Confit de canard, the French way with duck which is cooked and preserved in its own fat, is unequivocally delicious. French tins of the stuff are scrumptious, and although pricey, not too hard to get hold of. But making your own at home turns out to be surprisingly easy, and it tastes even better than the store-bought variety (the magic is all in the herbs you use to cure the duck before cooking). Making your own also means that even when you’ve finished eating, you end up with lots of herby, aromatic duck fat to use in potato dishes, or even in another confit.
Because the meat is simmered very gently under duck fat, it remains extremely moist and tender, with a skin that crisps up deliciously at the click of a finger. I like mine served, totally unhealthily, with a great big heap of pommes Sarladais and a dollop of quince jelly. Redcurrant, cherry and the other duck-friendly fruits also work really well to cut through the richness of the confit.
To confit six duck legs (with thigh attached) you’ll need:
6 duck leg joints, with thigh
3 heaped teaspoons salt
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
Duck fat (enough to completely cover the duck legs when melted in a saucepan)
Crush the bay leaves, thyme, herbes de Provence and peppercorns very thoroughly with the salt in a mortar and pestle, and rub the pieces of duck all over with the mixture. Put the duck in a large bowl and refrigerate for 48 hours to achieve a very mild cure.
When you are ready to cook the duck, heat the oven to 150°C and melt the fat in an oven-proof casserole dish on the hob. Slide the duck into the fat as it liquefies, and when it starts to shudder (not boil), move the casserole to the oven. Cook for two and a half hours, or until the duck is tender.
Spoon the cooked duck and its hot fat into a large sterilised jar or crockpot, making sure that the meat is completely covered by the fat, which will stop oxygen and bacteria getting in. Seal and refrigerate. The duck will keep for a few weeks in the fridge (it is, after all, preserved) – it will also be tender, sweet and moist from being poached in that fat.
It’s worth leaving the duck in the fat for a few days before you eat it, in order to allow the flavours to develop. To serve and cook to a crisp, remove the confit from the fat and fry over a medium heat in a saucepan for about 7 minutes per side, with a heavy pan lid weighing the meat down as you fry.