Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Dealings with Duck

Something for Sunday lunch or a Saturday supper...

On my first trip to The Wolseley five or so years ago, I'd recently stopped being a vegetarian. I wasn't quite up to the bravery of eating steak tartare (to be honest, not sure I'll ever quite get there!) that my lunching companion was eagerly ordering, so I plumped for the confit of duck. I thought if I didn't particularly like it, at least I knew I'd like the lentils it came with. But I did like it - in fact I liked it so much that when I went to try Brasserie Zedel (created by the same people who are behind The Wolseley) I knew exactly what I'd order.

My other random love involving the bird is the duck gyoza soup from Eat (I am definitely a lover of dumplings, whether in British or more glamorous foreign forms). I'd tried my hand at making vegetable gyoza as it seemed a bit more manageable, but having encountered this recipe suggestion for filling the little parcels with duck comfit, I knew I needed to get over my fears and give it a go. Pronto, in fact.

I had visions that making the duck confit would involve seriously complicated moves on a level with those involved in Julia Child's infamous 'Boned Stuffed Duck Baked in a Pastry Crust' recipe, Julie's nemesis at the end of the film.

Julie, in the film 'Julie and 'Julia', prepares to confront the duck.
Image from cornichon.org
Luckily, it wasn't anywhere near as complicated as I'd feared, which is why, along with its tastiness, I thoroughly recommend it to you! Although, I have to admit, the duck never made it to the dumpling wrappers. Smelling it cooking deliciously for two hours meant that there was no way I was going to faff around with gyoza. The duck had to be eaten.

The Recipe for the Duck Confit 
(or, as I shall be calling it, 'The Duck of Joy')
plus lentils.

I ended up amalgamating a few recipes; the end result was a mix of Nigel Slater's recipe for the Guardian, called 'The Duck Stops Here' (love the name), Raymond Blanc's recipe, which also has a video (probably only available to watch for a short time...) and Daniel Galmiche's recipe in the 'French Brasserie Cookbook'. I looked it up in the index of my Julia Child cookbook but it wasn't included...probably because I only have volume 1 at the moment!

Important note: the duck needs to marinate overnight (or two to three hours minimum!), so this is a recipe that requires a bit of planning ahead!

Ingredients to serve 2:

For the duck
  • 2 duck legs (Nigel Slater would have you chopping up a duck, but that sounded like it veered a bit towards the 'boned stuffed duck' way of doings things to me...)
  • 20g (or thereabouts) sea salt
  • thyme sprigs
  • 4 bay leaves
  • jar of duck fat (295g if you have a narrow cooking pot, perhaps twice that if you don't...you'll see what I mean if you read ahead in the instructions!)
For the lentils
  • Puy or green lentils (Puy would be best, but I only had green to hand)
  • An onion or shallot
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 2 tablespoons vinaigrette
Heat oven to 150C.

1. Prepare the duck! (Or, as in 'Julie and Julia', "Confront the duck!"). Place the duck legs in a fridge safe container (but prob not something plastic!) and rub salt into them - 20g of salt should do it. Recipes seem to range widely in the amount they suggest, but this seems about right. Add bay leaves and sprigs of thyme to duck. Wrap tightly in clingfilm, pressing the clingfilm around the duck legs themselves. Leave in the fridge for two hours, or better, overnight. This, apparently, is lightly curing the duck, which I find rather an excitingly grand concept.

2. Remove duck from fridge and brush the salt from it using some kitchen roll. Some recipes tell you to wash it off, whereas others tell you to not take the duck anywhere near water...I say err on the safe side and just use kitchen roll! Save the bay leaves and thyme.

3. Lightly brown duck in heavy bottomed casserole pot. Remove duck and put it on a piece of kitchen roll. 

4. Add duck fat to casserole pot and heat it to 85C (you can see I used my sugar thermometer to do this...perhaps not the best move!), then put the duck back in the pan with it along with the bay leaves and thyme from earlier. Then put the whole lot into the preheated oven for one and a half to two hours. The fat should cover the duck, which is why if your pan is quite wide (as mine is, see picture) you might need two 295g jars...

5. After the alloted time (during which your kitchen will smell incredibly enticing), remove the duck from the pan and, with some more good old kitchen towels, wipe off most of the fat. Then fry the duck legs, skin side down, over a medium heat in a saucepan. Voila...and if you're anything like me, you'll feel surprised by the success of your culinary efforts!

I'll post the recipe for the lentils tomorrow...and meanwhile I'll go to sleep dreaming of the smell of the duck, my nose lifting away from the bed like in an old fashioned cartoon (not sure that made any sense to anyone but me!).

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