Tag Archives: entertaining

Duck Confit

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There are a lot of recipes out there for duck confit. It’s a reasonably easy thing to make, for such a rich and luxe product. The one catch is having enough duck fat on hand to make it, and the easy fix? Use rendered pork lard. Another catch is the low and slow cooking time. Not that having the oven on for hours deters me from a recipe, but using the slow cooker for anything is enjoyable for me. I get to forget about it entirely, and work on other things. In preparation for a small party with friends visiting from out of town, I took out a whole duck from the freezer. Usually recipes for duck confit focus on the legs. How could I possibly make duck confit with just two legs? I thought: why not confit the whole thing? And thus, I began.

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1. Break down the duck. You will have two legs, two breasts, two wings, a carcass and some organs. Keep the fat on the breasts.

2. Take the carcass and the wings and roast them in a 350 degree oven for about an hour. Eat the crispy (albeit a bit tough) wings with some sriracha-honey. Then take all the parts (including the bones of the wings) and put them in a pot with cold water. Make a stock. Bonus points: make a phô stock. Use that some other dreary day for a nice ramen or noodle soup.

3. You are left with two breasts, the legs and maybe some organs and any bits of fat you may have trimmed. Put these into a ziplock bag with salt and seasonings. The general rule is 1/3 of an ounce per pound of meat. I used a tablespoon and a half of kosher salt, some bay leaf, black peppercorns, and garlic. Leave in the fridge overnight.

4. The next day turn on your cooker, and melt the the oil in it. The fat has to cover the meat so you need a good amount. That’s where a pint of rendered pork fat in the fridge comes in handy. The rest will come from the duck fat rendering. The setting I used was low.

5. Put all the parts gently into your slow cooker (mind is oval shaped, and worked well here, allowing for a single layer). I prefer not to rinse or pat dry as the salt and herbs are so good in the fat. Now let the cooker do it’s business. Check on it every hour to make sure the meat is submerged in oil, and that it’s not bubbling. Keep the lid cracked. About 3 to 4 hours.

6. When it’s done–check the legs, the skin has rendered and the meat pulls away with the slightest motion–turn off the heater, remove the liner from the element if you can, and let it cool. I like to refrigerate it over night to rest.

To serve, remove the meat and heat it up in a cast iron pan so it becomes crackly and a little sticky. The breast meat was great–why wouldn’t you confit it? It was served with an asparagus and ramp timbale, and some pickled ramps. The next day heat up the fat and pour it through a sieve. Keep it in the fridge to make many other dishes delicious (crispy fried potatoes, anyone?). Any fat or organ meat is the bonus to this dish. The fat may be fried up in a pan and will make you the most stunning bar snack you have ever had. See the image below. The organs are primed to be chopped up and added to a risotto or stew.

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Potted Cheese

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There are times when  a few neatly-wrapped ends of cheese will linger in my fridge. Instigated by a frugal move at the end of a cocktail hour, these bits of still-good cheese are well intentioned, but can pile up. I always use up cheese bits in some way—they can be a treasure. I had planned a cheese shortbread, and indeed used up some gorgonzola with a fig and cheese tart, but the bits of cheese were growing in number. My action plan was simple: potted cheese.

I poached a recipe, originally adapted from Jane Grigson, from this article on using up left over cheese. I used three random chunks of cheese: a gorgonzola, double cream d’Affinois, and a mystery cheese that I can’t remember the name of, but it was hard and a bit stinky. Seems a bit cacophonous, doesn’t it?  Remove the rinds, and chop them into chunks, and put them in the food processor. I added about 4 ounces of cream cheese, also in chunks, to smooth things over but butter would work as well. Add a few teaspoons of sherry, port or fruit liqueur–in my case I used a home made cherry almond liqueur, and it went perfectly.

After a few grinds of pepper, the resulting puree was smoothed in a wide-mouth half-pint Kerr jar, topped with very good olive oil. It’s now ready for a new cocktail. Serve on toasts, or with crackers. I am guessing you could also pop this in the freezer without any worry of losing flavor or consistency. UPDATE: this freezes beautifully!

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