Throughout the ages, many cultures have adapted and created their own forms of food preservation. For instance:
- Filipinos use vinegar and salt (or soy) to preserve various meats in an Adobo.
- The French use fat and salt to preserve various meats in a Confit.
- The Galactic Empire used Carbonite to freeze various smugglers in suspended animation.
Although Darth Vader did not use carbonite in a culinary fashion, per se, I can only imagine how long a side of beef would last if frozen a la Han Solo. And since freezing things in carbonite does quite a number on my energy bill, I decided that it would be a more worthwhile, and tasty, endeavor to research the wonders of confit in conjunction with what I already know about Adobo.
Ah yes, an adobo/confit experiment! A fusion of Filipino and French food to yield a quacktastic pot of Duck Adobo Confit.
Because I’ve covered Filipino Adobos just a bit in this blog (click here for my Adobo Recipes), I’m going to concentrate more on the Confit part of things for now. As such, I relied heavily on Michael Ruhlman’s and Brian Polcyn’s ode to preserved meats: Charcuterie (a book I also relied heavily upon to make my own Longanisa).
According to Charcuterie:
“The literal translation of the word confit is ‘preserved’. When the word is applied to a type of meat, it means poached in fat and, strictly speaking, stored within that fat until it’s ready to heat and serve.”
Meat poached and stored in its own fat? That’s like awesomeness sprinkled with rad and then wrapped in bad-ass! And who can resist bad-ass on its own, let alone with rad-dusted awesomeness hidden inside? I don’t know about you, but I surely cannot!
As it were, I decided to use duck for my first foray into confit-making because I knew I could easily use my usual chicken adobo marinade for duck, and also because duck fat is readily available in my neck of the woods–I bought a few small tubs of rendered duck fat at a Whole Foods market:
Yup, that is a tub o’ duck fat and nothing but duck fat. I actually needed about 6 cups of duck fat to make my Duck Adobo Confit. I know that seems like an awful lot of fat, but relax Slim, it’s not like you’re going to actually gulp down all of it. The fat just serves as a medium for slowly poaching the duck. And I know that that also seems like a lot of fat to spend your hard-earned cash on, but relax Moneybags, it’s not like you’re going to just discard all that fat once you’re done making your first confit. There are plenty more applications for this duck fat down the road (like making more confit!)–but I’ll get to those other uses later.
In a traditional duck confit, duck legs are usually cured for a couple days in salt and spices, rinsed off in cold water, and then covered in fat and poached low and slow in the oven for many hours. After the low and slow poach, the duck legs and fat are cooled and left alone until ready to heat and serve weeks later. The duck legs are preserved not only by the salt, but because they are covered in solidified fat they are shielded from any germs, bacteria, and cooties that may be floating in the air. Pretty neat, no?
For my Duck Adobo Confit, I more or less stuck to the traditional procedure but instead of curing the duck legs in salt, I let them sit in an Adobo marinade of vinegar, soy, black peppercorns, garlic, and bay leaf for 24-hours. Not overnight, mind you, but for 24-hours. My thinking here was that the vinegar and soy would have similar preservative effects on the duck legs as salt normally would.
After a 24-hour soak in the marinade, I rinsed the duck legs off in cold water, patted them dry, and then put them in a dutch oven and submerged them in duck fat. I put the pot of duck legs and duck fat in a very low oven and let the legs poach in the fat for 8 hours.
After poaching for 8 hours, not only are the duck legs meltingly tender, but there will also be a layer of duck juices and collagen beneath the fat–something Ruhlman refers to as “confit jelly.” If you’ve ever made your own chicken stock (if you haven’t you should) you know that the water in which you cook the chicken bones can become quite gelatinous from the collagen that leaches from the bones. But since there is no water in a confit, the duck collagen and juices have nowhere to go but to settle at the bottom of the pot beneath the fat. DO NOT throw out the fat! DO NOT throw out the confit jelly!
