Duck!

a delicious meal: duck confit and potatoes cooked in duck fat
a delicious meal: duck confit and potatoes cooked in duck fat

Duck season is over, but it seems like duck is everywhere–on sale at the grocery store, in recipes in foodie magazines… maybe it’s because Duck Dynasty is so popular, but for whatever reason duck is more readily available to the everyday cook.

Duck has always been part of a good game menu. To many people the classic preparation of duck confit has become a sort of sacrosanct ritual. Like these traditionalists, I take confit very seriously–a recipe that both preserves and develops flavor is a beautiful thing–but I don’t think you need to make the preparation overly complicated.

Confit intimidates people because the cooking time is long, and the risk is that you could end up with a dry or greasy bird. At home I use a “quick” method that perhaps breaks some traditional rules, but has always given me good results.

I start by breaking down the bird. I remove the wings, thighs and legs (in one piece) and the breast, also in one piece. I keep the bone in the wings, thighs and legs, but debone the breast. I save the ribcage in the freezer to make stock at a later time.

Then I season the meat with thyme, garlic, lemon zest, juniper berries, salt and black pepper. Sometimes I even use a little rosemary and savory. Duck is very flavorful–you could just season it with salt and black pepper and not be disappointed. If you season it the night before and let it sit in the fridge overnight, it’s even better.

Keep in mind that the whole cooking time is about 6 hours.

I start the cooking process by putting the duck pieces skin down in a sauté pan and rendering some fat, about a tablespoon, at medium heat. After I have a little more fat than I need in the pan, I use it to coat the bottom of a baking dish and turn the duck to give it a little color. Then I place the duck in the baking dish skin side up. I deglaze the sauté pan with a little white wine–sherry wine works well also–and pour the juices over the duck. And it’s ready for the oven at 200 F for 5 hours and 30 minutes.

Now, let me make sure you understand, with this preparation everything will be fully cooked. Still very moist, but well done. If you want your breast to be cooked medium-rare, this is the wrong method.

After 5 hours and 30 minutes, I take the duck out of the oven and pour all the fat into the large sauté pan where I will cook my potatoes.

Then I increase the oven temperature to 400 F and put the duck back in to crisp up the skin while I cook the potatoes in the duck fat.

I hope you’ll give duck a chance. It’s worth it.

Buen provecho!

season the duck with thyme, garlic, lemon zest, juniper berries, salt and black pepper
season the duck with thyme, garlic, lemon zest, juniper berries, salt and black pepper
duck pieces cooking in pans
Put the duck pieces skin down in a sauté pan and cook at medium heat until you render a tablespoon or so of fat. Use this to coat the baking pan.
turn the pieces over to brown both sides
turn the pieces over to brown both sides
deglazing the pan with wine
move the duck pieces into a baking dish, and deglaze the pan with white wine or cooking sherry
pour the pan juices over the duck pieces in the baking dish
pour the pan juices over the duck pieces in the baking dish
potato slices cooked in duck fat
Ahhh, what could be better than potatoes cooked in duck fat!