East Asian, Frenchy Things, Pork Products, preserving

The Lardy Boys.

One of the great culinary travesties of the twentieth century was the industry-driven transformation of pork from a rich, fatty meat of deep flavor to a dry, stringy, neutral-tasting protein bred to compete with chicken breast meat. “Pork. The Other White Meat.” I was in college when I started seeing the logo – a slightly skewed circle, resembling a cross-cut slice of tenderloin, bearing the word “Pork” in delicate, slightly Asiatic, script. Soon after, the recipes began to emerge: grilled pork loin with orange glaze; roast tenderloin with cherry sauce. Maple-bourbon marinades, teriyaki sauces, and all that. We dressed up the pork to make up for the fact that the meat no longer had any flavor, and we sauced it to death to compensate for its terrible dryness. Pork became our blank canvas. It was a terrible thing.

Well, the king is dead. Say hello to “Pork Be Inspired.” I don’t know who comes up with this stuff.

How’s this for inspiration: let’s make the most of pork in all its rich, hoggy glory. Here’s the thing. Even while the pork industry touted its product as the alternative to chicken and sought to breed nearly all the fat and flavor out of the meat, the USDA considers pork a red meat. You should too. When I travel abroad, I’m reminded of the pork I ate as a little kid, before the industry got its mitts all over our hogs and turned them into generic white protein. Well, if I wanted that, I’d eat tofu. Also, there’s more to pork than tenderloin and loin chops.

Look at these lardy boys – a rosy pork shoulder and a pork belly with layers of deep pink meat and creamy white fat. Make the most of them by cooking them slowly, at low temperatures, to melt down the tough collagen and the fat. Don’t cringe because it’ll wreck your diet or shrink in fear of your hardening arteries. Consider this: people around the world in countries with longer life expectancies and lower obesity rates than the United States eat pork in delicious, fatty forms like rillettes and pâtés, red-cooked pork belly, lardo. They just don’t eat them in ludicrous quantities. Let’s do the same.

Super fatty shoulder (sorry, forgot to take it out of the bag first).

Say hello to Mr Belly.

Pork rillettes

Easiest thing ever, just a bunch of hours curing in the refrigerator and then cooking in its own fat in the oven. Pig meat won’t stay pink unless you add nitrite in the form of tinted curing mix (“pink salt”) during the short cure. I recognize the whole nitrite thing is controversial, so decide for yourself whether you want your rillettes on the brownish gray but natural side, or whether you prefer a dusky rose color and the slight nitric tang of nitrite-treated meat. I suppose I prefer the untreated rillettes, but that’s just me.

If your shoulder cut is super lardy – like the one depicted in this photo – you’ll come out with more melted fat than you want to incorporate into the rillettes. In that case, save it. Keep it in the freezer, tightly sealed, and use it for frying. You won’t have to thaw the fat every time you want to use it – the lard doesn’t freeze rock solid. You can add to your lard stockpile whenever you have leftover rendered pork fat.

4 lb slab of pork shoulder or butt, the fattiest you can find
6 tsp kosher salt
6 sprigs thyme
1/2 c Italian parsley leaves, washed and spun dry
Optional: 1/8 tsp TCM (pink salt)
4 sprigs thyme
2 tsp each black peppercorns, coriander seed
If you have it, about 225 ml/1c rendered pork or duck fat from a previous preparation; otherwise, you can omit

Dijon mustard
Black pepper, ground
Bay leaves

Two days before cooking, blitz the salt, TCM (if using), thyme, and parsley in a spice grinder or food processor and coat the pork, as well as any fat pockets, with the green salt. Wrap in plastic clingfilm, place in a stainless steel or plastic pan, and place in the refrigerator for two days. Turn over once after a day.

With green salt.

Oven 190F/85C. Rinse the pork well of green salt and dry with towels. Place in the smallest possible roasting pan, deep enough to rise up to the sides and, if possible, tight enough to touch the roast on all sides.

Rinsed of green salt, dried, and tucked into a small baking pan (notice it touches the sides).

Tie up one teaspoon each of the coriander and peppercorn in separate cheesecloth bundles and tuck on opposite sides of the pork with the thyme sprigs. Place the cold pork or duck fat on top if you have it. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Roast for 10-12 hours. Remove and chill the pork in the fat.

