Duck Confit is delicious hearty dish for the colder seasons, and a perfect way to impart deep flavours into duck legs. But did you know that the dish was initially an ancient way of preserving the meat? We look at the origins of this dish and how to make a majestic confit using Gressingham Duck legs.
Duck confit originated in France and is made with the leg of the duck. Although many regions of the country make this dish, it’s seen seen as a speciality of Gascony. In many parts of France you can buy duck confit is also sold in cans, which can actually be kept for several years. However it’s very simple to cook yourself. The French traditionally store duck confit in glazed earthenware pots. If you don’t have those to hand, we suggest large Pyrex bowls or covered casseroles.
To prepare a confit, the duck legs are rubbed with salt, garlic, and sometimes herbs such as thyme, rosemary, crushed bay leaves and spices like star anise then covered and refrigerated for up to 36 hours. Salt-curing the meat acts as a preservative.
Prior to cooking, the spices are rinsed from the meat, which is then patted dry. The legs are then placed in a cooking dish deep enough to contain the meat and the rendered fat, and placed in an oven at a low temperature. The meat is slowly poached at least until cooked, or until meltingly tender, for around two and half hours.
The legs, which are then crisped in a hot pan before serving, turn out delightfully savoury and robust, and the meat pulls away from the bone in delicious slivers.
As a bonus the flavourful fat delivered from the duck confit can be used in many other ways. You can sautéed vegetables (e.g., green beans and garlic, wild or cultivated mushrooms), use on toasted bread or brioche, add to omelettes, and it also makes a very tasty addition to shortcrust pastry for tarts and quiches.
In Andy Waters’ duck confit recipe he uses the meaty Gressingham duck legs , which are succulent and shapely. His recipe is well-complimented with braised red cabbage, caramelised Granny Smith apples and a savoury green peppercorn sauce.