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Acclaimed chef J-C Poirier shares his recipe for 'cuisses de canard confit' from his gorgeous new cookbook.
This confit recipe comes from the Michelin-star chef of St. Lawrence, J-C Poirier, from the pages of his beautiful new cookbook, Where the River Narrows. It’s intended to be a key ingredient in his recipe for traditional tortiere, but the truth is, once you’ve got homemade duck confit in your fridge, you’ll find a way to use it anywhere and everywhere. Unsurprisingly, this is a time-intensive, multi-pronged recipe, so it’s probably not a great weeknight-dinner addition—but if you’ve got a little time to spare over the holidays, it’s a fantastic impress-your-guests, delight-your-tastebuds project. Bonne chance!
Yield: 4 portions
Preparation time: 30 minutes + 24 hours curing and soaking
Cooking time: 2¼ hours
In the days before refrigerators, cooking and storing duck in its own fat was a means of preservation. It’s a fantastic prep method that makes the meat silky and tender, and you can keep it in the fridge for a full year after it’s cooked. In this recipe, you can substitute cannellini or even navy beans if flageolet beans are hard to come by. Larger beans are preferable, though, so they don’t break down too much while braising.
To figure out how much salt to use, you’ll need to know the total weight of your duck in grams. If you only know pounds, divide that by 2.2, then multiply by 1,000 to get the weight in grams. Now multiply that weight by 1.5% (or 0.015) to get the amount of salt in grams. If you want to measure your salt in tablespoons, you’ll need 1 tablespoon for every 10 grams. If all that is too much math for you, just use 2 tablespoons in this recipe and call it a day.
Translated as “garnished bouquet,” a bouquet garni is a small bundle of herbs tied together with butcher’s twine or unwaxed kitchen string. It mir- rors the profile of herbs used in the dish and infuses subtle flavour in soups, braises, and stocks. The bouquet garni is removed before the finished dish is served.
Using a mortar and pestle, grind the berries, then add the bay leaves, thyme, and rosemary, and crush the herbs for a few seconds. Add the salt and mix all the ingredients together.
Place the duck legs in a medium bowl and season them liberally with the herbed salt. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 24 hours in the fridge. (Make sure to soak the beans at the same time.)
The next day, preheat your oven to 300°F (150°C), with the rack in the centre position.Remove the duck legs from the fridge, rinse off the salt, and pat dry. Using the tip of a paring knife, make small pricks all over the skin to help the fat render.
In a heavy-bottomed, ovenproof pot or Dutch oven on medium heat, melt the duck fat and heat to 195°F (90°C). Carefully place the duck legs in the hot fat and return to 195°F (90°C), then cover with a lid or foil and transfer the pot to the oven. Roast until the duck is very tender and there’s no resistance when pulling the bones, about 1½ to 2 hours. Make sure the fat never boils or even simmers, or the duck will overcook. Remove from the oven and let the meat cool in the fat.
Place the garlic cloves and butter in the centre of a square of foil and season with salt and pepper. Wrap the foil loosely around the garlic and seal it. Roast alongside the duck for 30 to 45 minutes, until tender and creamy. Set aside.
While the duck is roasting, place the beans and bouquet garni in a large saucepan. Cover with the stock and bring to a gentle sim- mer on medium-high heat. Lower the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, for 45 to 60 minutes, until the beans are fully cooked and creamy but still hold their shape. Discard the bouquet garni and season the beans with a few generous pinches of salt and pepper.
In a medium sauté pan on high heat, heat the oil. Pan-fry the bacon until browned and crispy. Drain off the excess fat and add the bacon and vinegar to the beans.
Carefully remove the duck legs from the fat and set aside on a baking sheet. Strain the duck fat through a tamis into a large bowl, leaving any cloudy liquid behind. (To store, place the legs in a deep airtight con- tainer and pour the strained fat over top until it covers the legs by 1 inch (2.5 cm). Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 year. Even if you’re not storing the duck itself, make sure to keep the duck fat in the fridge for other uses, such as frying potatoes or sautéing greens—it’s literally flavour overload.)
To serve, preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C), with the rack in the centre position.
Heat a large non-stick pan on medium-high heat. (You won’t need to add any fat, as the skin has plenty.) Place the duck legs in the pan, skin side down, and lower the heat to medium-low. This process makes the skin very crispy. I like to cover the legs with a square of parchment paper and put another pan on top to gently press them; it’s also helpful as the fat from the legs has a tendency to splash. Cook until the skin is golden brown and crispy, around 10 minutes. If the skin of the duck legs is ready but the meat is not hot enough, pop them in the oven for about 10 minutes.
Scoop the beans and some of the liquid into a serving dish and top with the confit duck legs. Sprinkle with the fresh savory. Place the roasted garlic cloves all around the dish so your guests can squeeze out the beautiful garlic purée as a condiment.
READ NEXT: More Christmassy Quebecois Comfort Food Recipes from Chef J-C Piorier
Excerpted from Where the River Narrows by Jean–Christophe Poirier with Joie Alvaro Kent. Copyright ©2022 Jean–Christophe Poirier. Photography © 2022 Brit Gill. Published by Appetite by Random House, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
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