After the pot has come to room temperature, place the duck legs in airtight containers and ladle some of the fat over the duck legs. Pour the rest of the fat and the confit jelly into a fat separator if you have one, then store the confit jelly in a separate container, and put the rest of the fat over the duck legs.
Han Solo-d Duck Legs
Must be jelly, cuz jam don’t jiggle like… eh.
After my duck legs were cooled and covered in fat, and my confit jelly was separated, I placed the legs in the refrigerator and the confit jelly in the freezer. Try to separate out as much jelly from fat as possible as the jelly tends to sour (i.e. get funky) over time. Four duck legs yielded about a half to a whole cup of confit jelly for
me. The confit jelly is amazing stuff–super concentrated and super
unctuous adobo-flavored gelatin to be melted down for sauces, or added
to vinaigrettes at a later time.
I let the duck legs “ripen” in the refrigerator for a week, and then took them out of the fat, cripsed the skin up in a hot pan and then finished the legs in a hot oven for a few minutes more.
I then made a quick pan sauce by deglazing the pan with some red wine, adding a few tablespoons of confit jelly, and reducing the liquid down.
The Duck Adobo Confit was superb if I do say so myself. And I do. The texture alone was far greater in comparison to ordinary adobos. The skin was crisp, and the meat was oh so tender and adoboey! It was like a crisp and tender adobo that melted in my mouth! Also, you could do like the French and Belgians do and use some of the leftover, and now faintly adobo-flavored, duck fat to fry some potatoes and serve with the duck confit. But I instead made some garlic-fried rice fried in a bit of duck fat.
Oooh lar lar!
Now, I’m no food scientist, so I can’t really say that an adobo marinade has any more or less preservative powers than salt does in a traditional confit. But I don’t see why not. But after a week in the fridge, two duck legs that were confited in this manner were consumed by my wife and I with no ill effects. And I have 2 more duck legs in the fridge still to further test the preservative powers of Adobo and Confit combined–and with which to make a completely different dish.
What can I do with my last two legs of Duck Adobo Confit and the remaining fat and confit jelly? Well, I could shred the duck legs, fry some croutons in the duck fat, and make a dressing with the confit jelly for a Duck Adobo Confit Caesar Salad. But I’ve done something like that already.
Nah, I’ve got something else in mind. Stay tuned…
Duck Adobo Confit
5 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup vinegar (cane, coconut, or apple cider)
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
4 duck legs
4-6 cups rendered duck fat
Combine the garlic, vinegar, soy, peppercorns and bay leaves and pour into a shallow dish or large zip-top bag. Add the duck legs to the marinade and marinate for at least 24 hours, turning the duck legs over half-way through the marinating.
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, or as low and as close to 200 degrees as possible. (the higher the temperature, the more stringy and tough the duck meat will become).
Rinse the duck legs under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Melt the rendered duck fat in a dutch oven or large heavy pot over low heat on the stove. Place the duck legs into the fat, making sure the duck legs are completely submerged. Raise the heat to medium, and heat the duck legs and fat on the stove just until the fat begins to bubble.
Place the uncovered pot in the oven and let poach for 8-10 hours. Remove from oven and allow to come to room temperature. Remove duck legs from pot and place duck legs in a separate container. Separate the duck fat from the confit jelly. Pour the duck fat over the duck legs, making sure the duck legs are completely submerged. Place the confit jelly in a covered container and store in the freezer for later use. Place the duck legs in the refrigerator and allow to ripen for a week or more.
To reheat the duck legs, remove container from the refrigerator several hours before cooking so that the solidified fat will soften. If you attempt to remove the duck legs from the solid fat, you will tear the meat. Place about a tablespoon of the duck fat in a large ovenproof saute pan over medium heat. Place the duck legs into the saute pan skin side down, and allow to cook for five minutes. Flip the legs over and place the pan in a 450 degree Fahrenheit oven for 10 more minutes. The skin should be very crisp, and the meat very tender at this point.