Duck Confit Salad

Preserving food by smoking, curing and drying is an ancient process of cooking.  Before refrigeration and eating seasonally became a trend, this was the only way to safely store food. To “confit” means to cook and preserve meat in its own fat.

The confit was generally stored in a cool root cellar for several months. This makes the meat very tender and moist, and you are left with tender, juicy meat that is almost falling off the bone.

curing duck qtrs

Duck Confit with Herb Salt Rub

1/2 cup kosher salt or sea salt

2 tbsp light brown sugar

3 bay leaves, broken into pieces

2 tbsp chopped thyme

1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves

1 tsp black peppercorns

8 8 oz whole Pekin duck legs, or leg/thigh quarters

6-8 cups rendered duck fat, melted


Combine all of the herb salt ingredients in a food processor and blend until well combined then set aside.

Cut excess fat and skin from duck legs or duck quarters.

Weigh the duck legs or quarters.  When salting the rule of thumb is 2 tbsp of herb salt to one pound of duck.  Rub the salt evenly over the entire duck.  Put the duck flesh side up in a single layer in a baking dish that holds them comfortably.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees with the rack in the center position.

Rinse the legs under cold water and dry thoroughly with paper towels.  I like to trim the excess skin and fat from the quarters and render it slowly in a pan over medium heat.  This usually takes 20-30 minutes. I usually make duck fat cubes with this clean rendered fat and use it to sauté meats, vegetables or roast potatoes and use it in the Roasted Almonds with Duck Fat & Rosemary recipe I posted several weeks ago.

Layer the duck quarters no more than 2 layers deep in a heavy ovenproof pot with a lid.  I heat the duck fat in a different pot than the one I am going to cook the duck quarters in.  I heat the fat on medium heat just until it becomes liquid.  I put one layer of duck quarters in the pot, pour the melted fat over them to cover them then add the 2nd layer of quarters and pour more melted fat on top until they are completely covered. Leave a few inches of space as the duck quarters will release their fat during the cooking process and you will have more duck fat in the pan than when you started!

Cover the pot and place in the oven. Cook for 7-8 hours.  Check the meat by carefully lifting it from the fat and piercing it with a pairing knife.  The meat should be meltingly tender but still intact and not falling off the bone.  Otherwise the duck will not stay intact when reheating.

Gently lift the legs from the fat and place in a storage container.  Strain the fat over the duck, but not the juices, completely submerging the duck.

Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks, or place in the freezer and use within 2-3 months.

When ready to use, remove the duck from the refrigerator or freezer and let come to room temperature. You may also microwave them just long enough to soften the fat so you can take them out without tearing them apart.

photo 3

That’s how you make proper Duck Confit, which is delicious in everything from salads to pasta.  But we are not done!  Below is the recipe for the first course in this month’s Paired Wine Dinner.

Duck Confit Salad

Duck Confit

1/2 cup sliced blanched almonds

2 duck leg/thigh quarters

4 cups chopped frisee, mixed greens, or arugula, washed and dried

Kosher Salt and Pepper (to taste)

1/2 cup piquillo peppers, sliced in strips or diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place the almond on the baking sheet and place in the oven for 3 minutes.  Remove the pan, stir the almond and toast for another 3 minutes.  Check to make sure the almonds are not burning or getting too brown. They should be a golden color.  Remove from heat and transfer to a plate to let them cool.

Put the duck quarters on a cookie sheet and place in the oven for 10 minutes at 250 degrees.  Heat just until duck is warm.  Remove from oven and take skin off and shred meat for salad.

Lemon Chive Vinaigrette (makes 1/2 cup)

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp grape seed oil or other light oil (not olive oil)

2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 tsp honey

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1 Tbsp minced chives

Salt and Pepper (to taste)

Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl.


Wash the greens, and drizzle with vinaigrette.  Toss and season with the salt and pepper.  Arrange the greens on a serving plate, then add the shredded duck, peppers, and almonds.

Course 1 with wine

Duck confit has lots of uses.  You can shred it and serve over salads like in this recipe, or use it as a filling for a variety of things like meat pies, ravioli, papussa’s (south american tamales like dish), soups and in appetizers.  It is rich and has exotic flavors from the salt and herb cure and is a dish that is very popular in Gascony, France. When Henri IV was king of France he would routinely send for whole barrels of confit from his home in Gascony, since nobody in Paris made it!

I am like King Henri! When I make this I tend to make enough to last for a good while.  The process is easy. Don’t let the length recipe fool you.  It is simple and you will have a treat that you don’t see in a lot of American restaurants today.

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