I may be trained in classic French technique and let me be clear, I put a high value on my culinary education, but I love a good shortcut in the kitchen.
Between my day job, this job and the many commitments I have outside of work, it's hard to find time for some of my favorite cooking projects - cheese making, preparing stock from scratch or something like duck confit.
This past December we ordered two ducks for Christmas dinner. I roasted one whole and then decided to see how many different ways I could prepare the second. I first broke it down into legs and breasts. I then collected as much of the remaining skin as I could and rendered it. That left me with about 1 1/2 cups of glorious duck fat (aka cook's gold) and some delicious duck cracklings for the masses to munch on while I prepped the rest. I knew I was going to sear the duck breasts on the stovetop, but what was I to do with the duck legs? I had neither the time nor the quantity of duck fat necessary to complete the process for duck confit, but how could you do anything but when prepping duck for a special Christmas dinner?
Enter Cheat's Duck Confit.
It turns out it is possible to get similar results with neither the time nor the precious resource (duck fat) commitment, though it is helpful to have a bit of duck fat to get you starter. If you are a normal human being and don't spend your days rendering duck fat, you can pick up a container at most grocery stores. I got mine at Bristol Farms for $12.99 and when you're finished with this recipe, you'll actually have more duck fat than when you began - not less.
The process is relatively simple for this easy duck confit recipe. Like traditional duck confit, you start by salting the legs, but unlike the traditional technique, you'll have a finished dish in just a few hours (with almost no hands on work). That's what I call a shortcut.
Cheat's Duck Confit
Serves 2 (though easily doubled or tripled)
2 duck legs
1/4 - 1/2 cup duck fat
A few sprigs of thyme
Prick the skin of the duck legs all over with the tip of a knife. Sprinkle the legs liberally with salt - use more than you think you should. Let the legs sit at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes.
Select a baking dish just large enough to fit the duck legs when nestled closely together. Slick the bottom with duck fat to a depth of 1/8 to 1/4-inch, depending on how much fat you have to spare. Place the duck legs in the dish and tuck in a few thyme sprigs. Place the dish in a cold oven and turn it on to 300. Cook for two hours and voila easy duck confit.
If the skin has not browned and crisped up the way you would like, raise the oven temperature and check every five to 10 minutes until you're happy with results.
Remove the duck legs from the dish and serve as desired, reserving the rendered duck fat for later use.