Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Confit Me

Long before there was the convenience of modern refrigeration, our culinary forefathers had to find ways to preserve their food. Seafaring nations such as France and Britain, saw this as an absolute necessity as they set their sons adrift, absent a sense of security in procuring food while out to sea. One method of food preservation has not only stood the test of time, but has become a technique that is used in fine dining establishments  around the world: confit. 

The process of confit arguably comes from the Glascony region of France, and is the practice of preserving meats by salt curing, and slow poaching in their own fat. Once the meat and fat are cooled, they can be stored for up to six months in the refrigerator, in sealed containers. Recently, I've put away two different types of confit, duck and rabbit, for consumption at a later date. According to Fergus Henderson, the flavor of confit will "keep and improve for many months." 

Around Thanksgiving, the Butcher got in some ducks from Sebastian at Countryside Meats. Sebastian's ducks aren't the fattest ducks around -- I think he keeps the fat from the internal cavity for himself, but that's just a speculation -- but they tend to render out some fat. Anyway, I purchased a duck, broke it down like I'd been shown, and set out to confit the legs, save the breasts, and make some stock (last week, I purchased a rabbit from work, also from Countryside Meats, and made confit with it's plump hind legs). Despite rendering all the skin from the beast, I wasn't going to have enough fat to confit the mighty legs. As much as I don't like going there, Central Market sells one pound tubs of duck fat at a decent price. I suggest you pick some up (in the meat case), and cook some veggies in it. You may never want to use butter again. 

Yum, yum, yum...

After procuring the fat, I was home free to confit! You must first salt the meat, and let it rest for at least 24 hours, which starts the curing process, before you confit. The method I used involves making a layer of salt, pepper and thyme in the bottom of your vessel, on which you lay the meats, repeating the layering as you add meat. After the allotted time passes, you must wipe off the excess salt, pat the meat dry and place it in an ovenproof container. You then cover the meat with fat, and cook in a medium temperature oven (325º to 350º) until fork tender, about two and a quarter hours. The cooking time varies for the type of animal that is to be made into confit (duck legs - 2 1/4 hours, rabbit legs - 2 hours, goose legs - 2 3/4 hours). Remove the meat and fat from the oven, allow to cool, transferring the meat and fat to a storage container once it is cool enough to handle, and refrigerate.  

Legs in the terrine.

Cover with duck icing, I mean, fat. 

Place in clean storage container.

Sit back and relax.

Now you have confit to use at your leisure. To reheat the meat, wipe off the excess fat, and heat either in a pan on the stove, or in the oven until the meat is heated throughout, and the skin crisps up. You can also add your confit to soups, stews, or yummy things like cassoulet. Don't forget to save that excess fat, it can be used again for general cooking purposes, or to confit more tasty treats. Stand by that oven, and stay warm!

8 comments:

amenity said...

Yay! Previously obscure & intimidating method explained with a photo tutorial. Will you do sous vide next?

Flapjacks said...

I don't have an immersion circulator, or a vacuum sealer... yet!

Kevin said...

At the farmer's market this weekend I asked a guy who sold ducks if I could purchase some fat (not on his list). He replied smugly, in a French accent, "No. The fat, I keep for myself."

Flapjacks said...

That would be Sebastian. He his very much a Frenchman. I knew he kept that shit!

TexasDeb said...

So duck fat is the new ghee?

Flapjacks said...

no, no, no! both are special in their own way... and, sadly, duck fat can't handle the temperatures that ghee can.

amenity said...

Aww come on...It's *dangerous*, but people rig up all sorts of janky low budget sous vide contraptions...

Flapjacks said...

that's scary! i have too much hair on my body to try and rig up things...

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