The 11th Day of Christmas: Duck Confit with Winter Greens

Serves 4

Making duck confit at home can be intimidating. It’s one of those foods associated with high-end restaurant menus and, in recent years, trendy gastro-pub poutine. Really though, it’s not much different than roasting a chicken leg – a very fatty, chicken leg.

John Bishop is an iconic Vancouver chef of the long-time restaurant, named for the man himself, Bishop’s. A pioneer of the sustainable food movement, he was sourcing local, seasonal ingredients long before it became trendy. The 11th Day of Christmas recipe comes from his book Fresh, and it offers a twist on traditional duck confit, a cheater’s version if you will.  

The technique of confiting is a traditional French style of preserving meat, whereby it is slow cooked in its own fat. When cooled, the fat solidifies, encasing and sealing the meat, acting as a natural preservative. The indulgent, popular dish we associate with most restaurant menus is tender, unctuous meat with salty skin crisped to perfection. It oozes just the right amount of fat when you bite into it.

I say that the Bishop’s recipe is a sort of cheater’s version because it does not require the copious amounts of fat that most recipes call for (at several cups, it can be an expensive dish to make). Instead, the duck here is simply cooked in the fat rendered from the four legs called for in the recipe. Since duck is quite fatty already, this yields more than enough to create the fall-off-the-bone, favourful duck we’re after. And let’s be honest, chances are you plan on consuming it promptly, not storing it in the back of the fridge for a few months.

Bishop pairs this duck with seasonal greens, wilted and tossed with an Asian-inspired vinaigrette, the acidity of which nicely cuts the fat. I also served it with a roasted kabocha squash from Rondriso Farms. If you aren’t familiar with it, kabocha squash has sweet flavour and velvety-smooth texture, offering a great balance to this dish.  

Serve this up to impress holiday guests; or just for a simple but impressive dinner at home for yourself. It’s a busy time of year and we all need a little quiet indulgence too.

Leftovers (if you have them) can be pulled from the bone and used to make duck tacos; duck confit macaroni and cheese, or whatever other indulgent combination you can think of. Bon appétit!

Ingredients

  • 4 duck legs
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • Fresh cracked pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • ¼ cup + 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 4 cups winter greens (spinach, chard, or kale)

Method

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line an eight-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Place duck in pan, skin side up, with garlic. Season skin with salt and pepper.

Roast the duck in the oven for 90 minutes, allowing the fat to slowly render. Increase heat to 400°F for an additional 30 minutes, or until skin is crispy. Remove from oven and rest for 5 minutes while you prepare the greens.

In a small bowl make vinaigrette by whisking together vinegar, soy sauce, ¼ cup of sesame oil, and ginger.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add greens and toss with a few tablespoons of the vinaigrette. When wilted remove from heat immediately and divide among four places. Drizzle with a little extra vinaigrette if desired, top with duck, and serve.

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