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Is Duck Confit supposed to taste like this?

p
phan1 Mar 21, 2008 04:47 AM

Well, I made Duck Confit for the 1st time today, and I think I had different expectations. What I ate was essentially duck ham. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, it's just that I've seen pictures of people eating a whole confit duck leg with some garnish. I wouldn't ever want to eat a whole piece of ham with some garnish, so why would I want to eat a whole duck confit leg with some garnish?

To me, it's basically ham. Good for burritos, sandwiches and salads, but much too salty to play a main role in a dish. I guess I had high expectations as duck confit is seen as classy "restaurant food". I ended up with a nice tasting ham, but something I wouldn't consider "restaurant food" at all since I consider ham to be cheap, accessible, long-lasting, everyday food. I'd rather just roast the legs in fat rather than curing it. And unlike pork, duck is pretty flavorful in itself that I don't think it needs curing at all.

And since I just made it, should the flavor mellow out after a couple days? I've read that you shouldn't eat it for at least a couple days. My confit was too salty, which is very annoying since I followed the recipe perfectly to make sure this wouldn't happen. I used Keller's Bouchon recipe for the duck confit. I hate to say it, but all I taste is duck and salt. None of the flavors from the herbs come through at all. Overall I'm a bit disappointed since there seems to be better things to do with duck legs.

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  1. MMRuth Mar 21, 2008 05:35 AM

    What did you do with the duck legs after the confit process? I've then either made rillettes with them (you might prefer that), or sauteed them - and really enjoyed it. I'm not familiar with Keller's recipe though (I pretty much just marinate the legs a bit, then cover w/ fat and cook), but I can see if it is too salty, it would be unpleasant. Ham isn't what comes to my mind in terms of consistency or flavor.

    1 Reply
    1. re: MMRuth
      c
      chefpark Oct 14, 2009 08:22 PM

      keller likes a simple approach to duck confit, he makes a "green" salt which is a mixture of kosher salt, thyme, bay leaf, and parsley food processor till salt turns green about 2 tsp of green salt per duck leg and confits it in duck fat over night

    2. d
      DeppityDawg Mar 21, 2008 06:10 AM

      There is such a thing as cured duck ham but duck confit normally should not have much in common with ham (texture or color). It is not usually as salty as you describe, but that's a great excuse to eat extra potatoes! You don't have to serve the whole leg, there are plenty of recipes that call for shredded confit and the saltiness would be less of an issue and actually very tasty!

      By the way in my part of the world, this is both restaurant food and everyday food, and it can be as cheap as ham. And longer-lasting than ham, in fact.

      6 Replies
      1. re: DeppityDawg
        p
        pamlet Mar 21, 2008 01:40 PM

        DeppityDawg is right. Duck confit, in its origin, was not a fancy restaurant meal -- it was a highly practical way of preserving duck to last through the winter. Cooked up correctly, it is delicious! It shouldn't be too salty and the skin of the duck should be crispy and wonderful. If the flesh is too dried out, that's bad confit. I wish I could tell you how it's made to stay succulent, but I can't. I've only eaten the results in multiple trips to the Perigord (Dordogne) region of France.

        1. re: pamlet
          k
          karykat Mar 21, 2008 01:52 PM

          This is my experience with duck confit as well. My so made it three times this past winter and it was excellent. One time we shredded it for appetizers for a group, another time he put pieces in a cassoulet. The third time we served full legs and it was just as Pamlet described, seasoned but not too salty, succulent and with a nice roasted crisped skin. We had that with a sour cherry compote and it was to die for. I know we were concerned about it being overly salty but it wasn't. He looked at 3 or 4 recipes and I know that Keller's was one.

          All that said, the salt was originally there for preservation. So if you aren't holding it for a long time, I don't know why you couldn't cook it with just the fat and reduce the salt greatly.

          (By the way, I love a really good ham. Like a country ham or double smoked. Yum.)

          1. re: karykat
            MMRuth Mar 22, 2008 11:07 AM

            Do you have recipe handy for sour cherry compote? I'm roasting a duck for tonight and want to use up a jar of sour cherries. I'm working up some ideas - but any tips would be much appreciated! Thanks.

            1. re: MMRuth
              sarah galvin Mar 22, 2008 11:17 AM

              I just throw a few things together - saute shallots, minced garlic. Add cherries. Reduce and thicken. Splash of balsamic vinegar. Really, just whatever flavours you want. Just be sure to reduce and thicken. Think of cranberry sauce! Hey, maybe add some orange zest.

              1. re: sarah galvin
                MMRuth Mar 22, 2008 11:28 AM

                Great - thanks - I saw some recipes that call for rosemary or juniper, which sound nice. When you say "think of cranberry sauce" - do you mean that you use sugar and water?

              2. re: MMRuth
                k
                karykat Mar 22, 2008 12:28 PM

                Here's what goes into the compote: 1 cup dried sour cherries (we got them at Trader Joe's -- they're dried tart montmorency cherries), half a bottle of fruity but not too tannic red wine, half teaspoon cinnamon, 6 tbsp chicken stock, 4 tbsp cold unsalted butter in pieces, and salt and pepper. Soak cherries in wine for a few hours or more, simmer wine, cherries and cinnamon until cherries are soft, puree, pass through sieve reserving liquid, then simmer liquid to reduce to a third of its volume, add chicken stock, reduce until syrupy, remove from heat and emulsify the butter into it. It should look shiny burgundy red that just coats the back of a spoon.

