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Fatty, Ducky Goodness!

At a recent R.E. meeting I went a little overboard on the decadence quotient... I did a duck dish with whole ducks prepared 2 ways, and it was one of the best meals we've done to date. Pan seared breast and a confit of the leg. In this post I'll be focusing on the confit. It's a long process, but don't let that scare you, it's well worth it! Easy, relatively cheap, and one of the greatest culinary delights you will ever encounter. Duck is my favorite bird, hands down. The breast is like steak and the leg is heavenly. So here's my recipe for duck leg confit. Ingredients: 4 raw duck legs 1 pound dark brown sugar 1 pound kosher salt 4 oz. ginger, sliced Peel of 2 oranges 10 thyme stems, whole 5 garlic cloves 10 juniper berries 8 black peppercorns Rendered fat of 2 ducks (all but the skin on the legs) Lard and/or bacon fat if needed (and it might be) Procedure: Pat the legs dry and set aside. Mix the brown sugar and kosher salt well and in the bottom of a container that will fit all four legs without touching, layer in and pat down gently half of the mixture. Place the duck legs on top and press in gently, then cover with the remaining mixture. Place in the refrigerator and place a light weight on top (I used the pan containing the 4 breasts, but a pan full of ice will suffice) and leave to cure for 6 hours. While the legs are curing, strip the skin and fat off of the duck carcasses, cut into small pieces, and place in a pot over low heat. Render out as much fat as possible, strain out the remaining skin and refrigerate for later use. After the 6 hours, rinse the legs clean under cold running water and pat dry again. Store in the cold box until ready to use (within the day).

Legs in the pan, ready for broiling.

Place the garlic, sliced ginger, orange peel, and peppercorns in the bottom of a cake pan with high enough walls to rise above the legs. In another pan on the stove, melt the reserved duck fat over low heat. Place the legs in the pan with garlic, ginger and orange peel, skin side up, and put under the broiler until the skin is brown. Keep a constant eye on this part of the procedure, it will go from brown to black pretty quickly, but a little black won't ruin it. Once browned, pour in the warmed duck fat. If the fat does not cover the legs by at least 3/4 add more by means of bacon fat (preferred) or lard, or both. Toss in the juniper and thyme. Once the pan has cooled a bit from the broiling, cover with plastic wrap and then aluminum foil and put in a 225 F degree oven for 3 hours. At this point pull it out every 20 minutes or so and check on it. If the leg bone does not twist out of the meat with little pressure from a pair of tongs, it's not ready yet. Ours went for close to 4 hours before it was done.

Browned legs with the reserved duck fat, bacon fat, and lard added. Try not to touch yourslef if there are children present...

At this point you can store it in the 'frige or freezer for up to 6 months, but once you've tasted it, I doubt it will last the rest of the evening! Pull the legs out once they're cool enough to handle and pull the meat from the bones. It should fall off with little to no effort. The meat can be added to pretty much anything with stunningly great effect! Or just eat it by it's self with appropriate sides! Or hell, eat it by it's self! I tossed it into a saute of mushrooms, onions, roasted redskin potatoes, toasted pecans, dried cherries, wilted spinach, and a port wine and duck stock pan sauce... (if you're lucky I might just post that recipe too...) topped with a spiced and seared duck breast... Yeah, we are THAT crazy-decadent at R.E.!

The finished Confit. A gentle twist of that bone sticking out will tell you when it's done.

It may be a long process, (up to 12 hours long...) but do NOT let that deter you! It's well worth the time involved, and you can blow the socks off of any guests you might have for a dinner party! At our gathering I think only about half of the finished product was used in the featured dish... the rest was gobbled straight out of the fat! This served 4 people, for 2 just cut the recipe in half. This is probably the most affordable of all the pillars of fine dining and haute cuisine... More time involved, sure, but time well spent! The next best thing to Foie Gras, in my opinion, and way more affordable! So go buy a fuckin duck already! The breasts are perfect medium rare, and combined with this recipe, are a great way to showcase the versatility of the bird. Jack