NYC Kitchen Confidential: Counterfeit Duck Confit
In an era of Blue Apron, Plated and a slew of other meal-order services, we think it's rare to have friends that cook gourmet meals during the week on top of working demanding day jobs. We are lucky enough to be friends with Elizabeth Volpe, the culinary wizard behind our favorite foodie destination, The Kitchen Chronicles. She's generously agreed to share her latest scrumptious meal journey with us. Hat's off to the chef, and take it away Elizabeth:
I think the first time I had duck confit – at least the first time it made an impression on me – was in Portugal a couple of years ago. We were staying in the Douro Valley, looking for a good winery where we could do a tasting on a Sunday afternoon. Somewhat by accident, we ended up at Quinta Nova. Since it was lunchtime, and we were already spoiled out of our minds with the scenery and the food and the luxury, we were easily talked into a several-course meal with wine pairings on the patio overlooking the river. Gazpacho, swordfish carpaccio…by the time the duck confit arrived I was a little drunk, and my mind was fully blown.
If you’ve never had duck leg confit, think of it as the richest, most flavorful duck meat on the inside and the crispiest skin on the outside. It’s like a dainty fried chicken on flavor steroids. Typically, preparing this takes 2 days because the duck legs need to relax in rendered duck fat for hours on end before they’re prepared on the stove top. This is a throwback to ancient times when this was a way of preserving meat in a big ol’ pile of grease! Now, I’ve cooked a lot of things, but prior to this recipe I had botched duck twice. Most recently, I’d attempted a Moorish-influenced duck breast that I somehow overcooked despite keeping a close eye, and was so frustrated I threw most of it in the garbage. So, when David Lebovitz, who is right about just about everything, and especially everything French, wrote in his book My Paris Kitchen that he had created the perfect shortcut duck confit, I was skeptical.
The steps were super easy. Duck legs, all spice, bay leaf, garlic, salt, gin (I had plenty of that on hand, for situations like the last duck dinner I’d made). Prick the legs all over with a needle (okay...courage!), rub them lovingly with the 5 key ingredients, let them rest for a few hours, and then bake for a few more. That’s it. Seriously! The recipe practically made itself. But, I took credit for it, because it was outrageously delicious. Crunching through that crispy skin brought me right back to that afternoon in the Douro Valley, lunching like a sophisticated European family minus my mom videoing our entire meal when she meant to be snapping pictures. This time, I wasn’t in public, so I picked up those legs and devoured every speck of meat off the bone. Délicieux.
If you’re looking for spring dinner party food, I think you’ve found it. This recipe serves 4, but could easily be doubled for a par-tay and it requires so little hands-on time that it’s really the perfect thing to prepare for guests. Plus, once you prepare this, it doesn’t even matter what you put alongside it or give people for dessert – they will not even notice once they’re crunching their way through dinner.
Counterfeit Duck Confit
Yield: Serves 4
Tips: Make sure you use a baking dish that is small enough to fit the four legs snugly - this is key to achieving the crispy outcome.
- 4 duck thighs (thigh and leg attached)
- 1 tablespoon of sea salt
- 1 tablespoon gin
- 1/4 tablespoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tablespoon allspice
- 2 cloves garlic,peeled and halved lengthwise
- 2 bay leaves
- Prick the duck all over with a needle, piercing the skin.
- Mix the salt, gin, nutmeg and allspice in a baking dish that will fit the duck legs snugly, with no room around them. Rub the spice mixture all over the meat.
- Put the garlic (cut lengthwise) and bay leaves on the bottom of the baking dish and lay the duck legs, flesh-side down, on top. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.
- Put the duck in a cold oven. Turn the oven on to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the duck thighs for 2.5 hours, taking them out during baking once or twice and basting them with any duck fat pooling around.
- To finish the duck, increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the skin is deeply browned and very crispy.
Recipe from My Paris Kitchen