Sunday, January 29, 2012

I Wanna Duck You Like an Animal (a brief affair in which i learn to love)

Today's Specials:  Roulade of Gratitude, Raised Expectations, & Pride in a Raspberry and Scotch sauce.  Garnished with a Penchant for Duck Fat.

Set to the tune of Ween's "I Can't Put My Finger On It"


I know we've only been together a short while....but I really feel like I can tell you've just got that kind of face, I guess.  So I'm gonna let you in on a little something about me.  You all know I love bacon.  But what you may not know is, duck confit comes in a pretty close second.  And guess what?!?  I got to make both of them this week!!  I wish there was a 'scream like a little girl' emoticon!!

I see some of you out there are confused.  "What's duck confit?" you may ask.  To which I reply, I don't want to know you anymore.


We're here to learn, right?  So I'll tell ya.  It's duck legs that have been cured, poached in duck fat, and packed in a container along with the aforementioned fat.  That's it.

Did I mention it stays good (and actually improves in flavor) for up to six months?  Yeah...true story.  Turns out, 'confit' (pronouced CON-fee) is a pretentious-sounding French word for 'preservation'.  I could go on about how packing the meat in fat halts oxidation especially when combined with the salt curing blah blah blah.....if you want to know all about it, it's here.

So here's my duck confit adventure.....*cue Indiana Jones Theme.*

Ok, this isn't a recipe for you guys, per se and I'll tell you why.  Reason #1, this is the first time I've made duck confit in a sous vide machine* and as of this writing the jury is still out on the results.  I certainly wouldn't pass-along information to you without testing and verifying the end-product.  If it works out ok, I'll post a recipe later....with some modifications.  Which brings us to Reason #2, the method I used to sous vide is......questionable.  And not exactly FDA approved, if you know what I mean.**  And frankly, I may have fucked it up.  But, I made a promise to you dear readers and I intend to keep it.  Victories and failures are ours to learn from!

 *What the hell is a sous vide (pronounced soo-veed) machine?  Simply put, it's a hot water bath that is precisely temperature controlled.  You place the food to be cooked in little plastic bags and the bags are immersed in the water for long periods of time until fully cooked.  The result is a fully cooked, tender, moist (as no moisture has left the food at any time) and relatively easy product.  If you want to learn a little more about the practice, check it out here.

**The traditional method for duck confit is 1, cure the legs for a few hours or a day.  2, heat up some rendered duck fat.  3, pour the fat onto the legs and cook (either on the stove top or in the oven) at a very low temperature (never to exceed 200 degrees). Then put it all into a sealable container and let it ripen.  Use it when you want awesomeness.  The sous vide method is 1, cure.  2, place into little bags with rendered duck fat.  3, place into water bath and cook for hours (the temperature never exceeding 200 degrees).  I....sorta did a hybrid of the two.  It's not exactly the safest method (and I don't recommend it), but I figure if something went wrong, we'll know long before it's time to eat this stuff.  That's the good news about duck confit.  It doesn't KINDOF go's rancid meat that's been sitting around for months.  My guess is if I didn't do it right, when the time comes to eat this stuff the bacteria would have evolved to the point of sentience and would be able to tell us themselves if they've gone bad.  Or it may just get up and walk out on it's own....I guess we'll find out.

So here's how I did it.

We got our ducks in whole....I butchered them and put the legs in one pan, the breasts another.  The rest gets roasted and turned into a stock.  On the left are (of course) the legs....the breasts have another amazing fate (we'll talk about it in another post - we'll also be talking about breasts in general I imagine). 

Then I rubbed them in salt to cure them.  This is just salt.  Then they're covered and refrigerated for 24 hours.  Then they're rinsed off and patted dry.  Unfortunately your jackass photographer and humble narrator did not get any pictures of the result of the cure.  Suffice to say the meat was darker in color and firmer in other words, cured.  They're then put on a wire rack to dry a little further while I prepare the rest of the procedure: Melting rendered duck fat.  You can render your own if you'd like....but I was doing a lot of legs here and I wanted to make it as easy on myself as possible so I bought the stuff in 10 lb buckets from the same farm as the ducks.  Again, jackass picture boy didn't get a shot of it...but it's basically a tub of fat.  White, very soft, creamy. Fat.  I accidentally dropped some of it onto a piece of toasted bread and had to eat it (we can't have any waste, now can we?).  It was delicious.  This was a good idea.  So I warmed up the fat in a pot until it was fully clear (didn't take long) and we were ready for the next step.  Combining the two.

The legs were layered into my trusty Sous Vide Supreme machine and covered with the now hot fat being (carefully) poured over. According to the machine's thermometer, it was 202 degrees.  Slightly high for the need, but perfectly acceptable.  The temperature was set to 188 degrees and the lid was placed on it....and we were on our way to Confit-land.

So who wants to hear something funny?  Ok, good.  I started this whole process around 1pm....I did mention this was a 10+ hour cooking process, right?  So about 1130pm rolls around and I have to excuse myself from my drinking companions so I can "check on my duck legs."

I'm not sure how many of them knew what I was talking about....I'm not sure I want to know.  But I come back and this is what I see....yes it looks a lil.....strange.  But my god...the smell.  So. Fucking. Good.  Like sex, but in my nose (so exactly like sex).  

The only steps left were to pull the duck legs out carefully....they were perfect:  Not falling off the bone unless they were carelessly handled (which, incidentally, is just how I like my women).  The legs were gently layered in  a sealable container, covered with the poaching fat, and placed in an ice bath for quicker chilling.  Then into the fridge.  

We'll check back in on them in a couple months....

Anyone curious as to what's going on with that bacon?


  1. YES!!!!!!! Do update us on the progress of out bacon!!!!!

  2. Ducking out on beer companions...poor taste...