Smoked Duck Confit
There are two days that people in the restaurant industry will never, ever, ever forget: Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. As they are the two busiest days for restaurants, we plan for them weeks in advance and no one calls in sick.
So in turn, if we want to celebrate these days ourselves, we have to get creative. This year, for Valentine’s Day, to save the stress, my man and I decided to have a dinner in, and a week in advance! Who said Valentine’s Day had to be on the 14th?
Now to Decide What to Make…
With love on the brain, France came to mind. The French, a people and a language synonymous with love and passion, it’s perfect for Valentine’s Day!
And why not bring a bit of smoke to the buttery and rich flavours of French cuisine?
Since R has never had the pleasure of trying duck, the choice was twisting up the classic French dish Duck Confit.
Traditionally, Duck Confit is a salt cured duck leg, cooked at a low temperature in duck fat. Salt curing is a centuries old food preservation technique, just like smoking! And low temperature sure sounds like smoker to me.
You Can Use Breasts Instead of Duck Legs
To make this classic dish in the smoker, don’t cook the duck in a tray of fat. Duck fat is extremely flammable and we want to keep our smoker smoking, not flaming.
You’ll get good results by using duck breast rather than the leg, because the breast has a larger fat cap than the leg. Therefore, when you cook the duck breast in the smoker, fat cap-side up, some of the fat will slowly melt and drip over the meat. Finally, it will safely fall through the “V” pan.
Think of it as self-basting! Rather than salt curing the duck, it is better to marinade it in a relatively dry marinade. It will be more a thick paste with similar ingredients to a traditional Duck Confit salt cure.
It Goes Well with Potatoes and Cabbage
Convention says that Duck Confit should be served with potatoes and stewed red cabbage. Alternatively, ours was served with herb roasted potatoes and pickled red cabbage. We, Danes, love our pickled cabbage and there is always some on my preserves shelf. As a result, you have a welcome reprieve from the rich, buttery flavours of the duck and the potatoes.
With candles lit, a bottle of my favourite red open and beer for him (I can’t share everything), it was time for a Valentine’s Day dinner, a week early!
The duck breast turned out great! Not only the meat was tender and juicy, but it also showed a crispy skin. A hit for sure! With duck added duck to R’s food repertoire, new food exploration will go on and on. But this one will hopefully become a new regular dish.
Smoked Duck Confit Recipe
You’ll need one tbsp coarse salt, one tbsp rosemary, fresh, one tbsp thyme, fresh, three cloves garlic, minced, juice of one lemon, one tsp black pepper and one tbsp olive oil.
The Duck Confit
Besides the two duck breasts, we will use two tbsp duck fat and 4-6 medium-sized white potatoes (such as fingerling or nugget potatoes). Season with one clove garlic, minced, one tbsp rosemary, fresh, one tbsp thyme, fresh, one tsp sea salt and ½ tsp black pepper.
Pickled Red Cabbage Recipe
Mix together all the ingredients for the marinade and scour the fat cap of both duck breasts.
Next, you should cover duck breasts in marinade and place them in a freezer bag or sealed container overnight, or up to 36 hours.
Now, it’s time to heat up the smoker
When the smoker reaches 200°F, you have to wipe off herbs and pat duck breasts dry.
Smoke duck fat cap side up for 1.5 to 2 hours with oak bisquettes or until the duck reaches an internal temperature of 150°F. While the duck is smoking, prepare the potatoes.
Preparing the Potatoes
While you preheat the oven to 350°F, cut the potatoes into quarters and warm up 1 Tbsp of duck fat.
Toss potatoes in warm duck fat, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper and spread out on a baking tray. Bake them in preheated oven for 45 minutes to an hour, or until potatoes are tender.
Finishing and Serving
To finish the dish, you’ll have to heat up one Tbsp of duck fat in a skillet on medium heat. Then, place the smoked duck breasts, fat cap-side down, in the skillet to sear the fat and to finish cooking the duck (bringing the temperature up to 165°F).
Serve duck with roasted potatoes and pickled cabbage (don’t forget the candles and the wine!)
By Lena Clayton