Classic French recipe: confit de canard
Confit de canard is a classic French duck dish enjoyed year
round all over France, and originates from the south-western region of Gascony.
The dish has an interesting history and was first concocted to help sustain the
local people during the winter months. At the end of the summer season, the
birds would be slaughtered before being salted, cooked and stored in fat to
keep them good to eat throughout the winter – the word confit in fact comes
from the French for ‘to preserve’.
The method begins by salting the meat, removing the excess
liquid stored within before roasting it in duck or goose fat until incredibly
tender. Once cold, the meat can be stored in the set fat for up to six months,
or refrigerated overnight before being reheated.
Confit de canard can be found on menus all over France as
well as in almost every supermarket, though there’s nothing better than making
it from scratch at home, where you can add your own flavours during the salting
and cooking process. Once cooked, you should ensure that all of the meat is
covered by the hot fat before chilling, and then scrape away the fat before
roasting or pan-frying the duck to make the skin lovely and crispy. The
leftover fat is also perfect for making some wonderful roast potatoes.
Method Wash and dry the duck legs, before rubbing the sea salt into
them. Add half of the shallots, garlic cloves, juniper berries, thyme sprigs
and pepper into the base of a ceramic dish, before adding the duck and
scattering the remaining half over the top. Cover with cling film before
allowing to chill in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
Once fully chilled, remove the salt from the duck legs with
a brush and place them in a high-sided baking dish. Keep back the garlic cloves
and thyme as they will be used later on.
Preheat the oven to 110°C or 225°F, melt the duck fat in a
saucepan until it turns to liquid and submerge the duck legs in the liquid fat.
Cover the dish with foil before roasting in the oven for 3 hours or until the
flesh goes tender, before removing from the oven and chilling until required.
For the next step, heat the oven to 200°C or 400°F, and
parboil the potatoes in boiling, salted water for around 10 minutes, before
draining well. Add around 4 tablespoons of the duck fat to a hot frying pan,
before also adding the potatoes, garlic, thyme and a little salt. Cook over a
medium heat until the potatoes turn golden – around 20 minutes.
While the potatoes are cooking in the duck fat, remove the
duck legs from the rest of the fat, with just a little still covering the meat.
Place in a roasting tin and then roast for 20 minutes until heated through
completely. Once both the duck and the potatoes are cooked, serve together with
some winter or salad vegetables.
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