Friday, January 14, 2011

Daring Cooks challenge - Duck confit in cassoulet

Finished Cassoulet
 Our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They have chosen a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman.

Duck confit

I was so pleased to see this challenge as duck confit is one of my favourite things to order when I go out and I have never made it.  Now having done it I would do it again it was not hard to do and tasted wonderful.  I checked out many different recipes and as usual I took different things from different recipes to suit my timing and ingredients. This is the second time I have done a posting on cassoulet, see Comfort food at it's best - Cassoulet. But this one is using just the duck confit and lamb.  I did not use sausages as My good friends who are Jewish were coming to dinner and I could not find any decent non pork sausages out here in the burbs.  I also did not use tomatoes as I forgot to buy any and many recipes do not include them any way.

In the write up about this challenge they talked about 3 days to make the cassoulet!  And two days for the duck confit!  Since I bought the duck Friday night and was serving the cassoulet Saturday night this would not be possible.  I do not think the taste of this suffered from the less time spent, especially the duck confit which I sometimes find a little too salty.

Duck Confit

Duck Confit is basically duck legs cooked in duck fat.  I was not able to find duck fat on Friday evening in Port moody, but I found a frozen duck and two frozen duck legs at Thrifty Foods, so I decided to render my own.

De frosted duck
I removed the legs and added to the other two that I had bought to confit (is that a verb?) Then I removed the breasts to cook separately. What remained was the wings the parsons nose some skin and  lumps of fat in the interior.  I cut these up and put in a pot with a cup of water and simmered them on low for about an hour until all the water was cooked off and only fat remained.

After about 1/2 an hour (not looking very hopeful)

At the end of the rendering (looking a little better)
Strain the fat in to a jar.  I used a fine sieve lined with a piece of cheese cloth.  Look at what I got!

Beautiful golden duck fat
I got about 1 1/2 cups of fat.

Method for Duck confit

Rub salt in to duck legs I used about 1 tablespoon of smoked Malden Salt, (any kind of course sea salt would do.)

Salted duck legs
Cover and put in the fridge until ready to use, ideally over night, but in this case for about 3 hours.

After the legs have had their salt treatment they are ready to be submerged in duck fat.

Ready for the oven

I found recipes that called for the legs to be cooked on top of the stove and others in the oven.  I chose to cook mine in the oven as did not have enough duck fat to cover them.  I poured the glorious golden duck fat over the legs added two garlic cloves and a sprig of rosemary then placed them in a 300 oven for an hour and a half.

Finished duck confit
As the legs cooked they released their own fat, but they were still not submerged, this gave the added advantage of crisping the skin.  OMG these tasted amazing. As there was not quite enough fat I would not be able to store them for long, which was the whole point of doing this originaly, but as I was going to include them in the cassoulet the same day this was not a problem.

Cassoulet Recipe

  • 2 Duck confit legs (meat taken off the bone)
  • 4 lamb shoulder steaks
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves chopped
  • 3 cups of dried white beans I used a mixture of navy beans and small lima beans) Soak them for an hour in boiled water.
  • About 1 litre of chicken stock.
  • 4 sprigs of fresh thyme.
Brown the lamb in duck fat (or olive oil if you are not so lucky)

Remove the lamb and saute the onion and garlic, cook until transparent a little brown.

Then layer a good thick casserole dish with beans, then meat, onions a sprig of thyme ending with beans.

Second layer of meat and onions
Pour over the chicken stock until the beans are almost submerged.  Put a lid on the casserole and cook in a 350 oven for about 2 hours.

After two hours of cooking 
Cover the top with breadcrumbs (fresh are really better) then return to the oven with out a lid.  Cook for about another 1/2 hour until the top is browned and crunchy.

I realise that I did not take any pictures of the served cassoulet, I guess I was to busy eating.

The duck confit was so delicious I wanted to serve some separate from the cassoulet so that we could taste it properly.  I tossed some arugula and mixed greens with a little white balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Then separated the duck legs in half and laid over the greens.

Duck confit salad
This was delicious and in my opinion well worth the effort.


  1. Your cassoulet looks great! It was probably smart to render your own duck fat - sounds like it's pretty expensive if you buy it. Nice that you found another great use for the duck confit, too.

  2. Looks beautiful, Gillian. I was hoping to see someone render their own duck fat -- definitely the frugal way to go... and I can just imagine how great that bean pot tasted!

  3. Lo
    It did taste great thank you

    Duck confit salad is what I nearly always order in restaurants so it was great to make my own

  4. Beautiful, golden duck that you rendered your own! That photo looks like a jar of liquid gold!

    I have to say, you so rocked this challenge! every photo step is perfection, and your final cassoulet is gorgeous!! So glad you took part in our challenge this month! Now, I think I want to hire you to make cassoulet for me when I want it in a year or two (too much twice in one month) LOL

  5. Fantastic job!! I am super impressed that you rendered your own duck fat! Great job!! Your cassoulet looks magnificent, and those breadcrumbs - wow!

  6. Beautiful cassoulet! I love the rendered duck fat photo.

    I usually keep a cup of unseasoned newly rendered fat to spread on toast. Yummy!