Thursday, May 22, 2008

Duck Fat: It's What's for Dinner

Fork is such a good sport, I'm telling you. When I told him I was going to make Duck Rillettes, he went right along with it. It's not for nothing that I've decided to marry this guy. He's okay with eating duck cooked in wine and its own fat spread on toast for dinner! (With a salade nicoise on the side just for the illusion of healthfulness.)

Here's a dish you want to whip out for your friends who used to live in France and are nostalgic for some fabulous French country fare. The rillettes are creamy and delicious, just perfect with a glass of wine or Champagne.

If you are making duck rillettes, you need to do a little planning: there's a 24-hour curing period, and then the braising takes about 3 hours. And definitely do some research on where to buy the ingredients. I wound up on a wild duck chase (ha!) for duck legs that weren't confit. I eventually found fresh Long Island duck legs at Todaro Bros. on 2nd Ave. & 30th St. And the man at the meat counter at Garden of Eden on 23rd St. went in the back of the store and filled up a container of duck fat for me. All the other ingredients were typical--for the wine, I used a Sauvignon Blanc.

My only complaint with this recipe is that the Dijon mustard flavor is fairly strong. Fork and I didn't taste as much of the duck as we'd like. Next time I might tone that down a bit. Because there will definitely be a next time.--S

Duck Rillettes

Total time: About 4 hours, 30 minutes, plus 24 hours curing time
Servings: Makes about 2 cups

2 duck legs
2 T kosher salt
1 small bay leaf, broken
1 1/2 t chopped fresh thyme
1/4 c parsley leaves [I left them as whole leaves]
1/4 t peppercorns
1/4 t coriander
1/4 t dried mint
1/4 c sugar
1 T canola oil
1 white onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 c white wine
2 c chicken stock
1 c duck fat
1/4 c Dijon mustard

1. Place the duck legs on a rack on a baking sheet and rub them with the salt, bay leaf, thyme, parsley, peppercorns, coriander, mint and sugar. Cover loosely with a sheet of parchment paper and allow to cure for 24 hours in the refrigerator.
2. Heat the oven to 250 degrees. In a large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, sear the duck legs in one tablespoon of canola oil over medium-high heat until you get a bit of color, about 2 minutes. Add the onion and carrot and sauté until softened, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the white wine and reduce by half, about half an hour.
3. Add the chicken stock and braise the duck legs in the oven, covered, until the meat is tender and falling off the bone, about 3 1/2 to 4 hours. (If it begins to bubble, turn down the heat.) Allow the meat to cool, then remove from the braising liquid; the braising liquid can be reserved for another use such as for a soup base.
4. Remove the meat from the bone and place it in a bowl. Place the bowl of duck meat on top of a bowl of ice.
5. In a small pan, heat the duck fat over medium-low heat until it's melted. Slowly pour the duck fat over the duck meat, using a fork to emulsify the duck meat with the duck fat until fluffy and smooth. Add the Dijon mustard and adjust seasoning to taste. Transfer to a serving dish or container; Sara Levine's restaurant serves rillettes in a French canning jar.

Recipe courtesy of chef Sara Levine in the Los Angeles Times

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