Take your pantry to the next level. Complement your daily stocking staples of dried pasta, beans, and canned tomatoes, to name a few, with some of the delicious foods you make and put away.
For example, make your own broth and gravy and freeze portions of it to use in a large number of stews and soups. Sure, it’s easy to have some chicken broth in your Tetra Pak, but it’s also better to have a little chicken broth tucked away in the back of your freezer that you made from scratch.
Today’s recipes are basically two kinds of next-level pantry in my kitchen: duck legs that have been roasted in their own fat (called “confit” by the French, meaning “preserved”) and clarified butter, a special portion of which is called “ghee.”
Duck confit is especially delicious in winter. Added to soups (or actually to a great cold-weather pork-and-bean stew called a cassoulet), its flavors are close to animalistic: wonderful lip glossy fat; crisp skin like french fries; The meat has a deep flavour.
If the sun’s out, enjoy chopping it up and scattering it around some light, hearty greens, a classic French bistro. If tightly wrapped, duck confit will store well in the freezer for several months.
Ghee is clarified butter that has spent a little more time on the stove than main french clarified butter. Heating the residual milk solids until they start to taste like baby sugar candy makes the ghee itself nutty and its flavor deeper.
It still works as clarified butter, of course. That is, its smoke point is much higher (up to about 400 degrees) than in ordinary butter and is profitably used for frying fish or vegetables over high heat; as a dip (called “pulled butter”) for shrimp, crab or lobsters; As a rule for the Dutch. Or as the perfect popcorn drizzle.
Adapted from Cooking.nytimes.com, washingtonpost.com, Gourmet Today (2009). makes 6.
- 6 duck legs and thighs, washed and dry bound
- 1 teaspoon ground kosher or sea salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large bay leaf, torn into small pieces
- 10-12 sprigs dried or fresh thyme
Look for a non-interactive tray that accommodates all the duck legs in one layer. Mix salt, pepper, and bay leaf pieces, and sprinkle half of the mixture onto the tray. Spread the duck legs, fat side down, on the tray, allowing it to pick up the seasoning from that side. Flip all the legs, skin side up and sprinkle the remaining half of the seasoning, arranging the thyme sticks evenly over the legs, pushing them down over the meat.
Cover the tray tightly with two or three layers of cling film and then a layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil wrapped around the edges of the tray to keep everything tight. Place the tray in the refrigerator, metal side down. After 12 hours (or so), turn the dressing over and keep in the refrigerator for an additional 12 hours. (The legs themselves may be wet for up to 72 hours total.)
When you’re ready to prepare the duck, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Shake the legs of any seasonings (especially sprigs of thyme) and place each leg, fat side down, in a large ovenproof skillet, so that all the legs fit together. Heat over medium heat until fat begins to set, 15-20 minutes. When about 1/4 inch of fat covers the bottom of the pan, flip the duck legs (you may need to scrape under with a metal spoon to loosen them) and rearrange them all, once again snugly, skin side up.
Cover the pan with heavy-duty foil and place in the oven. Roast the legs for 1 hour, rotating the pan, then roast them for an additional 1 hour, 2 hours total. Remove the tin foil and roast for an additional 45 minutes – 1 hour, until the legs are all deep golden brown. Remove the legs from the pan and let them drain over a clean brown paper bag or cardboard. (Drain the duck fat and reserve it for use in stir-frying, deep-frying, or other uses as flavoring roasted and salty potatoes.)
The legs can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or, if frozen, up to 5-6 months. But to serve, grind it (from room temperature) in one of two ways: 1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the number of legs to serve, skin facing up, on a baking tray lined with parchment paper or foil. Roast for 20 minutes, until the fat shines on the crunchy skin. 2. Cook the legs to serve in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, covered, starting skin side down for 10 minutes, then skin up for an additional 10-15 minutes.
- 2 cups (4 sticks) high quality unsalted butter
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and continue to cook until a layer of milk proteins begins to float as a white foam and falls to the bottom as a white sediment. Bring to a boil the milk proteins on top will foam and froth. (You can skim these if you want to, although this isn’t necessary in the long run.)
Reduce the heat and continue cooking. The topping foam will degrade and fall off (unless it is peeled off). When the water evaporates from the butter, the boiling subsides and then stops. Be careful not to burn, heat more until the milk proteins at the bottom of the pot turn golden brown. The whole process will take an hour or a little more.
Strain through cheesecloth or a coffee filter into a heatproof bowl. (Red and caramelized milk solids can be reserved over ice cream.) Let cool and cool. Ghee can be kept for up to 6 months in the refrigerator.
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