Cassoulet, Part 1: duck confit

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.

This deceptively uninteresting photo actually contains two duck legs, a sprig of rosemary, bay leaf, and several cloves safely resting in duck fat. I promise to take better pictures of the pork belly in the next phase of the project.


About Scott

occasionally-bearded teacher/musician/cook
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8 Responses to Cassoulet, Part 1: duck confit

  1. Dave says:

    Bourdain’s short timing and high temperature are most likely influenced by his years in a commercial kitchen — and possibly by his use of of cocaine, heroin, and LSD…

  2. Scott says:

    Now Dave, let’s not start digging up past indiscretions! Plus, we want Tony to stay a friend of the blog. I’m sure he’s following along.

  3. Scott says:

    By the way, I didn’t spend too much time going over the technique of the confit, but the link below is a remarkably thorough post (and thread), with helpful comments from all sides on the topic (fat used, meat of choice, timing of cooking, and answers to questions on shelf life, flavor, etc):

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