Confit Duck Legs with Potato, Samphire and Broad Bean Salad and Warm Bacon Dressing
I use a lot of French cooking techniques in my kitchen and write about them too. They’re basically the foundations of my skills and what I have learnt over the years as a professional chef. I do believe that some of these techniques are never to be forgotten as the end result is priceless.
To confit duck legs in duck or goose fat is one of the techniques I absolutely adore. The texture and flavour is second to none. I also use the sous-vide technique to cook duck legs, which is the healthier option, but sometimes we have to give in to the things that simply taste the best. The beauty about cooking duck legs in duck or goose fat is that they will keep very well in the fridge, if kept submerged in the fat, for up to a week. This in itself is brilliant as you can put a lot of effort into cooking the legs and then use them in various different recipes; I think that is a real bonus.
I serve these duck legs with one of my favourite recipes, which is a warm bacon dressing drizzled over a salad of sautéed potatoes, samphire and broad beans. What is there not to like about this?!
Perfect al fresco dining for this time of the year, and a little effort goes a long way in taste!
For the confit duck legs
- 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
- 4 duck legs (including thigh joints)
- ¼ teaspoon black peppercorns
- ¼ teaspoon coriander seeds
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 large sprigs of thyme
- 500g duck fat or goose fat (you need enough to totally submerge the duck legs)
For the warm bacon dressing
- 4 rashers smoked back bacon
- 1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons clear honey
- 100ml olive oil
- freshly cracked black pepper
For the potato, samphire and broad bean salad
- 500g new potatoes, washed, skin on
- 1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
- 200g samphire
- 200g broad beans (double-podded weight – pods and outer skins removed by blanching beans) – see Cook’s Notes
For the confit duck, rub the salt into the duck legs all over. Place the legs in a container with a tight-fitting lid, then add the peppercorns, coriander seeds, garlic, bay and thyme and mix. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 6 hours and a maximum of 12 hours.
When you are ready to cook the duck legs, pat the legs dry with kitchen paper and remove as much of the aromatics as possible (do not wash the legs). Preheat the oven to 150°C/Gas Mark 2.
Place the duck legs in a heavy-based ovenproof saucepan or casserole dish with a tight-fitting lid. In another pan, melt the duck fat over a low heat, then pour the warm melted fat over the legs, making sure they are completely submerged in the fat. Place a cartouche (a circle of buttered greaseproof paper) on top, followed by the lid. Cook in the oven for about 2½ hours. To check if the duck legs are cooked, wiggle a bone and if it feels loose then they’re ready; if there is some resistance, then cook for a further 20 minutes or so until tender (but be careful not to overcook the duck as it can become very dry).
Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 30 minutes, then carefully remove the legs from the fat and drain. Set aside until you are ready to crisp up the skin (see Cook’s Notes).
For the warm bacon dressing, preheat the grill to medium. Grill the bacon (on a rack set over a grill pan) for 5–6 minutes or until golden brown and crispy, turning once. Remove from the heat. Take 2 cooked rashers and chop into small pieces, then set aside. Place the rest of the cooked bacon and any bacon juices from the grill pan into a jug (if you are using a stick blender) or a blender, add the mustard, vinegar and honey, then season with pepper (salt is not needed as the bacon is already salty). Blend together and then, with the blender running, slowly incorporate the olive oil until smooth and combined. Set aside. Just before serving, gently reheat the dressing in a small pan (or reheat it briefly in the microwave oven).
To crisp up the skin of the duck legs, preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Place a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat until warm, then place the duck legs, skin-side down, in the pan and cook for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to the prepared baking tray, then cook in the oven for 20 minutes or until crisp and golden brown.
Meanwhile, for the salad, cook the potatoes in a pan of lightly salted boiling water until tender, about 10-15 minutes depending on size. Drain well and cut them into quarters. Heat the rapeseed oil in a non-stick frying pan over a high heat and sauté the potatoes for 6 minutes. Once they start to brown, reduce the heat to medium, then add the samphire, toss and cook for 1 minute. Add the broad beans, reserved chopped cooked bacon and 3–4 tablespoons of the warm bacon dressing, toss to mix, then remove from the heat.
Divide the salad between 4 serving plates, place a crispy duck leg on top of each portion of salad, drizzle over more of the warm bacon dressing and then serve.
To double-pod the broad beans, blanch them in a pan of boiling salted water for a couple of minutes, then drain, refresh in iced water and drain again. Pop the tender, bright green beans out of their outer grey skins by squeezing gently. Discard the outer grey skins and reserve the inner bright green beans.
If you are making the confit duck legs to be used at a later stage, leave them to cool completely in the fat, then store them submerged in the fat in the fridge for up to a week. Remove from the fat before use.
Pass the leftover drained fat through a sieve and then keep it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 month. Use the fat to make delicious roast potatoes.