After twelve hours.

Lift the pork from the fat and measure out about 1 c fat. Keep both cold. Remove the pork meat from the bones, if present, and separate the meat from any chunks of unrendered fat by hand (save that to render separately – see the Cracklings instructions below). You should have two pounds of meat or more. Chop the meat very coarsely (about 1 1/2″ long) if the strands are long and ropy. In a bowl, combine two pounds of the pork meat (reserving the rest), 2 tbsp mustard, a little black pepper (about ¼ tsp), and about 1/2 c cold pork fat.

Stir using a sturdy, large fork, incorporating the fat. Add another ¼ tsp pepper, another 2 tbsp mustard, and another ¼ c pork fat. Continue stirring, breaking up the fibers. Taste at this point for texture, which should be rich and neither overly lean nor greasy. If it is too lean, add another 2 tbsp to ¼ c pork fat (or more); if is too fat, add a little more meat and mustard. Otherwise, just taste for mustard and pepper. Cover and keep cold. If you have any leftover meat, keep it for another use.

Melt the remaining pork fat (again, see Cracklings, below). When melted, pack rillettes into sterilized lidded jars and cover with ¼ inch liquid pork fat and a bay leaf. Insert rubber gasket into jar and close. Keep refrigerated and do not open until ready to serve. Store refrigerated and unopened for two months or so. Once opened, consume within the week.

Pork rillettes, bay.

Cracklings

The crispy crunchy bits left over when you render the fat from the pork shoulder are similar to the crackling from a properly air-dried and roasted pork belly. They’re far easier to produce, though, because you don’t have to worry about drying the skin with salt, wiping off the moisture, roasting it at a properly high temperature, and so on. All you need to do is roast the pieces of fat until they melt, leaving behind crisp bits frying in the bubbling pork fat.

Liquid pork fat from previous recipe
Scraps of solid, unrendered pork fat, diced

Oven 350F/227C.

Place the fats in an small baking dish. Bake until the fats bubble and the fat renders from the scraps, leaving them golden and crisp. Stir to redistribute or break up if necessary. Drain the fat through a strainer and refrigerate or freeze for another purpose. Use the cracklings as a garniture for salads or to add texture to other dishes, such as cassoulet.

Crackling.

Bacon and eggs

Why do eggs and pork taste so great together? I don’t know – maybe it’s the mildly sulfurous quality of the eggs plus the pork’s sweet fattiness, or something – but it’s an almost universal combination in pork-eating cultures. From bacon and fried eggs in the classic English breakfast, to Scotch eggs, to country pâtés encasing a hard-boiled egg, to braised pork belly and salted duck eggs in the Chinese steamed rice dumpling, zongzi (粽子), rich fatty pork and eggs are a classic combination. Hell, just today on NPR’s website, I read about a sandwich in Chicago that involves smoked ham, a breaded pork tenderloin, bacon, and a fried egg. See? Universal combination. I’m trying to move us closer to Chicago so I can get reliable access to that sandwich. Oh, and EggMcMuffin! I rest my case.

Speaking of zongzi. When I was a kid, my dad occasionally came home from trips to Chicago with a bag of zongzi, meaning he’d somehow managed to visit Chicago’s Chinatown. This was a real treat, since I didn’t get to eat them often – maybe once a year – and was in the same vein as other occasional food souvenirs, like the Baltimore crabs Dad would bring home from trips to Washington DC, or the rare lobster from Boston that always went right into the pot as soon as he walked in the door. Actually, the food souvenirs I think I received the most often were the little waxed cardboard box lunches served on short flights from the East Coast back to Milwaukee. My dad would bring the entire box home to me – little ham sandwich, cookie and all – and I considered it extremely glamorous. Is that sad? Well, I was eight years old, so I think it’s not as sad as getting excited about getting some stupid tiny little dry cookie on a Delta flight just because it’s still free.

