Making duck confit for the first time- on Thanksgiving
I'm both excited and terribly nervous!
1. Some recipes have you simmer the duck in its fat stove top, others recommend baking. I probably won't have a cooking thermometer- which method would you recommend?
2. I also see recipes that mention sauteing the duck afterwards before serving- I was under the impression you just fish them out of the fat and serve them as is- is this not true?
3. Can I save and re-use the duck fat I cook the duck in? If so, how do I do that?
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The purpose of the sear before serving is to crisp the skin. It both looks good and tastes great. If you don't, the skin has a greasy, flabby look, and isn't appealing. If you decide to skip the sear, you may want to think about removing the skin for presentation.
I buy ducks several times a year. In my markets I can get them for under $3 a pound whole. Breasts are about $15 per pound. Rendered fat costs and arm and a leg (groaning is acceptable). Legs are unavailable. Get the whole duck and use all the parts. Cut them up - render all the excess fat - sear the breasts for dinner - confit the legs - make stock out of the carcass.
Make sure you strain the fat well if you plan to reuse it. Any bits of meat and bone left in it are more likely to cause spoilage. Duck fat keeps in a well sealed jar for a long time in the refrigerator, and freezes beautifully. Use it for anything that your grandmother used bacon grease for. Fry up potatoes, eggs, veggies, etc.
You should also remove liquid, which can cause mold, so drain it before storing.
Also check periodically in fridge for any that might develop.
Fridge storage - about 6 months.
Freezer - up to 9 months.
I will take your advice on the dutch oven and the sear- although everything I've read has me putting the meat in a single layer, so a couple of pieces may go into something flimsier because they all won't fit.
All I could find were legs! And I bit the bullet and bought my damn store-bought duck fat (groaning is right). If I'm doing this, I'm doing this!
I do have cheesecloth I can strain the fat through, and tons of mason jars, but I've never canned before. Do I need to create a vacuum seal, or will proper straining and a regular closed jar be enough?
Confit is an old preparation, it was poured into clay pots and stored in root cellars to provide meat in the dead of winter. The fat itself (completely covering the solid objects) provides a barrier to aerobic microorganisms.
Once you have brought confit from its deep sleep, worrying about spoilage of the non-fat components is reasonable. If you are trying to retain the fat (worthwhile for sure), I would filter out particles and try to eliminate non-fat liquid which will naturally be on the bottom since fat is lighter than water.
I've used the confit fat to fry eggs, potatoes and beans (like frijoles).
Like Nancy mentions, keeping the confit fat in the fridge for six months sounds like a reasonable estimate.
Have fun with it!
Stovetop works as long as you have a thermometer and closely monitor the pot for temperature changes.
With an oven, you just set the thermostat to 200 degrees and walk away. The oven's thermostat maintains the proper cooking temperature.
You don't have to reheat it, but a lot of people prefer it that way. Some people just don't like the cold, congealed fat I suppose.
I happen to like crispy duck skin; if you saute the duck confit after extracting it from the fat, you can get crispy skin. If you're not into crispy duck skin, feel free to ignore that step.
I do like crispy duck, and cold congealed fat doesn't sound too appetizing, even if it is duck fat, so I will probably saute. Should I let the duck rest in (or out?) the fat for a bit when I take it out of the oven, or just saute them right away?
Thank you so much for the explanations, this is exactly what I wanted to know :)
For your situation, I would be inclined to pull the duck out of the fat when it is done, then let rest/cool for at least an hour before trying to saute.
I highly recommend using any leftover duck, with a touch of the fat, in fresh skinny noodles with XO sauce (grubstreet.com recipe). That use is one of the main reasons that I make Clark's recipe as often as I do - which is, whenever I run out of duck or duck fat. ;o)