Although salting meat is essentially a means of preserving it, duck confit is considered one of the finest French dishes. While it is made across France, it is seen as a specialty of Gascony. The confit is prepared in a centuries-old process of preservation that consists of salt curing a piece of meat (generally goose, duck, or pork) and then cooking it in its own fat.
The process of preparing a confit involves three techniques. Firstly the salt curing, secondly the slow poaching in fat and thirdly the pan-frying to brown and crispen the skin.
In Gascony, the confit is more often than not served with sautéed potatoes.
Ingredients for 2 people
2 duck legs
a few sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves, torn into small pieces
3 cloves of garlic, skinned and crushed
500 ml duck (or goose) fat
500 g potatoes
50 ml duck fat
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
The first step is the cure itself. The legs are generously sprinkled with salt on both sides. (Don’t worry too much about the amount of salt – Just don’t overdo it) The herbs and garlic are also added and the legs are then covered and placed in the fridge to cure for 24 hours or so.
After this time, the legs are rinsed to remove excess salt, dried and placed in the fat to cover. They are slowly poached at 70 to 80 degrees C, for about 2 hours at which point the meet will be starting to fall off the bone and easily penetrated with a fork. The legs may be used immediately or stored in the fridge, covered by the fat, for weeks or months.
Slice the potatoes into 2-3 cm chunks. Rinse them under the tap until the water runs clear, then dry them well with a towel. Heat the duck fat duck fat over a medium heat, keep turning or tossing potato pieces for about ten minutes or until they turn golden. Add the chopped garlic and parsley. Keep turning a minute longer until the garlic is no longer raw, being careful not to burn it. Finally season with salt and pepper.
As the potatoes cook, remove the legs from the fat and fry them gently in the fat that remains sticking to them. They should be nicely golden and crisp on both sides. Then can also be achieved under the grill if there’s one available. The intention is to warm and crispen the legs rather than to cook them any further, so don’t leave them to cook longer than necessary.