Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Quack Quack Quack

The first time I had duck was 9 years ago at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Chinatown, NYC. I vaguely remember anything but dripping grease and the taste of fried oranges. Luckily, my second encounter was quite the opposite. I ordered risotto with duck confit, shitake mushrooms, and arugula at Speakeasy. The creaminess of the risotto gently complimented the crisp and flavorful skin of the duck. The earthiness of the mushrooms paired well with the bite of the arugula, making all the flavors harmonious.

Confit is a French method of preserving meats, typically goose or duck. The meat is cooked in its own fat, creating an unbelievable flavor and fall off the bone texture. Being a gamier-tasting poultry, duck has a much higher percentage of bone and fat to meat. The fatty skin contributes to the rich, decadent flavor that makes this meal so spectacular.

On Valentine’s Day I ordered duck confit again at La Dolce Vita. This time the protein was served over roasted fennel and potatoes. The duck literally melted in my mouth. The crispy skin contrasted with the luxurious meat created a balance of flavor and texture. I started to wonder, is it the technique of confit that makes this meal so delicious? Or is it the actual meat itself?

Peter Dale, executive chef at The National, proves that it is the method of cooking that adds so many flavors to the duck. He has recently come up with a play on duck confit, using chicken as the protein. Because duck is a more expensive, the National can offer this entrée for less than 20 dollars, but still give the customer a gourmet poultry dish. They use chicken thighs and legs from Springer Mountain Farms, located in North Georgia. The dish highlights this part of the chicken and serves it with parsnip puree, broccoli raab, and a blood orange and black pepper jus. Preparing the chicken in fat creates the same rich flavors that go into duck confit. As with any dish, adding fat simply makes it better. Might not be good for the waist line, but certainly makes it taste scrumptious!

Check out this website for more ideas on duck confit!

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