Anyway, this is a modernized and deconstructed zongzi using a poached egg instead of a salted duck’s egg, and a seasoned sticky rice instead of a bamboo leaf-wrapped dumpling. When you eat it together, it tastes just like zongzi. I don’t kid myself that you’ll ever make this dish but maybe you’ll try one or two components. Try the pork and the egg, of course, even if you serve it over steamed rice or ramen. In fact, soy sauce-braised pork with hard boiled eggs is a classic Taiwanese dish, so that would be awesome. Or try the rice and the egg, and add some diced Chinese sausage (la chang, or lap cheong in Cantonese, 臘腸) to the rice for the pork component).

The belly:

2 lb pork belly, skin on, bone removed
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock
1-1/2″ cube yellow rock sugar
1 pod star anise
2 tbsp soy sauce (Japanese white soy preferably)
1 bay leaf (Turkish)
4 sprigs thyme
4 cloves garlic

Prepare the belly the day before.

Blanch belly, starting in cold filtered water. Remove once water just comes to a boil. Belly may be blanched ahead of time and refrigerated or proceed immediately to the next step.

Place blanched belly in stock, in a single layer in a deep heavy pot, with the other ingredients. Bring to a bare simmer and reduce heat. Cover with parchment and a slightly ajar lid. Braise six hours.

Discard parchment and remove belly from stock and place in a small pan (1/4 hotel is good). Cover with strained braising liquid. Cover with plastic wrap and then foil, and then weight the top of the belly with a heavy flat object. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.

The mushroom:

2-3 hen of the woods/maitake mushrooms, broken into segments, or 1/2 lb shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced 1/2″ thick, or a mixture
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
white pepper
vegetable oil

Place a deep, heavy pan over medium heat and, when hot, add about 1 tbsp oil to the pan. Add the mushrooms, browning well on each side, until tender.

Add the Shaoxing wine to the pan and cook until the mushrooms absorb the liquid. Finish with soy. Season with pepper. Keep warm. Alternatively, these may be prepared a day before service and chilled.

The rice:

Note: glutinous rice , also known as sticky rice or sweet rice, is not the same thing as short-grain rice, sushi rice, Arborio rice, or any of those things. In its raw form, it is chalk-white and totally opaque, unlike the other translucent-looking varieties of rice, whatever their grain lengths. Do not substitute another type of rice using this cooking method – it will fall apart.

If you cannot find glutinous rice, dispense with soaking the rice and do not steam it. Rather, cook the rice by adding water in the appropriate ratio to the rice you use after sautéing the rice in oil or XO sauce and cook over lowest heat, covered, until the water is absorbed. The rice will not have the same sticky texture as the glutinous rice.

1 c glutinous (sweet) rice
1 tsp soy sauce
1/4 white pepper
1 1/2 tbsp XO sauce or 2 tsp dried shrimp
vegetable oil

Rinse the glutinous rice and soak in 3c water, in the refrigerator, for at least three hours and up to overnight. Drain thoroughly.

Place a large skillet over medium heat and, when hot, add the XO sauce or, if using dried shrimp, add a small amount of vegetable oil. and then add the dried shrimp. Sauté until fragrant. Add the rice and sauté a minute more until well coated. Season with pepper and soy and remove from heat. You can prepare this component the day before service to this point and refrigerate.

Bring a pot of water to a simmer. Lightly oil a bamboo rice steamer basket (with pork fat if you have it, or with vegetable oil). If you do not have such a basket, line a bamboo or metal steamer with a triple thickness of cheesecloth draping it over the sides.. Scoop the rice mixture into the basket. Close the lid tightly. Place over the pot of simmering water and steam for 40 minutes until the rice is tender but still firm. Remove from heat and remove lid; turn out into a 6″ x 9″ pan, like a breading pan or a plastic food storage container. Press down well to compress. Slice through with a moist sharp knife into equal portions.

Compress the rice.

To assemble dish:

Oven 250F/121C.

Remove fat from liquid (liquid will have gelled – be sure to save as much liquid as possible). Remove bellies and trim to square off edges. Reserve trimmings for future use. Cut into squares or rectangles of uniform size.

After weighting.

Place skillet on high heat. Place belly slices in skillet, skin side down, and cook until the skin is crisp and fat renders. Turn over and place in the oven to heat through, about 20 minutes.