                I think it sounds a little more fussy than it really is. And with these ingredients, how can you go wrong? Sour cherries, red wine, broth, butter? Fantastic with the bird.

                I think my so has a link for this and I'll pass it along for future reference when I get it.

                Happy duck tonight!

        2. Paul Weller Mar 21, 2008 07:27 AM

          When I first began to make confit it was salty as you describe. Now I use far less salt than most recipes call for, and thourghly rinse the salt cure from the legs before poaching. I also rub the legs with crushed garlic cloves before curing in salt. I also think aging is key as the salts will mellow a bit. I like to age mine for at least a week and two or three is better. I then brush off most of the fat, bring to room temperature and roast on a rack in a really hot oven to crisp the skin.

          1. e
            ESNY Mar 21, 2008 01:59 PM

            Duck confit is usually somewhat salty but definitely not overwhelmingly so. Are you normally sensitive to salt? I wonder if letting it age/preserve will tone down the salt... remember, duck confit was originally made to preserve the meat longer.

            The flavor of ham definitely does not comes to mind. The meat should shred easily and be very unctuous but not have a real big cured flavor. I love eating a confitted leg after the skin has been crisped up in a pan. Goes great with a salad or a roasted duck breast.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ESNY
              d
              DeppityDawg Mar 21, 2008 02:22 PM

              Wow! I bet a duck leg does go great with a duck breast… and then maybe also a rack of lamb and a Wiener schnitzel on the same plate. Well, this would be more like a mid-morning snack to tide me over until lunch.

            2. t
              tastelikechicken Mar 22, 2008 11:33 AM

              Confit should not taste like ham. And yes the flavors do mellow when allowed to sit for a few days. The salttiness is another issue and really has to do with the recipe. Although the type of salt used will also impact the final product. I use Kosher salt exclusively when cooking, not for relgious reasons, but because it is a true salt flavor and the large grains allow you to see exactly how much you are adding. Table salt is just that, for the table , and should never be used to season while cooking.
              One more thing, you said you consider ham to be cheap,accessible, long lasting, everyday food. I'd like to point out that prosciutto is ham and the finest Parma Hams from Italy can cost well over $20 per pound. A little closer to home are Smithfield Hams from Virginia which the finest ones can be quite expensive. They need several days of preparation and require some skill to get right.

              2 Replies
              1. re: tastelikechicken
                Paul Weller Mar 22, 2008 11:59 AM

                "The salttiness is another issue and really has to do with the recipe"

                Agreed. I find most recipes call for too much salt for my taste. I don't live in 19th century France and have a couple of good refrigerators so I don't salt like I'm trying to preserve the meat.

                1. re: Paul Weller
                  t
                  tastelikechicken Mar 22, 2008 12:10 PM

                  I don't like the flavor of salt so if I'm following a recipe I always cut by at least 1/2 what is called for. You can always add more but can't take out. Unfortunately, the American diet consists of far too much salt. What really annoys me are people who salt their food without tasting it first.

              2. k
                kobetobiko Mar 22, 2008 12:23 PM

                I think the best way to tell if you have made the duck confit correctly is to try it out in a reputable french bistro in your neighborhood. Then you can tell if it is an execution problem or if you simply didn't like duck confit as a whole.

                1 Reply
                1. re: kobetobiko
                  t
                  tastelikechicken Mar 22, 2008 12:27 PM

                  An excellent point and idea.

                2. h
                  hsk Oct 14, 2009 08:35 PM

                  The one and only time I had duck confit in a restaurant it was too salty to eat. It was a reputable french restaurant so I assumed that was the way it was supposed to taste.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: hsk
                    hotoynoodle Oct 15, 2009 02:58 AM

                    i use my own version of a paula wolfert recipe and it's great. dry rub with spices for a few days, cook in fat, let sit for however long in the fat and then either pan-sear or run the pieces under the broiler to crisp the skin.

                    i don't care for recipes that call for lengthy seasoning times than rinsing the meat. why do i want water on my meat?

                    i haven't seen keller's recipe, but i'm wondering if the op simply left the duck under the salt for too long? i've never experienced confit tasting like ham, however i have eaten what some places call "duck prosciutto". sounds like that's what got made.

                    1. re: hsk
                      BobB Oct 16, 2009 07:21 AM

                      OK, we're starting this up after an 18-month gap, but it's a valid topic, so...

                      I've occasionally had confit in restaurants that was too salty (fortunately only a small minority of the time). My own homemade came out too salty the first time I made it and I learned the secret. You do need to let the duck legs sit in the fridge overnight with salt and herbs, but the recipe I was using said to wipe off the salt with a damp paper towel before cooking. In fact you need to rinse the salt off with running water, then dry with paper towels before cooking. Makes all the difference.

                      Also be sure to use kosher salt, not table salt, it's less salty per volume.

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