It had been aging for 1.5 weeks already. Ben was about to leave for Utah, and I wanted to eat my first attempt at duck confit. We had eaten duck confit with scallion pancakes at Myers and Chang and thought we’d give it a try. As an appetizer, we were going to enjoy our first tomato of the year.
Two duck legs, 1 wing, and a neck (saved from the duck we ate on Bastille Night, see below), had been cured overnight in salt, garlic, shallots, parsley, and thyme. The cure was washed off and the duck pieces dried. Using the fat rendered from the duck, as well as some more duck fat I bought, I melted the fat over low heat in a dutch oven, then submerged the duck pieces to cover them. I also added a couple garlic cloves studded with cloves. Then into a 180° oven uncovered for 6 hours, or until the fat was clear, the duck resting on the bottom of the pot, and I could see the confit juices on the bottom. Removed from the oven, let cool, then into the fridge for a week at least. To eat, I melted the fat in a warm oven, took out 1 leg, and then let the rest cool to continue aging the other pieces.
Before reheating the duck, I made scallion pancakes, which are shockingly easy. Mix 2 cups flour and 1 cup hot water. Knead the dough for a few minutes until silky smooth (oh yeah) and then let it rest for a half hour. On a well floured surface, roll out the dough to be about 2 ft X 1 ft (1/16 inch thick). Spread sesame oil over the dough just to coat, salt and peppper, and chopped scallions (from your garden, of course) with a heavy hand. Roll the dough up like a cinnamon roll. Then cut into 6 pieces. Heat vegetable oil in a small frying pan. One piece at a time, take the dough, twist it a few times to elongate it, then roll it into a spiral. All this wrapping and contorting leads to a layering of dough and oil, yielding a flaky pancake. Flatten this spiral and roll out to a disc about the size of your hand (the thinner the better, if you ask me). Pop into hot oil until golden, flip, cook, remove to a paper towel and salt.
It doesn’t take long to reheat the duck. Put duck skin side down in a frying pan to render some of the fat and crisp the skin. Then flip it over and put into a 425° oven to heat through, just for 5 minutes. When the confit is screaming for you to eat it, remove pan from the oven.
This next part is important.
Now that you’re almost done cooking lunch (the pancakes cooking, the bread for the tomato toasting), turn back to the pan from the oven with the confit. Forget that it was in the oven. Grab the handle like it is your last hold on earth. *Pause* Scream. Put down pan. Plunge hand into bucket of cold water than Ben has suddenly prepared for you. Ben runs off to the drug store to buy ointments that will do nothing. Since you can’t take your hand out of the water without screaming, slice up the tomato, spread a little mayo on the toast, all with one hand.
Looks good for one-handed, right? Slice the scallion pancakes into fourths (it took all the strength I had), and arrange with duck confit.
Once Ben is back, wrap hand in towel and clutch ice pack to prevent crying. And eat.
My hand, after a trip to the hospital (after driving Ben to the airport) courtesy of Nick and Christina, is fine. Half of it looks like the skin of the duck confit. Be careful in the kitchen.
Oh, and the duck was amazing. Tender and juicy, but not overly heavy as one might expect from all that fat. You could taste hints of the cure (thyme), and the cloves. The pancakes were crispy, flaky, and intense with fresh scallion flavor (fresh scallions are much stronger than store bought. When I cut them, they made me cry like onions. And like a 425° pan handle.). And the first tomande tomato was a good sign for the rest of the season. They are so sweet, tangy, you can eat them like an apple.