The sauce:

3 tbsp Shaoxing wine
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 c gelled pork braising stock from braise/chill, defatted

Place a small saucepan over medium low heat and add the Shaoxing wine. Reduce by two-thirds. Add the soy sauce and reduce by half. Add the stock and reduce until the sauce has thickened and has the consistency of a pan sauce. Hold until service (add water and reheat/reduce again if necessary).

Poach eggs and pat dry on clean kitchen towels.

Serve the belly with the rice, the poached egg, mushroom, and a spoon of sauce.

Pork belly, soft egg, sticky rice "zongzi" style.

Yolk.

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Confectionery, Duck, Frenchy Things, Leftover Recycling

Holiday Food Project 2010

Remember when we were kids, and we had endless wish lists of holiday gifts? Barbie Styling Head, Easy Bake Oven, Snoopy Sno Cone Machine, that sort of thing. I probably shouldn’t say any more, because I’m starting to sound like quite the retrograde feminine traditionalist, but you get the idea. Kids love stuff, and the winter holiday is primo stuff-buying season for kids. Adults too, as it turns out. When I first met my husband, I discovered that every holiday season, he and his mother engaged in the wholly pragmatic ritual of exchanging dog-eared catalogues with the desired merchandise circled within. I scoffed at this practice, of course, tarring it as an unromantic concession to the materialism of Christmas. We’re adults, I protested, and if you’re still buying holiday gifts for other adults, you should make an effort to know their tastes and interests. Really try to understand them as people, and buy them carefully chosen, meaningful gifts, not just turtlenecks from L.L. Bean and Borders gift cards.

I’m just going to tell this story about what a total load of bullshit my whole position on gifts turned out to be. Our protagonist doesn’t read this blog, so just let me have this, ok? Here’s what happened. Ever since my “thoughtful gifts” putsch of 2001, my mother in law and I exchanged gifts without any sort of holiday wish lists as a guide, with varying degrees of success or failure. Over the years, she bought me a series of mysteries – never registering that I hate mysteries and almost never read fiction. In 2005, I bought her a first edition of The World is Flat based on my knowledge that she reads the Times assiduously and admires everyone who writes in their pages (regardless of viewpoint, apparently), but totally ignorant of the fact that she already owned two copies. It kind of went like this every year. And then it was 2006. Right around Thanksgiving that year, my husband and I were sitting in his mother’s living room in suburban Philadelphia when my eye wandered over to a pair of two-dimensional copper cats in the window. The idea with these unbearably awful cats was that you could pose them in different ways so they could be attacking each other, frolicking, or just hanging out together. It’s possible she saw me looking at them. Does this seem like a nonsequitur? It’s not.

For a few years I had become increasingly uncomfortable with the idea that my mother in law was spending so much money on the holidays since, as an adult, it’s not as though I really need any of this stuff, and she was headed toward retirement. Anything I really need (a new slate roof, second floor bathroom refurbishment) or want (rotovap, chamber sealer, lyophilizer) is way out of the range of reasonable gift expectations, and nearly everything else I can buy myself. So that Christmas, when I opened the square white box and unfolded several layers of tissue paper to find a pair of two-dimensional copper cats – expensive, two-dimensional copper cats – you can imagine how excited I felt. “Oh,” I said. “Just like yours.”

I since have conceded to my husband that the wish list method is superior to my idealized conception of gift-giving. Sometimes coups-d’états end with the restoration of the establishment, after all. As a matter of fact, I have adopted the wish list with the zealotry of the convert, making Amazon wishlists, evangelizing to my husband about their use, and publicly humiliating myself (as now) by repeating the story of my conversion at every available holiday opportunity. Actually, it doesn’t come up all that often. The moral of the story, though, is that you should make lists and exchange them to avoid being given unaesthetic “works of art” for the holidays, which you may have to trot out on future family visits to avoid uncomfortable questioning. But when list-exchanging would be awkward or socially inappropriate, the gift of food is never wrong.

Most people love either sugar or fat (admit it or not). Things have become more complicated over the years, as meat eatership is down, and so is sugar consumption. But your odds of making one or the other of these items work as a gift are pretty good. And to know which one to give your intended target, or whether to go back to the drawing board, you really have to make an effort to know their tastes and interests. See? You really can have it all. Happy holidays.

