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Duck legs

This particular cut can be a bit underestimated in some cuisines – but certainly not in ones that know how to get the most out of this bird. It might not look as splendid on the plate, but it is easier to handle and at least as savoury as duck breast.

Keep in mind

The meat on the legs is darker and somewhat tougher than the breast fillets. It can take more cooking, not least on low heat and for a long time. In the ducks own fat is just perfect.

On leg per person should be enough.

How to cook duck legs

The meat becomes tender and succulent and falls apart beautiful when subjected to low heat for a long time. Duck leg confit (boiled in fat) is a classic dish and a fairly common on French menus.

In its most cautious form, a duck confit is never brought to the boiling point. In some recipes the legs simmer in the fat for days at 90° C or even lower. But by pushing up the heat just a little, to about 120° C, you can get a great result in less than 8 hours of cooking.

The basic confit procedure consist of a day in salt followed by a day (or more) in hot fat. Most chefs in the know will agree that spices and herbs should be added later – if at all. The duck legs are packed with wonderful flavors just as they are.

The legs should be stacked tightly and the fat should cover them so that they don’t dry out during the long process of cooking. If you don’t have enough fat to cover, adding more – for example a flavorless oil – is no problem.

Low and slow is perfect for the meat – but for crispy skin you need intensive heat. When the legs are done, sear the skin in for a short while in an oven, a pan or on a griddle. Handle the legs carefully, or they will fall apart.

Don’t throw away the fat. As long as it’s clean you can use it again for frying – for example – crispy vegetables. That, and a little salt, is all they need.

The classic

Confit de canard, rustic duck legs cooked in duck fat and served on a bed of puy lentils. The procedure takes some time, but once you know your times and temperatures it is anything but hard. Apart from the crispy skin that has to come at the end, the dish is ready to serve as the guests arrive.

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