When choosing poultry, duck is by far one of the best options for dark meat, gentle texture, and rich flavor. Duck has a flavor that’s true to its own.
One way to fully appreciate duck’s unique taste is by cooking it confit-style; that is, in its own fat. The word “confit” comes from the French word confire, meaning “to preserve.” Before the convenience of refrigerators people had to find creative ways to preserve their food, especially meat. Just like salt-curing ham or smoking salmon, confit was a way to preserve duck or goose meat. My favorite way to serve duck confit is by cheating and using some that has been canned and is ready to eat. My Spanish mother first cooks a generous amount of white rice to serve with the duck. She drains almost all of the fat from the can into a container to use later. Duck fat is excellent for frying potatoes and will keep for several weeks if refrigerated, and can even be frozen.
She removes as much fat as possible from the individual pieces of duck by hand (it gets a little messy) and then lightly sears the pieces in a pan with a bit of oil so that the duck can have a bit of a crunchy exterior. The seared duck pieces are placed on the cooked rice and baked in the oven. The fat from the duck seeps into the rice and gives it a spectacular flavor. Since this dish can have a relatively high concentration of salt it is usually best to accompany it with a green salad dressed with olive oil and vinegar.
Finding canned duck can be difficult in the United States since it is usually made in Europe. Try specialty food markets or a store that specializes in imported goods. Duck confit is available through online outlets or, simply to follow tradition, you can make your own.
First published October 2015