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All About "Confit"

Traditional recipes for duck confit, or <em>confit de canard, </em>can require dozens of steps to prepare. David Lebovitz's fake take cuts the steps down to five.
Ed Anderson
Courtesy of Ten Speed Press
Traditional recipes for duck confit, or confit de canard, can require dozens of steps to prepare. David Lebovitz's fake take cuts the steps down to five.

When I started hanging out with people who were much better cooks than I was, I kept hearing about something called "confit". They fixed it every now and then right in front of me, but I couldn't quite figure out what it was. So, I asked Chef Jerry Pellegrino to set me straight.

Confit is any type of food that is cooked slowly over a long period as a method of preservation. Confit, as a cooking term, describes when food is cooked in grease, oil, or sugar water, at a lower temperature, as opposed to deep frying.

Here’s a great step by step description of how to make great confit duck legs:


One of the greatest use of a confit duck leg is to top a satisfying cassoulet, a somewhat daunting multi-day process that yields spectacular results.



5 cups white beans 2 pounds fresh pork belly 1 onion, cut into 4 pieces 1 bouquet garni (see below) salt and pepper ¼ cup duck fat 6 pork sausages 3 onions, thinly sliced 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

1 cup crushed tomatoes

2 tablespoons fresh thyme

1 cup bread crumbs 4 confit duck legs

Day One Place the beans in the large bowl and cover with cold water so that there are at least 2 or 3 inches of water above the top of the beans. Soak overnight.

Day Two Drain and rinse the beans and place in the large pot. Add the pork belly, the quartered onion, and the bouquet garni. Cover with water, add salt and pepper to taste, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the beans are tender, about an hour. Let cool for 20 minutes, then discard the onion and the bouquet garni. Remove the pork belly, cut it into 2-inch squares, and set aside. (If you plan to wait another day before finishing the dish, wait to cut the pork belly until then.) Strain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid separately.

In a large oven proof Dutch oven, heat the duck fat over medium-high heat until it shimmers and becomes transparent. Carefully add the sausages and brown on all sides. Remove and set aside, draining on paper towels. In the same pan, brown the squares of pork belly on each side. Remove and set aside, draining on paper towels. In the same pan, over medium-high heat, brown the sliced onions, the garlic. Add one cup of the reserved bean cooking liquid and, using a spatula, scrap and brown bits of off the bottom of the pot. Add the beans, pork belly, sausages tomatoes, and thyme.

Use just enough of the reserved cooking liquid to just cover the beans. Bring the cassoulet to a boil with occasional stirring. Reduce the heat and simmer for one hour with occasional stirring. Sprinkle the bread crumbs evenly over the top of the cassoulet and place under the broiler until the brad crumbs just begin to turn brown. Carefully remove the pot from the oven. Place the confit duck legs on the bread crumbs, skin side up and return to the broiler. Cook until the duck skin turns golden brown and becomes crispy. Remove and serve.

Duck Confit

Ingredients 4 duck legs sea salt black pepper 4 sprigs of fresh thyme 1 sprig of fresh rosemary 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

2 cups/450 g duck fat (available online from D’Artagnan)

Day One Place the duck legs and all the other ingredients except the duck fat in a bowl and mix until the legs are cpaoted evenly with the salt and have rubbed against the herbs. Place in a shallow dish, cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight.

Day Two Preheat the oven to 250°F. Render (melt) the duck fat in the saucepan until clear. Place the duck legs and all the other ingredients in a clean, ovenproof casserole. Pour the duck fat over the legs to just cover. Cover the dish with foil and put in the oven. Cook for three hours, or until the skin at the "ankle" of each leg pulls away from the "knuckle." The meat should be tender.

Allow to cool and then store as is in the refrigerator, sealed under the fat. When you need the confit, you can either warm the whole dish, in which case removing the legs will be easy, or dig them out of the cold fat and scrape off the excess.

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.