Figs with brandied ganache

Full disclosure: I did not conceptualize these figs in the first instance. Nat and I were killing time at a farmer’s market in Swarthmore (where my mother in law lives) when we encountered a vendor selling figs stuffed with ganache in boxes from Williams-Sonoma. We bought a small wooden box holding six figs and they were gone almost immediately. I thought, how hard could these be to make at home? Not hard. I mean, I’m not a pastry chef or confiseur by any means, and I worked it out on my first try.

The most difficult part of this exercise is dipping in the chocolate coating If you don’t already know, chocolate must be tempered to achieve that glossy snap at room temperature. This means that, once you melt the chocolate, you need to bring the temperature back down to 88F/31C and keep it there while you use it to coat your bonbons or whatever. There exist a couple of methods to temper chocolate, but in my opinion, the easiest is to melt chocolate in a double boiler until it reaches roughly 110F/43C, and then stir in cold chocolate (couverture chocolate works best because it has been pre-tempered) until the mixture reaches 88F. Because you must not rush the tempering process, this process may take a surprisingly long time. Keep the chocolate at 88F (up to 90F is fine) and work as quickly as you can. Don’t worry; because chocolate is relatively thick, it won’t lose heat immediately.

You can substitute another liquor for the brandy, but I chose a Spanish brandy (a Torres Jaime I solera) because it was a great pairing with the figs and the Spanish chocolate. Bourbon and some types of scotch whisky (particularly those aged in solera casks) would make excellent choices. Rum is a little cloying with the figs, in my opinion, unless you use something like Gosling’s Old or Santa Teresa 1792.

One thing: if choosing the second (injection) method below to fill the figs, you will need a syringe to fill the figs with ganache. This is not as deviant as it sounds. You can order an appropriately large syringe from L’Epicerie for about $4 or you can try to hit up your friendly neighborhood pharmacy. When I had my wisdom teeth out, years ago, I was told to keep my mouth clean with a syringe of warm water (there’s no needle). If you go the pharmacy route, the only difference is that you’ll have to refill the syringe more often, as it doesn’t hold as much.

One to two dozen dried figs, depending on size (I believe I used calimyrna, but see what you can find)
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I used Blanxart 80%), chopped
8 ounces (1 cup) heavy cream
1 tbsp corn syrup
2 tbsp brandy

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I used Blanxart dark), divided

Make the ganache:

Bring the cream to a boil. Allow to cool to about 120F; bring to a second boil and cool again. Bring to a third boil and add the corn syrup. Immediately pour through a fine sieve over the chopped chocolate. Stir well with a silicone spatula; do not overwork or beat in air. When cool (at room temperature), stir in the brandy and incorporate completely. You must wait to room temperature or the addition of cool liquid to warm chocolate may cause the mixture to seize.

Lay a sheet of wax paper in a sheet pan. Fill the figs. Full disclosure: I only ever have used the second method to fill the figs; the first one is a guess but I know it will work.

First method: place plastic wrap on the surface of the ganache to prevent a skin from forming, and allow the ganache to solidify somewhat. Slice the bottom off each fig and, using a small spoon, hollow out some of the flesh. Fill with ganache (using a spoon or butter knife) and place, bottom side down, on the wax paper to solidify further.

Second method: Fit an iSi ProfiWhip canister with an injector needle. Charge with nitrous. Blow out each fig with just a puff (not too hard!) until each one just puffs up. This pushes the fig flesh toward the walls and makes it easier to fill each one with ganache while leaving the fig intact. See before/after shots below.

Before.

After.

Fill the syringe with ganache while still warm. It helps to use the smallest possible spoon. Working quickly (because once you push the plunger, the ganache will come out quickly), fill each fig from the center of the flat, plump bottom. Inject from the blowout point and push until the fig is full. Set injection-side down on the wax paper.

Injecting with ganache.

