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Confit of Duck with Port and Sour Cherry Sauce

Confit is the French word for preserve, and not only is it a wonderful way of serving duck if you like it with a crisp, crunchy skin, but you’re also able to prepare it all well in advance – then on New Year’s Eve all you have to do is whack it in the oven for 25 minutes. This really does take so much pressure out of entertaining. But be prepared – the salting takes 24 hours before you cook the duck legs and it’s best if you keep the confit for at least four weeks before serving. But if you haven’t got four weeks, it will still be brilliant. The sauce, made with dried sour cherries, is one of the nicest to serve with duck and can be made ahead and gently reheated.

 
 
 Confit of Duck with Port and Sour Cherry Sauce

  Serves 8

Ingredients
For the salting:
 8 large duck legs
 6 oz (175 g) Maldon sea salt
For the cooking and preserving:
 3 x 340 g tins goose fat
 8 cloves garlic, bruised (no need to peel)
 20 black peppercorns, coarsely crushed
 ¾ oz (20 g) fresh thyme sprigs
 4 bay leaves, each cut into 2 pieces
For the sauce:
 14 fl oz (400 ml) port
 4 oz (110 g) dried cherries
 2 oz (50 g) golden granulated sugar
 2 tablespoons good-quality red wine vinegar
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Equipment
You will also need a 6-pint (3.5-litre) lidded flameproof casserole dish, and a plastic container measuring 10 x 10 in (25.5 x 25.5 cm) and 3 in (7.5 cm) deep.

This recipe is taken from Delia's Complete Christmas (WH Smith) 2004

Method

You need to begin this by rubbing the salt into the duck legs and placing them in the plastic container so they fit comfortably in one layer. Then sprinkle them with any remaining salt, cover with a lid and refrigerate for 24 hours. 

To make the confit, preheat the oven to gas mark 1, 275°F, 140°C. Put the goose fat into the casserole and heat gently.

While it’s heating, wash the duck legs thoroughly under running water - it is important to do this very well to prevent the final result being too salty. Then place them in a bowl of cold water, drain and do the same thing again (to make absolutely sure!). After that, put the wet duck legs into the goose fat, along with the bruised garlic, peppercorns, thyme and bay leaves. Bring it up to simmering point, cover and transfer to the preheated oven for 2½ hours. To check the meat is tender, use a small skewer, which should find little resistance when pushed into the duck legs. 

Now cool for about an hour, then remove the legs from the fat and put them back into the (washed and dried) plastic container.

Strain the cooled fat over the legs then, when completely cold, cover and store in the fridge ready for New Year’s Eve, removing it from the fridge about 1 hour before reheating it in the oven. 

To make the sauce, place the port and the dried cherries in a medium saucepan, along with the sugar and wine vinegar. Bring the mixture up to a gentle simmer, give it all a good stir and let it barely simmer, without a lid, for 40–45 minutes, stirring from time to time. What will happen is that the wine vinegar will slowly reduce so there are only about 4 tablespoons of liquid left.

While the sauce is simmering, pre-heat the oven to gas mark 7, 425°F, 220°C and put a baking tray in the oven to pre-heat. Place the duck on the heated baking tray on a high shelf in the oven for 25 minutes. 

Serve the duck with the sauce.

 

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