From The Deluxe Food Lovers Companion, you’ll find that the term “confit” is the from the method of cooking meat slowly, at low temperature. This (in South-West France) is frequently duck or goose.Yes–you read that correctly: it’s cooked in fat after being salted and seasoned, and is stored in fat. Before refrigeration it was a method of preserving meat–duck or goose, or pork in their own fat. Cooking killed microbes and sealing in fat and sealing in the fat (similar to putting paraffin over jam or jelly) prevented exposure to additional microbes. The temperatures usually given for traditional confit are below boiling (212°F or 100°C) but high enough that the internal temperature of the meat will be over 140°F (60°C)–usually around 160 °F to 180°F (60 °C to 80°C) leave the confit more tender (McGee).
If you’re thinking g “Ewww, fat”, not to worry. Fat does not penetrate into the meat. I’ve seen suggestions in several blogs that you can get the same effect by braising in liquid very slowly, and then rubbing fat onto the meat afterwards. I’ve not tested this; I know that the texture and flavor of confit (e.g. tuna) is very special, so I’m not likely to change my method anytime soon. Either way, we are not taking fast food here, at least until after we get the confit made). We are talking long, very slow cooking.
If you’re adding the traditional salting/seasoning, then we’re talking even longer–requires planning several days ahead. Then there’s the aging of the confit–the flavor does mature as it stands, and I, personally, would hate to lose that really great flavor and the lush texture of the traditional method. Time well spent, in my opinion.
Note that the image here is thanks to NPR, the salt website.
A friend recently emailed me a link for Counterfeit Duck Confit (NPR) since she knows that I like that sort of thing–in other words, I like a peasant cooking. I’ve not tried this recipe yet–weather is just too damn hot to even think of turning on the over or even having a burner on for very long (induction cooking is a help) but my appetite isn’t set for duck yet–later when the weather is cool. Despite my lack of appetite for duck confit right now, this is a recipe that I do want to share and that I’ll be making when the weather is cooler.
You’re asking why I’m sharing this if I haven’t tried it? Well looks like an excellent recipe to me, and it’s from David Lebovitz–I pay attention to his recipes, since I’ve never made on that was anything but excellent. My reservation is that although the duck legs are going to taste very good, that I will not measure up to traditional duck confit. It’s my excuse to get a bunch of duck legs (which I almost always have to special order so it’s a lot of duck legs) and taste this side-by-side with my traditional confit. The caption is a link to the NPR site and the full recipe and the commentary. You’ll note that this is still not fast food, though is easier than the traditional method.
One of the important things for the texture of confit is “slow and low” cooking. While this is slow (3 hours probably begins to qualify for “slow”), I don’t think it qualifies for the “low” as the temperatures used are 300 °F for 2-1/2 hours of the baking, and 375 °F for 15 minutes. I have no doubt at all that these duck legs will taste wonderful–but as Lebovitz stated–it’s not true confit. Some serious comparisons are in order here–but pleasurable since I love duck!
. . . .a son goût