First created in France, duck confit is a dish consisting of duck legs slowly roasted in their own fat. Originally a method to preserve duck meat, duck confit has long been considered a rich and savory dish. The cooking process renders the duck both tender and flavorful, and when properly contained, duck confit can keep for several months. Available in French restaurants, this dish is also fairly easy to cook at home.
Duck confit normally uses whole, attached duck legs and thighs. Occasionally, wings may be used as well. Duck fat is also required. Salt is an essential ingredient, and often other herbs and spices are used as well. Fresh thyme, bay leaves, garlic, shallots, and peppercorns all may be chosen to season this dish. Pepper, either coarse or fine ground, is also often used.
The duck legs are usually placed in a baking dish that has been seasoned with salt. The other seasonings are placed on top of the meat, and then the dish is chilled in the refrigerator for one or two days. This allows the meat to absorb the flavors of the seasonings.
When the duck is ready to roast, the seasonings are brushed off the duck and melted duck fat is poured over the meat. Then, the legs are baked for several hours at a setting no greater than 300°F; (149°C;). When the duck is done, the meat should be easily separated from the bone.
The duck confit can be eaten immediately, but part or all of the meat is often stored for later use. The meat is removed from the bones and placed into jars. Then, portions of fat are poured over the top of the meat and the jars are sealed tightly.
There are three things that make this an effective preservation method. First, the sealed jars help to inhibit anything from coming in contact with the meat. Second, the salt used in the cooking process helps deter unwanted microorganisms. Finally, the fat covering gives an extra protection against spoiling since it provides a barrier between the meat and the air.
Quicker ways of cooking this dish require only the duck and salt. The legs' skin and fat is pricked with a needle in order to encourage crisping. Then, the legs are heavily salted and slow cooked in a casserole dish filled with duck fat or vegetable oil. The duck is ready to eat in a few hours.