The word confit means to preserve or conserve. The process of making confit involves cooking meat very slowly in fat, until it literally falls off the bone. The most common fats used for confit are duck, goose and chicken. These are available commercially, but to make them is a very simple process.
Poultry legs like quail, squab, guinea fowl, pheasant, turkey and duck are most suitable for confit as they can be tough and contain sinew that is broken down during the slow cooking process. Other meats with a low fat content that also benefit from being confited are loin of pork and rabbit.
To produce 1 litre of rendered fat, begin with 2 kg of raw fat. Place the fat in a heavy-based saucepan with 100 ml cold water to prevent it from sticking to the saucepan – the water will evaporate during cooking. Add 2 sprigs rosemary, 2 sprigs thyme, 2 crushed cloves garlic and 12 each crushed white peppercorns and coriander seeds. Render the fat over a very low heat for 6–8 hours. When the fat has melted and is crystal clear, pass it through a fine sieve into a stainless steel container, removing any solids that remain. The fat can be used immediately or refrigerated in a covered container where it will solidify and will keep for several months. When ready to use, melt the fat over a very low heat.
Salt and refrigerate the meat for a couple of hours or overnight, depending on the size; quail, squab legs and duck gizzards will only need 2 hours while larger pieces like duck or chicken legs will take 12 hours. The salt will extract moisture from the meat, which enables it to be stored in its fat for several months.
- To Salt 2 kg of Meat
- 175 g Coarse salt
- 2 Star anise
- 12 Coriander seeds
- 12 White peppercorns
- 1 Stick cinnamon
- 1 Bay leaf
- 2 Sprigs fresh thyme
- 6 Cloves garlic, crushed
- Zest of ½ orange
Using a pestle and mortar, crush the salt, star anise, coriander seeds, white peppercorns and cinnamon stick. Transfer to a bowl and add the bay leaf, thyme, garlic and orange zest. Rub the salt mix into the meat and place onto a perforated tray with another tray beneath it to collect the moisture released from the meat.
Preheat the oven to 120°C. Rub the salt off the legs with a clean cloth. Place in a heavy-based saucepan, cover with rendered fat and heat to simmering point. Cover the pot with a lid, transfer to the oven and cook the meat until tender and comes away from the bone. Duck legs will take 3–3½ hours depending on their size and smaller pieces of meat such as duck gizzards will take 45–60 minutes. It is important that the temperature of the fat stays constant during cooking; if it gets too hot, the result will be fried, stringy and dry meat. Remove the pot from the oven and allow the confit to sit in the fat for an hour to cool slightly.
Carefully lift the confit piece-by-piece out of the fat using a perforated spoon, and place in a clean stainless steel or earthenware dish. Gently layer the pieces on top of one another. Pass the fat through a fine sieve to completely cover the meat. Store the confit in the fridge for up to 3 months where the fat will solidify and form an airtight seal.
This process is optional and is usually done for presentation purposes (see Roast Breast and Confit of Duck with Seared Foie Gras and Sauce Soubise). Carefully lift the confit, piece-by-piece, out of the fat using a perforated spoon and place onto a clean tray. Allow the confit to cool sufficiently to be handled. Carefully extract the bones by gently twisting and pulling – they will come away easily from the meat.
Place the confit on a greaseproof paper-lined tray, with space between each piece. When the tray is full, cover with a second sheet of greaseproof paper. Place another tray on top with a 5 kg weight evenly dispersed across the tray to press the confit. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before removing the weight. When the confit is cold, trim the sides to form even squares of confit.
© 2005 Liam Tomlin. All rights reserved.