I'm going to show you a really easy way to make a duck confit. When Paula Wolfert takes a short cut, you've got to know it's not a cop-out. The woman is nothing if not the queen of patience in service to authenticity. However, if you are not up for even this level of fiddling, you can make my inauthentic but IMHO tasty cassoulet with purchased confit. You'll need two leg/thigh sections for the payoff dish. There are many other nifty uses for a duck confit, too, I hope to get to that soon.
If you were following along with Part I, you've got a little plastic bag in the fridge, with some salted and seasoned duck parts, those being 2 leg and thigh sections, 2 wings, and the neck. You also have 4 cups of rendered duck fat. Possibly this is actually a duck/goose fat blend. You may even be stretching it with olive oil. I hope you have a crock pot, or other slow cooker. The smaller the better, really. The little ones are fabulously cheap, and have many uses, including impromptu fondue pot, overnight oatmeal maker, and so on.
Before you go to bed, plug in the crock pot, and set it on low. Brush most of the bits of seasoning off the duck parts, and put them in the pot. Liquify the fat by heating it in the microwave or otherwise, at a lowish heat so as not to induce bubbling over. Pour over the duck parts, and make sure they are covered completely by fat. If not, add that olive oil..or some lard until they are entirely submerged. Put on the lid, and go to sleep.
In the morning, sprinkle coarse salt on the bottom of a clean container large enough to hold the contents of the crock pot. Use tongs to lift out the very soft duck,
and set it all in the clean container. Pour the liquid fat through a very fine strainer over the duck, again making sure it's all covered with the fat. Let this cool while you get ready for work, or make some coffee and breakfast, or both. When it's cooled down, cover and refrigerate. Was that easy or what?
Later in the day, if you've used a flexible plastic container, you can pop out the confit and fat in a block. There will be a layer of rich duck jelly on the bottom. You can peel this off, and store separately in the fridge, to add depth of flavor to any of the duck dishes I'm going on about. Not to worry if not, though, the salt on the bottom will keep it from going off until you work your way down.
Store the confit in the fridge for at least a week, so the characteristic confit flavor can develop.Now you are ready to use these goodies. It is best, food safety-wise, to thoroughly heat the confit before serving. Mostly, you will want to cook it in its own fat until it's crispy, and delightful. Merci, Ms. Wolfert.
B. Cheater's Cassoulet
1 lb Great Northern beans
some of that dock stock you made in Part I- (or
a quart of good boxed chicken or turkey stock)
an onion with 5 cloves stuck in it
a couple of bay leaves
6-7 cloves of garlic
your confit and the fat that clings to it when you remove it from the container
4 garlic sausages- I used the already cooked chicken ones
a pork chop
bread crumbs from a country loaf- about 2 cups
a 15 oz can of tomatoes
This is seriously unseasonal, I know, but it was cold here last week. I'm eager for the local produce and the farm box to start up, but so far, there's not much to be had. A friend brought me some just-cut asparagus from her garden, which was beyond fabulous- I was so lucky. I was all over cooking and consuming it instantly... but there's not been much yet, since then. In the meantime, if the weather isn't balmy where you live, you might want to give this a try.
Soak your beans over night, in water to cover. In the morning, drain them, put them in a heavy pot, add the stock, and water, if necessary, to cover. Put the pork chop, bay, thyme, onion and garlic in with the beans. Bring to a boil, then turn to a simmer. Salt and pepper to taste, then cook until the beans are very tender. When they are cooked completely, snatch the chop out with some tongs, and set it on a cutting board. Add the can of tomatoes, and continue to simmer the beans. (Don't add the tomatoes until the beans are tender. .The acid in the tomatoes will stop them softening properly.)Preheat the oven to 350F.
While the beans and tomatoes are cooking, shred the confit into a 3 qt covered enameled cast iron or stonewear casserole, preferably one which has a lid. It will have some fat clinging to it. Add a bit more fat, the sausages, sliced, and the pork chop, cut in cubes. Cook, over a low heat, until the confit is browned and crispy, and the rest of the meat has browned edges..Add the beans and their cooked-down liquid to the casserole, and mix it all up well. Cover with a thick layer of the crumbs, and drizzle or spray with olive oil. Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until there's major bubbling up happening around the edges. the breadcrumbs should be nicely browned now. Consume with some friends and a bit of green salad.
If you like, you can assemble the whole casserole, and keep it in the fridge for a day. If you do that, you should let it come to room temperature for about 1/2 hour, while you preheat the oven. This is very sociable food. There is going to be a a nice duck breast supper soon. Stay tuned.