For well over a year now, I've been trying to figure out how to make smoked duck confit. Standard confit technique requires one to cook the duck in duck fat that has been seasoned with herbs and spices. Once the duck is cooked, it is allowed to cool in the fat and can be stored for months. It is an ancient preservation method that yields incredibly tasty meat. Combining confit and smoke is an entirely different matter. I've tried several times, and it never worked out the way I wanted. It was only after I purchased my Sous Vide Supreme that I realized that I might be able to fix some of the problems I had run into previously. What were those problems? Well, the first question is do you smoke or confit first? If you smoke first, the smokiness tends to disperse once you sink the duck into fat and confit. The end product just is unsatisfying. Working in reverse by first using confit and then smoke, the end product tends to be bitter. But one recent day, it occurred to me that sous vide might be the answer. If you can smoke the duck fully and then seal it in a bag to cook with duck fat, herbs, and spices, then you might avoid the bitterness issue while retaining all the flavor. So, I set forth on a grand experiment to blend sous vide and smoke and see if I had found the secret.
Perhaps the most difficult part of making duck confit is finding the duck legs. I spent over two hous and visited over 6 purveyors before I threw in the towel. Duck breast was readily available, but not duck legs. It was only after Icalled my best chef buddy and mentor, Stephen Herman of Haven, that I was able to score the five duck legs you see in the picture above. I applied a simple rub of salt, pepper, rosemary, basil, and coriander and got the smoker (aka cooker) ready.
So, here's a quick shot of the duck legs hitting the cooker. There's not much to mention here except that I chose to use apple wood mixed with hickory to smoke the legs. Average smoking temperature was 200 degrees for roughly two and one half hours.
In the previous picture, I showed you what the duck legs looked like right before I pulled them off the cooker. In this picture, what you see is the same duck legs sealded in with duck fat, fresh chopped garlic, caramelized onion, chopped chives, cloves, and ground juniper berry.
Here you see five individually packaged smoked duck legs cooking away in my Sous Vide Supreme at a blissful 150 degrees in their little bags of herb infused duck fat. Glorious. I let the duck legs go for 2 hours in the Sous Vide Supreme and then dropped them in an ice bath to quickly cool them before putting them in the fridge.
The great thing about confit is that it keeps for months. This is the harvest from the experiment just before I installed them in the fridge.
So, did it work? Did I solve the problems I had experienced in the past? Unequivocably, yes. Smokey, ducky goodness. In fairness, it is some smelly stuff. I had to throw open the windows and doors when I ate the first duck leg, but that's a small price to finally climb that mountain and make it to the top.