and requires less fat - like a teaspoon full per bag rathre than a pot full. But I wondered if there was really anything to this. I didn't believe that the interior of the meat could actually be affected by being cooked submerged in fat. Fat molecules are way too large to penetrate into the meat. Some people say all sorts of weird things about how confit might work, like the fat forces juices to stay in the meat, but those are like stories of searing meat to "lock in the juices" which have been shown to be wrong. So, we cooked both duck legs, and pork shoulder several ways. Traditional confit style, sous vide confit (with fat in bag), sous vide (without fat in bag), and low temperature steaming (in combi-oven or CVAP, at typical confit temperatures). Cooking times and temperatures were the same between all of the tests. It is easy to see/taste if there is some oil/fat on the meat so after cooking we added some oil or fat to the meat that wasn't cooked confit style. We had one person handle the cooking and plating, and then we did careful taste tests. None of us (trained chefs and sophisticated eaters) could tell which sample was which better than random. Our conclusion is that there is no human perceptable difference in cooking via confit. Yes, this flies in the face of tradition, but LOTS of traditional "knowledge" turns out to be wrong when examined in detail. Some people will have a hard time accepting this. My answer is simple - TRY IT. If have not tried it in a controlled, disciplined and fair way, then there isn't much point in arguing about it, because this is not a matter of opinion or faith - it is a simple experiment."



It's a controversial statement, but I really like Dr. Myhrvold's questioning and will to experiment.


As far as I can tell, important factors with the confit style of cooking is that:



  • Meat is cooked very slowly at low temperatures

  • Meat is cooked for a long time - not just until the core temperature is right, but it's held there for a long period of time

  • When aged, unique flavours develop in the meat ("a certain rancidity")


Even though I poached my duck legs in a cheap olive oil, I could only make out a very, very subtle olive oil flavour to certain parts of the skin. There's a lot of duck fat on the legs themselves to provide the "right" flavour.

davidg618's picture
davidg618

I've spent the last hour scanning it, and reading Chapter 1: The reasons for this food, for this book. I'm hooked. Just like TFL and Hamelman's Bread motivated me to "kick my bread- baking up a notch", you're original post, introducing this book, inspired me similarly.


I already cure fresh hams, brine turkeys, make fresh pork sausages and smoke meats, so I'm starting with at least a base, but only a base. Move over sourdoughs, I won't neglect baking, but I've found another notch to climb.


Thank you, Hans


David G

hansjoakim's picture
hansjoakim

I'm delighted to hear your enthusiasm about the book, David!


I know I would be very interested in reading any future charcuterie blog posts you would want to write :)

davidg618's picture
davidg618

My enthusiasm, if possible, has increased as I've worked with the book. I've seldom encountered "How-to" books written with the clarity, and completeness Charcuterie offers. The co-authorship--one journalist, one master chef--works wonderfully.

 I've been focusing on hot smoking both cured and uncured meats, and pates and terrines. To date I've made:

Sweet Italian sausage, Breakfast Sausage with Fresh Ginger and Sage, Corned Beef, Pate de Campagne, Shrimp and Salmon Terrine with Spinach and Mushrooms, Pate en Terrine with Pork Tenderloin Inlay, Pastrami, Canadian Bacon, Spicy Smoke-Roasted Pork Loin, and Smoked Turkey Legs using Charcuterie's poultry brine (tarragon). I served the Pate Campagne and Shrimp/Salmon Terrine at our annual open house ( http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/23011/fifth-annual-open-house ). The Terrine with Tenderloin Inlay will be served at a dinner party tonight.

During a recent smoke--the pastrami, Canadian bacon, turkey legs, and spicy pork loin roast--I experimented with my Bradley smoker to determine how low a smoke temperature I could realize. Unfortunately, it steadied at 120°F: too hot for cold smoking (< 90°F required), but I'm not discouraged. Next smoke I'm going to place a bag of ice on the lowest shelf and see how low that will cool the smoke before reaching whatever I'm smoking. If that doesn't work I've other ideas to test.

We are leaving Saturday for Amsterdam and a Rhine river cruise. When we return I'm going to spend much of the rest of the summer working with different sausage recipes, cold-smoking recipes, and ultimately dry-cured and fermented meat recipes. A friend has given me ten lbs (4.5 kg) of ground venison; early on I'm going to make Charcuterie's Chef Milo's Country Venison Sausage (hot-smoked), and Venison Terrine with Dried Cherries.

So far, I've followed the recipes and techniques faithfully, but as I gain confidence I'll certainly add my own spin. Thanks again for drawing my attention to a cooking niche I've only explored superficially, until now.

David G

 

GSnyde's picture
GSnyde

Ruhlman's website has a great discussion of duck confit. 


http://ruhlman.com/2010/09/how-to-make-duck-confit-fall-is-here-time-to-preserve-duck.htm


I'm planning to find a six-legged duck tomorrow.


Glenn