IMG_5540.JPGOf course, it’s pretty basic, so let me explain the process and its history.

Waay back in the 17th century or perhaps even earlier, French peasant farmers would take some of their waterfowl, geese, or perhaps pigs and slaughter them for the coming winter. Confit apparently comes from the term confire which means ‘to prepare’.

The duck(s), usually the legs (nowadays referred to as ‘marylands’ for reasons I have yet to google, consist of the entire leg. These are then rubbed with a marinade usually consisting of salt, thyme, nutmeg, garlic, and parsley. There are many recipes and marinades to try, but I usually use rock salt, shallots, thyme, parsley, garlic, and pepper; all of which is tossed into the food processor, removed, and then rubbed all over the duck legs. The legs are refrigerated overnight or for several hours before cooking. One time I let the marinade remain for a couple of days in the fridge and the result was incredibly over salty duck legs. Still palatable, but not what my wife and I are typically used to.

When you are ready to cook, turn your oven on to 300F and prepare a roasting pan large enough for the number of legs you will be cooking. In this most recent effort, I had eight legs and they all just barely fit into my Pyrex roasting dish.

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Start by washing off the marinade. Don’t sweat it if some of your marinade still sticks onto the legs as you want to remove most of the marinade. Pat the duck legs dry. Place them into your roasting pan skin side down. It’s ok if they are nestled close to each other or otherwise touching.

Here is the relatively expensive aspect, though: rendered duck fat. You must cover the legs as completely as possible. If some parts of the bird peek above the level of the duck fat, it’s no big thing, but they should be mostly submerged.

Duck fat usually comes in plastic tubs of 12 oz or 16 oz and can range from $7.99 to $9.99. At my local grocers, Berkeley Bowl West, they usually have Mary’s Rendered Duck Fat (coming from the Pekin breed) and I bought three tubs in anticipation of this latest round of making confit. This was about $24 just for the fat alone; the duck legs are about 12oz apiece and $8.99/lb. The math is pretty straightforward–each leg costs about $6.75. Adding in the duck fat along with the duck legs, you’re looking at about $75 alone! So when you go to a specialty deli and note that a single duck leg cooked confit-style costs around $15, be patient and understanding.

There are ways, of course, to reduce your cost–using lard or a simple vegetable oil will save you considerably, and while it will certainly give you a creditable result, it won’t be quite the same as if you were to use the real thing which so complements the bird in the first place. Or…you could substitute half the duck fat with a lesser, cheaper oil and your results might still be pretty decent.

One added consideration–the duck fat can be used again, up to three times and frozen in a mason jar or plastic tub for months, preferably after you have strained out any extra particulates and bits of duck stuff first with cheesecloth. So technically, your oil cost could be only about $8 each time you prepared confit rather than $24.

And don’t let the cost scare you off. Duck fat provides amazing flavor as well as reasonably good nutritive value as butter…when used properly.

OK, where were we? Oh, yeah, we submerged our duck legs, covered the roasting pan with foil, had preheated the oven to 300F, and put them into the oven for two hours of poaching. For safety’s sake,I put the roasting pan on a larger flat pan to catch any overflow of oil mess. Yes, folks, you are basically using a poaching method. I have on a couple of occasions used water and aromatic vegetables to cook the duck legs for different recipes and the result is wonderful, though not quite as dramatic.

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Once your legs have finished their poaching process, put the pan down to cool for awhile. By this time, the previously thick fat will have melted to an unctuous liquid, relatively clear. Once the duck legs have cooled a bit, put them in a container and pour the duck fat liquid over them, allowing the legs to stick above…or not. Personally, I think it looks kinda cool.

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Put the legs in their container into the refrigerator and allow to cool. You can now keep them like that for weeks or months, and pull out what you might need whenever you feel like having canard de confit. Great just as straight duck legs, or shred them to put into a salad…or whatever.

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Within a few hours, your duck legs sitting in the fat will see themselves once again sealed up safely in their protective sheath, ready for you to get creative or…most likely, satisfy your hunger in a spectacular way on any given night.

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