Confit is a fantastic method of preparing duck, and funnily enough is only something I’ve started doing at home just recently. The method of preparation is disarmingly simple – cook the duck slowly in its own fat till the meat falls off the bone, with minimal effort on my part – my kind of cooking! But of course, I’m not content to leave a classic alone…here’s my take on the classic version with a spiced duck confit that draws on nuances from Vietnam.
However, before the stones start flying, just hear me out…
The idea was sparked when I stared looking into some recipes for pho, the classic Vietnamese beef noodle soup and undisputed poster child of Vietnamese cuisine. But one thing I suppose I had never fully appreciated were the influences that French colonialism had left on Vietnamese food – coffee, banh mi etc. are just some of the more obvious ones, but the relevant piece of information that I’ve come across into a few times is the proposed theory behind the evolution of the name “pho” – that it is a corruption of the French pot-au-feu. Whether or not that is indeed true, perhaps we’ll never know for sure, but I do know with great certainty that it’s pretty darn tasty.
So in a further attempt to marry the quintessential elements of the French and Vietnamese, I give you…Pho Duck Confit. Ta da!
In my defence, I believe it does work – it is a fusion of the more gentle kind, rather than the one involving smashing things together like atoms until it all gets a bit messy.
The recipe follows the typical French preparation of salting (or dry brining) the duck together with ground spices overnight, then submerging it in duck fat and popping it in the over on a low heat for a few hours till meltingly soft.
I’ve attempted this two ways so far – firstly with whole spices with the duck in a liquid brine, and secondly with ground spices and salt in the manner of a dry rub. Both work well in their own way – the liquid brining is just a bit messier, but you don’t have to deal with bits of spice at the end of cooking if that might put you off… I’ve opted for a 2% brine by weight of duck, as I don’t like it too salty, but that can be adjusted from anywhere between 1 – 5% according to your preference.
And an extra bonus? Plenty of aromatic duck fat to use for roasting potatoes, or just pop it in the fridge to use for your next batch of confit. When you’re done cooking the duck, strain the fat through a layer of paper towel to keep out any bits and you’re done.
The duck can then be used as you like – here I’ve shredded the duck and used it to top a salad of watercress, orange and red onion, with a sprinkling of fresh herbs, sesame seeds and a good dose of Vietnamese dipping sauce, nuoc cham. I’ve also previously used it as the filling in rice paper rolls too, which works nicely.