Duck confit is succulent, rich and tender. While it seems fancy, it ‘s incredibly easy to make. It just takes a little time. Here I pair it with a simple salad of roasted squash and arugula. The acidity of the vinegar and pepperiness of the arugula balance the fattiness of the duck.
Duck confit was originally made for preservation. Duck legs were cured, and then slowly cooked in duck fat. Think of it sort of like braising in fat. It was then stored covered in the fat, protecting it from the air, which helped it to last for an extended period of time. When I make it now I’m usually going to eat it within a couple of days, so I don’t worry about completely drying out my duck, or having it entirely covered with fat.
There are some rules you should follow though. If you’re not eating it immediately, store it in the duck fat. Then warm it in the fat when you are ready to serve. This helps it not to dry out.
I first learned to make duck confit in culinary school, but I really liked the flavors used at Fratelli, an Italian restaurant that used to be in Portland, and was my first restaurant job. To this day I almost always season my duck confit with similar ingredients to what was used there by Chef Paul Klitsie.
Duck Confit with Delicata Squash and Arugula (Serves 4)
- 4 duck legs
- 1lb duck fat
- 4 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp Juniper berries, ground
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 6-8 sprigs of thyme
- 5-6 cloves of garlic, peeled
- zest of one orange
- 1 delicata squash
- 2 oz arugula (roughly two large handfuls)
- 2 T sherry vinegar
- 24-48 hours before cooking the duck, season the legs with salt, ground Juniper, black pepper, and orange zest, and store covered in the refrigerator.
- When ready to confit the legs, preheat the oven to 325F. Remove the duck and fat from the fridge. Put the fat in an oven safe pan and warm it in the oven until liquid while the oven is preheating.
- Put the duck legs in a baking dish that will allow them to fit snuggly. I generally use a small casserole dish. Scatter the thyme sprigs and garlic cloves around the duck, and cover with the fat.
- Cook the duck for 2.5 to 3 hours until fork tender, but still on the bone. (If I’m serving the duck straight as an entrée I like for it to hold its shape, but if I know I’m going to be incorporating it into another dish, I’ll cook it longer until it’s falling apart.)
- While the duck is cooking prepare the delicata. Slice it in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Cut each half again lengthwise, and then slice into crescents. When the duck is done, remove it from the oven. Let it rest in the fat. Bump the heat of the oven up to 425F. While it is preheating, toss the squash in 2 T of duck fat. Season with salt. Spread the delicata out on a sheet pan and roast for about 20 minutes until browned on one side and tender. Then remove from the oven.
- The duck is ready to eat immediately, or if desired, you can brown it before serving. My legs are usually not completely covered in fat, so I simply return mine to the oven and broil briefly to brown the skin that is exposed.
- Toss the squash with the arugula and vinegar, and season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Remove the duck from the fat, and serve over the warm salad immediately.
You can reuse the duck fat. I recommend straining it into a container with a fine mesh sieve. As it cools any juices will fall, and the fat will rise. It must be refrigerated. Once it is chilled, you can scoop off the fat and use it. It is fantastic to roast potatoes or other vegetables with. You can even use it in stuffing.