Prepare the dipping chocolate:

Melt 5 ounces of the dark chocolate in a double boiler until it reaches 110F/43C, and then turn off the heat. Remove the top pot from the boiler but do not take the water off the stove. Stir in cold chocolate small piece by small piece until the mixture reaches 88F. Because you must not rush the tempering process, this process may take a surprisingly long time. Set the double boiler back on top of the water and keep the chocolate at 88F (up to 90F is fine). Working as quickly as you can, dip the bottom of each fig into the couverture. Don’t worry; because chocolate is relatively thick, it will not lose heat immediately. If it begins to set up, return to the double boiler and bring back to 88F. Place the dipped figs on the wax paper after dipping. Leave about an inch between figs.

Figs, brandied ganache.


Duck rillettes

Looking for something for the meat glutton in your life? Duck rillettes ought to do it.

Here’s the thing. Rillettes are the easiest of the pâté-like meat preparations to make, and yet anyone who receives a little jar of duck rillettes from you will act as though you flew to the Loire River valley and picked it up specially. They should – as easy as rillettes are to make, they taste like a million bucks. Traditionally, in the Loire départements, the rillettes were made from pork belly and shoulder. You can and should do that as well, but all I had handy was duck confit, so that’s what you’re getting this time. I do have a nine pound belly in the reach in, though, and if I get around to it this weekend, I’ll make some pork rillettes.

Pack your product in these lidded jars, complete with rubber gaskets. Not only do they look incredible, but they really keep the air out (in combination with the layer of fat on the rillettes). If you’re really motivated, you even can make labels. Once packed, they will keep, unopened, for a couple of months in the refrigerator, longer in the freezer. Once opened, consume within ten days. Best with toast points, excellent with pickled onions and cornichons.

One recipe (six legs) duck confit, from this recipe, fat and all, chilled solid
½ cup Dijon mustard (I like to use a green peppercorn Dijon by Maille or Edmund Fallot but you don’t have to do that)
About 1 tsp freshly ground black peppercorn

Lift the duck from the fat and measure out about 1 ½ c fat. Keep cold. Remove the duck meat from the bones and skin. In a bowl, combine all the duck meat, 2 tbsp mustard, a little black pepper (about ¼ tsp), and about ¼ c cold duck fat. Stir using a fork, incorporating the fat. Add another ¼ tsp pepper, another 2 tbsp mustard, and another ¼ c duck fat. Continue stirring. Taste at this point for texture, which should be rich and neither lean-meaty nor greasy. If it is too lean, add another 2 tbsp to ¼ c duck fat (or more) and 2 tbsp mustard. Otherwise, just taste for mustard and pepper.

Allow the remaining duck fat to melt until just liquid.

Pack into sterilized lidded jars and top with ¼ inch liquid duck fat. Insert rubber gasket into jar and close. Keep refrigerated and do not open until ready to serve.

All packed up.

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Duck, Frenchy Things, preserving

A year and a day.

I started this blog a year ago and a day. Since then, I’ve answered dozens of questions and, in the process, improved my own cooking skills. So I want to thank everyone who reads these pages – I hope it’s been good for you, because it certainly has been good for me.

Last week, shopping in the H-Mart, I came across a beautiful display of duck leg quarters. I won’t lie to you. Breaking down duck isn’t exactly a huge pain in the ass, but the breasts are not as interesting to me as the dark meat. Breast meat, if cooked just a little too long, has a sort of liver-y quality; in my opinion, the leg meat is ground zero for that classic duck flavor. At the H-Mart, the quality of the duck varies. Sometimes the legs seem suspiciously lean – are these wild ducks, somehow? These leg quarters, however, were thickly coated with creamy white fat and smooth skin. Perfect for confit.

Confit is, above all, a preservation technique. In southwestern France – throughout Gascogne and elsewhere in the western Occitan provinces – waterfowl, like duck and goose, have for many years been salted and then cooked slowly at a relatively low temperature, immersed in their own rendering fat. The resulting product, if salty enough, could withstand storage without refrigeration for months. Today, confit is not necessary for preservation, and it tends to be somewhat less salty. It is no less rich, though, particularly when the meat is shredded and combined with some of the poaching fat to make rillettes.

In accordance with modern tastes, I don’t salt the duck legs that heavily. I like to use about two teaspoons of kosher salt for each meaty leg. Unfortunately, that’s not nearly enough salt for safe room temperature preservation. And after curing nearly eight pounds of duck legs and then slowly cooking in a 220F oven for many hours, I asked my husband to turn off the oven. Then I totally forgot about the duck and went to bed. In the morning, I went to the office. Around lunchtime, I remembered. When I got home, I threw it out. Not enough salt for safe room temperature preservation.

