Nobody seems to have time to make dinner - at least, that's what 90 percent of the cooking shows on television and magazine articles would have you believe. Even my favorite, go-to source for culinary ideas, "Cook's Illustrated" magazine, seems hellbent on cutting corners and eliminating steps to create the perfect, 20-minute pot roast or "no-stir" risotto. I understand a lot of folks are pressed for time, but if you don't have time to cook healthy, wholesome meals from the heart, it's probably because you've chosen other things in your life to prioritize over the food you eat. I know some people for which food is simply fuel to run daily bodily functions while they pursue happiness away from the dinner table. I, on the other hand, am at the other end of the spectrum. Life is too short to eat bad food. Here's a particularly worthwhile example:
|Wood duck confit on a bed of arugula.|
Though fairly straightforward, the process is time-consuming and perhaps daunting to those living in fear of the perceived evils of animal fat. The result, however, is nothing short of miraculous - turning dense, fibrous portions like legs and thighs into melt-in-your mouth tidbits of richly complex protein. The technique is a Godsend to hunters who have long wondered what, if anything to do with those leg-and-thigh quarters of their wild ducks and geese, which are usually best-prepared separately from the breast meat because they take longer to cook. Since developing my own method for confit of wild game a couple of years ago, I typically start the process by saving all of the plucked leg-and-thigh quarters from my ducks through the season until I have enough to do a big batch that will keep practically indefinitely in the fridge (though it never comes close to lasting more than a couple of weeks).
|The pricking of the skin|
Let's skip past the gathering of the wild ducks for now and assume you have 8-20 leg-and-thigh portions defrosted. The next step is to cure the meat for a short period in a mixture of:
- 2 cups of Kosher salt
- 1/2 cup of sugar
- 2 Tbsp black peppercorns
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
- 1 bunch of fresh thyme
|Duck legs on the cure. Cover them with the remaining salt and seasoning mixture.|
|"Bunged" and ready for storage.|
I've made this with both wild duck and wild goose, and I daresay the technique would work for rabbit and squirrel as well. If you're a waterfowler who breasts out his birds and deems the rest too troublesome to bother with, I beg you to give this confit a try. I guarantee you'll be plucking all of your gamebirds and breaking out the legs and thighs for this ultra-slow food preparation for the rest of your hunting days. If you don't hunt, try it with domestic duck parts, or rabbit, or pork. Either way, it will be worth every single minute, hour, day, week and month you put into it.