Day 1: In preparation for making cassoulet for Christmas Eve, I figured I’d start with the duck. I’m having a hard time finding duck fat in any large quantity in local stores, and even the most reasonable sources online get expensive once you factor in 1-2 day shipping. So, inspired in part by a Mike Pardus post and video demonstration on using the whole duck from A Hunger Artist blog (Sept 2008), I bought a whole duck, set aside the two legs for confit, made a 1/2 quart of concentrated stock, rendered 2 cups of fat, made a small crock of duck liver mousse, and had seared duck breast with potatoes for dinner. It was a busy and aromatic afternoon.
Day 2: After an overnight cure in sea salt, black pepper, bay leaves, crushed juniper berries and cloves, the legs have been rinsed and dried, and they are now cooking in their fat in a low oven (200 deg) for a few hours. A quick look at several recipes showed a large range of cooking temperatures and times, from an hour at 375 (Bourdain), 3 hours at 275 (Wolfert), 3 hours at 225 (McNally), to 6 hours at 200 (Ruhlman/Polcyn). I’ve sided with the slow and low approach because I’m in no rush, and I’ll let time and heat work their magic like they do for turkey stock in the oven. I’ll have to settle for delayed gratification on this dish, since I didn’t make any extra legs (I should have, yes, I know), and after cooking they’re going back into the fridge for a week or so until it’s time to assemble the cassoulet.