I only make duck confit in the winter. I’m not sure why, maybe its’ the lengthy prep time, or the whole curing in fat for a few weeks thing, but its just a winter item in our house. I make confit when there is a chill in the air. And just to highlight the paradox: I’m perfectly happy to eat duck confit all year long. Then again, maybe a slightly lighter version might be in order during the summer heat. Ah yes, Confit-Lite! Brilliant! I can see my first million rolling into the bank account right this second.
Just in case you are not up on the fine points of duck confit: essentially it is duck legs cooked in their own fat and then placed into a crock, sealed in fat, where they take a few weeks to ‘cure’. What they are being cured of, I couldn’t tell you, but what emerges from the fat is one of the best tasting instant meals on earth, a crisped up duck leg served on a salad. You get salt, crunch, salad, and meat and fat all in the same bite, it’s sensory overload.
For argument’s sake, suppose you weren’t up to the full-blown duck confit recipe but you are craving some ducky goodness.
Take a whole duck; give it a rinse in cold water, then season it with plenty of salt, fennel pollen, rosemary, pepper, and thyme. Then slow roast the bird at 275F for at least 2 hours. Maybe even make it a day ahead of time and let the duck rest in the fridge overnight, its sort of like going to the spa for the half day beauty cure rather than a month long retreat but it still helps. Next day, cut the legs off the duck and thickly slice the breast meat off the carcass, trying to keep the breast skin as intact as possible.
In the meantime, cube up some unpeeled potatoes and toss them into a pot of boiling salted water for 2 minutes. (Set your timer, your watch, your alarm, 2 minutes precisely. Yes, I’m kidding. Let the water come back to a boil after your potatoes go in, then give it a minute or so.) Drain the potatoes and rinse under cold water to slow down the cooking process.
Take a little of the duck fat that you reserved from yesterday,heat it in a skillet, toss in the potatoes, some unpeeled garlic cloves, and a sprig of time. Sauté until crispy and you can’t wait any longer. Remove and drain on a paper towel, keep warm in the oven.
Place your duck bits into the sauté pan, on high heat, skin side down and crisp up the duck skin.
While this happening, make a good mustardy vinaigrette dressing, clean up some salad greens, toss in a bowl with the dressing, and arrange on a plate.
If you have some fresh parsley on hand, once you’ve removed the duck meat, toss the parsley into the remaining duck fat and make the leaves crispy. Arrange the dressed salad on a plate with the potatoes, which of course you’ve already salted to taste. Place duck pieces near the potatoes, but on the salad. Relax: potatoes and salad taste really good together, stop making that face. I always save a little crispy potato bits for my salad. Sprinkle the whole plate with the crispy parsley leaves.
Should you be feeling a little wild and crazy, drizzle some pomegranate syrup over the duck bits right before serving. Pomegranates aren’t in season yet, so syrup has to do but it would be delish with some fresh pomegranate jewels scattered over the whole dish. Then again if I was scattering pomegranate seeds, it would be fall and I’d be making real confit, not mock confit-lite, so therein lies the paradox of eating in season.
Now, you may be looking for the classic recipe layout for Confit-lite, but this is an intuitive dish and you’ll have to wing it. Just keep the roasting temp low, know your duck is cooked when the juices run clear and enjoy all the taste and texture sensations on your plate.
Please note: Due to strict Umbrian dietary restrictions, do not tell anyone that I was cooking French style, this is just entre nous!