So we begin again. I went back to H Mart and bought eight more pounds of duck leg quarters. I salted them and layered them with thyme branches. I cured them overnight and cooked them slowly in a 220F oven. I took them out of the oven and didn’t forget.

Crispy duck confit, savoy cabbage, green peppercorn mustard sauce.

Let the duck cool in the fat for at least 45 minutes before removing it (to package it for storage, or to cook it for immediate service). It needs to cool off a little bit to firm up so it doesn’t collapse.

Savoy cabbage is aromatic, slightly pungent, and provides a great balance to the fatty richness of the duck. The green peppercorn mustard sauce brings a little acidity and the sweet, round taste of butter.

For the confit:

6 lbs duck legs (about 8 large legs)
1/4 c kosher salt
about 12 thyme branches

The day before cooking the legs, season the legs evenly with salt (about 2 tsp per leg), and layer in a nonreactive pan with thyme branches in contact with the meaty side of the duck legs. If you have a single layer, place the thyme on the bottom of the pan and lay the duck skin side-up. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 24 hours (as much as 48).

Preparing to cure.

Oven 220F/105C

Remove the duck from refrigeration and transfer to a dutch oven or cast iron pot with a lid, layering with the thyme. Place a layer of parchment between the top of the duck and the lid, especially if using cast iron (to prevent condensation from building up and rusting the pan.

Place in the oven and cook for about six hours. After 2 hours, turn heat down to 200F/95C. Remove from the oven; remove the lid and parchment. Rest the confit for 45-60 minutes before transferring to a container for storage, covered in fat, or proceeding to the next step.

Right out of the oven.

To crisp the duck leg confit, oven 250F/120C. Place a skillet over medium high heat and, when hot, place 2 tbsp duck fat in the pan. Add 4 duck leg quarters, skin side down, and baste with the fat. Do not crowd the pan (you may need to use two pans). When the skin is crisp and deep golden brown, flip the legs carefully (be careful – they may be prone to falling apart) and place the pan in the oven. Cook until heated through (about 15 minutes).

Meanwhile, prepare the savoy.

Butter-braised savoy cabbage

Do you hate cabbage? Try this cabbage dish. The most important thing is to avoid overcooking the savoy – like all cabbages, it becomes unpleasantly pungent and a little skunky if you let it go too long.

If you are nervous about so much butter, you can cut the amount in half. Use vegetable oil in the initial cooking.

One head savoy cabbage, cored, quartered, and shredded (1/8″)
One large leek, white and light green only, washed well cut into 2″ segments, and julienned
2 tbsp white wine (such as Riesling or Viognier)
4 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
salt and white pepper
chives, minced

Place a large skillet over medium heat and, when hot, add 1 tbsp butter or oil. Add the leeks and reduce heat slightly. Sweat the leeks until quite tender. Increase the heat slightly and add the savoy. Toss continuously to coat with oil and leeks. When the savoy begins to wilt (about 2 minutes), add the wine and toss, cooking the wine down. Once the savoy is bright green and tender, and the wine has evaporated, remove from heat and toss with the remaining butter. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with minced chives.

Green peppercorn mustard sauce

Pan with duck fond from crisping the legs
1/3 c white wine
1 1/2 tbsp green peppercorn Dijon mustard (or Dijon mustard if unavailable)
Optional: 2 tbsp duck or white veal glace de viande
4 tbsp cold unsalted butter, divided

Remove the duck legs from the pan and drain on towels if necessary (otherwise, set aside on a plate). Pour off all but 1 tsp of duck fat. Return the pan to medium heat.

Deglaze the pan with wine, scraping up the fond. Reduce to just before au sec (a sticky glaze). Add the mustard and cook, stirring, for a minute to take the edge off the mustard. Add the glace de viande and reduce by 1/3. Remove from heat and mount with the cold butter to form a glossy sauce.

Serve the crispy confit leg with the savoy and sauce.

Crispy duck leg confit, savoy, green peppercorn mustard.

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