We set the record straight!
First of all, ‘confit’ is pronounced ‘confee’. It is quite possibly the single most abused word in the culinary dictionary. Chefs ‘confit’ everything; tomatoes, aubergines, onions, fruits, coffee percolator, cuddly toy, kitchen sink, you name it and it’s on a menu at a restaurant near you.
Confit is the name given to a meat which has been cooked in its own fat and then covered and preserved in the same fat to prevent it from spoiling. That’s it.
A tomato cannot be cooked and stored in its own fat, it can be cooked and covered with olive oil (which is what they really mean) but to call it ‘confit’ is taking poetic licence a little too far.
We confit duck legs. Whole ducks are deboned, the breasts are reserved for roasting to order, the legs for confit, the carcasse is roasted to render its natural fat for confit and then used for making the base to our chosen sauce. The whole process begins two days before, the duck breasts are marinated with chinese spices (sechuan pepper, anise, cassia bark, dried orange peel) and vac-packed to maintain freshness and seal in the flavour of the marinade.
The duck legs are then coated in a salt and herb mix to both flavour the meat and draw out the excess moisture before cooking. Coarse sea salt is blended with bay leaves, cinnamon, anise, juniper berries, thyme, parsley and chervil with a little lemon zest to make a flavoursome salt rub.
As the salt works its magic the flesh begins to harden, at this point the salt can be washed off and the meat patted dry. Put the legs in a pan and cover with the rendered fat, if you don’t have enough then buy a tin of duck (or goose) fat and pour that over.
I like to flavour the new fat with onion, garlic, herbs, spices etc. Once cooked the fat can be strained and used again and again. Remember to strain it everytime so that you are left with the pure fat and taste it to see how it develops in flavour.
Cook the duck legs slowly all afternoon until the flesh is meltingly tender. The legs can be kept whole or the meat can be stripped from the bone and used in salads, soups, casseroles or as a filling for stuffed cabbage which I use to serve with a roasted duck breast.