I first tried my hand at the gastronomic phonomenon of confiting about a year ago and was absolutely WOWED by it. Long before that, I loved duck anyway — it’s really flavoursome; versatile in how it’s cooked and served; lends itself well to rich, spicy and fruity sauces; and doesn’t seem to have the unpleasantly textured parts of gristle and fat that other meats are plagued by. It’s equally fantastic as a delicately sliced breast in a gourmet meal, or roughly shredded in Chinese pancakes. My favourite way to cook and eat it (pre-confit-initiated) was juicy duck legs slowly roasted over sliced onions until the flesh was meltingly soft and the skin irresistibly crispy. Mmmmm…
Then one day I sampled ‘confit duck’ in a restaurant and subsequently had to try making it myself. In my opinion, my concoction was even more delicious than the restaurant dish that inspired it!
There are several reasons why I love to cook duck legs in particular. First, they are relatively cheap compared to other cuts of meat — we always get ours from Sainsburys, where you can get two big duck legs for just £2.50. Second, the skin gets fantastically crispy and tasty if done correctly. Third, despite how easy they are to cook, I think they make for quite an impressive dish. Fourth, they have enough fat to stay moist throughout slow-cooking, meaning the meat gets so tender that it just falls off the bone. I find this motion to be a pleasure in itself!
Anyway, onto my recipe. I adapted it from here, because I found this recipe doesn’t work as it should for me (the legs don’t produce sufficient fat to cook in). This isn’t a traditional confit, but tastes soooooooooooooo good. Requires a lot of time (24 hours to marinade, 2.5 hours to cook) but very little effort.
Recipe — Easy confit duck legs (serves 2)
- 2 duck legs
- coarse sea salt
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed (this brings out the flavour) then diced
- 2 bay leaves, ripped into pieces
- thyme and/or other dried herbs (herbes de provence work well)
- 100ml white wine
- 1 tub of duck fat
- 24 hours before you plan to cook them, smother the duck legs in the salt, bay leaf pieces, herbs and diced garlic then place them in the fridge to marinate overnight, in an airtight or clingfilmed container
- When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 150°C.
- Remove duck legs from the fridge and try to wipe off as much salt as you can with a paper towel but do NOT wash it off — this will reinflate the cells with water and undo the salt’s hard work!
- Place the duck legs skin-side-down in an oven-safe pan (with a tight lid), in which they fit in a single layer (the tighter the fit, the better). Pour over the wine and heat on the hob until the wine starts to bubble
- Put the lid on the pan and transfer it to the oven for 30 minutes
- After 30 minutes, the wine should’ve reduced considerably (if not, put back in the oven for a bit longer). Add the duck fat to the pan, turn the duck legs skin-side-up and return to the oven for a further 1hr 30 mins
- Remove from the oven — if eating today, move to step 8. If eating another day, place the duck legs in a container and pour over the melted fat from the pan. Put this container in the fridge and the fat will solidify, preserving the duck legs for up to a month. If doing this, remove the legs from the fridge and allow them to return to room temperature before putting in the oven.
- To finish the duck legs, preheat the oven to 220°C and place them on a grill pan, so that the fat will be able to drip from them.
- Put the legs in the hot oven for around 20 minutes (30-45 mins if they’ve just come out of the fridge) or until the skin has gone crispy. Don’t worry if it blackens — it will still taste amazing.
And to make a lovely gravy to go with the duck legs…
- Glaze the pan the duck legs were cooked in, to remove the sticky fatty bits burnt onto it. This is done by sprinkling flour over the pan bottom, heating it gently and gradually adding a little red wine and a few splashes of balsamic vinegar as you use a wooden spoon to scrape the burnt-on bits off the pan bottom.
- Keep stirring until you get a thick, viscous liquid. This can then be thinned by adding stock — I used the water that I’d boiled my carrots in — and a little bit of the duck fat if there wasn’t much left in the pan. Keep adding/reducing until you reach the consistency and amount you want.
I like to serve duck legs with potatoes roasted in the leftover duck fat. Failing that, it’s nice with creamy mash to counteract the richness and sweetness of the duck and its sauce. I still think this recipe can be improved — I’m perfecting it further each time I make it, and this recipe will be changed appropriately as I do.
Try this recipe and you’ll see that it really does taste exquisite. The skin is crispy without being fatty, the tender meat just falls away from the bone and you won’t believe how flavoursome it is. I don’t know where its amazing flavour stems from — it could be the marinading time, the wine or the fat. All I know is that it’s too incredible to pass up — so please try making it and tell me what you think!