Last year I was meandering around a Parisian market in Saint Germain. The clientele at this market were virtually all French as many tourists opt for the Aligre a little further north of the Seine. Small stalls set up selling everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, meat and preserved products.
One stall in particular specialised in terrines, foie gras and charcuterie. While munching on a free sample of terrine de foie gras, I noticed a king-sized can of duck fat. Exactly what I had been looking for all this time to replicate my own Duck Confit at home.
What is Duck Confit? In simple terms, a duck leg is cured in a combination of salt, thyme and bay leaves overnight and then cooked slowly in duck fat. Commonly, in French bistros, the duck leg is served alongside Sarladaise potatoes or even just a simple green salad. Either way, it’s delicious.
Getting started with the recipe, you will need a couple of large duck legs. Gressingham are the main players in the UK when it comes to duck so I decided to go with these. Adding 50g of rock salt, slightly pounded, onto the legs sets the curing process in motion. Be sure to rub the salt into the legs really well.
The only thing left to do for now is to slice a whole, large, head of garlic in half horizontally. Separate the cloves out, skins and all and add to a dish large enough to hold the duck legs. Add in some roughly torn bay leaves, around three in total, along with a few sprigs of thyme. Cover the dish and leave in the fridge overnight.
The next day, set the oven to 130C. Wash the excess salt from the duck legs in a bowl of water but keep all of the garlic, thyme and bay leaves. Dry the legs on a paper towel or cloth and then place into a pot or pan that fits the legs in snugly. This is important as you need the legs to be fully submerged in the duck fat.
Add the garlic, thyme and bay leaves into the pan with the duck. Add in a teaspoon of black peppercorns and pour on the fat to completely cover the legs. Cover the pan with a lid and say goodbye to it in the oven for 2-3 hours. If the fat starts to sizzle at any point, just turn the oven down to 110C to keep it bubbling away gently.
Once the duck has had its time, remove it gently from the pan and dry it slightly. The meat should be pulling back off the bone but still staying intact. Set the oven to 180C and place the duck onto a baking tray skin side down. Place the tray in the oven for 20 minutes for beautifully golden, crispy skin.
I served the duck with crispy potatoes tossed in fried garlic and parsley with a little duck fat to help crisp the potatoes. The flavour combination brought me right back to Paris. Crispy and full of flavour, you would expect the duck to be greasy. No chance. The skin is delightfully crunchy and the meat just melts away.
With this article being published around the Christmas period, duck fat is in abundance. Go and grab a bunch and try this delicious French classic. Use any leftover fat for the most incredible roast potatoes of your entire life.