A specialty of southwest France, confited meats are used in dishes such as rillettes and cassoulet. Derived from French verb confire, the word confit means, “to preserve”. Recently chefs have popularised confited vegetables and fruits but meat is still the most traditional ingredient for confit. The most common meats used for confit are Pork, for rillettes, and duck and goose legs.
In the confit process salt is used to extract moisture from the meat, then the meat is cooked in its own fat. This is different from deep fat frying as the fat is maintained at a low temperature and the meat is cooked slowly over a number of hours. After it becomes moist and tender, the meat is covered in the fat and stored in a cool place. Bacterial growth is prevented due to the fat layer surrounding the meat, which can prolong the life of the meat by several months. This procedure still continues to be popular despite the introduction of refrigeration because of the delectable, rich and salty meat the confit process produces.
To confit duck legs using the traditional method would take 24- 36 hours, using the sous vide method saves time and is more economical. Vacuum-packing the meat during the cure stage ensures that the salt and any aromatics penetrate deeper into the meat and the time for the salt curing step is reduced to only 10 hours. Cooking the duck in a water bath requires much less fat, but without sacrificing any of the flavour, making the process healthier and more economical.
- 2 plump deck legs
- 2 tbsp chilled duck fat
- 2 sprigs of thyme leaves picked, discard the stalks
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 20g Maldon sea salt
- 1 strip of chopped orange zest
- 1⁄2 tsp juniper berries
- 1⁄2 tsp black peppercorns
- Grind the salt and aromatics using a pestle and mortar into a dry paste
- Rub the salt and aromatic mixture over the duck leg and place in a base sealed vacuum bag of appropriate size. Refrigerate for 10 hours
- Fill the water bath with cold, clean water. Set the temperature to 75°C.
- Take the duck legs out of the fridge and remove them from the bag. Rinse under running cold water to remove the salt mix and using kitchen roll pat dry the duck legs.
- Vacuum seal the duck legs in a new vacuum bag with the duck fat.
- Place in the water bath and cook the duck legs at 75°C for 12–15 hours.
- Carefully remove the duck kegs from the water bath and removes from the bag. Place the duck legs in a hot pan and crisp the skin before serving. If required for later use, plunge the bag into iced water before refrigerating.