Duck confit is something that I have to have on hand at all times. When we run out, it is time to make more. Fortunately, the sous vide technique makes it extremely simple to make and to store.
For special occasions I splurge on high quality duck, but for routine use, I find the duck from our local Asian market does the trick very well at a reasonable price. They sell packs of 3-4 Pekin duck leg quarters. Three packs are 10 pieces; and that is perfect.
I use a half size stainless steel chafing pan for the curing stage. Wash and dry the duck legs. Rub them all over with a coating of salt. I like Korean sea salt for its coarse texture. The salt is the only required ingredient for the cure, but I like to add some herbs and spices because of the ways I plan to use the duck meat. Sprigs of fresh thyme, fresh bay leaves, slices of garlic, cracked black pepper and cloves are a great combination. So are some slices of black truffle if you are fortunate enough to have any.
Layer the duck legs in the chafing pan, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. The next day, rinse the duck and pat dry. Put two legs in each vacuum bag. Add about ¼ cup of duck fat to each bag. This is one of the beauties of duck confit in the sous vide method; you don’t need a whole big pot of duck fat. Vacuum seal the bags.
Heat the sous vide water bath to 176F, and drop the sealed pouches of duck into the bath. For small legs, they are usually done in 5-6 hours. Larger legs take a couple more hours. The duck may be left in the water bath for as long as you want once it is done. That is another great benefit of sous vide.
Take the pouches out of the water bath, and refrigerate them for 2-3 days. At that point, they are ready to use. Alternately, you may just freeze these pouches at this point for later use. To use the duck, let the pouch come to room temperature. Remove the duck legs from the pouch, leaving behind as much of the fat and congealed broth as possible. Crisp the legs in a cast iron skillet over medium heat.
Of course you may also use this duck confit in cassoulet, to make rillettes, or even to top a pizza or nachos! Here’s some duck confit nachos with homemade chips, Maytag Blue Cheese, and fresh hot peppers from my garden.
Duck confit rillettes is very popular in our house. To make it, I remove the duck legs from a pouch. Pull off the skin and set aside. Put the duck meat, a tablespoon or so of the fat, and all of the congealed duck broth from the pouch into the bowl of my stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix the contents of the bowl until it is a smooth textured paste. Crisp the skin in a cast iron skillet. Chop the skin into small bits and fold into the duck paste. Again, if you happen to have truffles or other ingredients you want to add, chop them finely and fold in.