Half the fun of discovering a new restaurant is sharing it with people you know will enjoy it. As Rachael Ray’s resident restaurant guru, here’s an inside look at what I report back to Rach about some of my favorite restaurant finds and food experiences!
Sent: Monday, October 14, 2013 11:25am
Subject: Chef John Besh’s New Book, Cooking from the Heart
Hi Rach –
While I normally share restaurant recommendations with you, I recently received an email from Chef John Besh in New Orleans asking if I would consider cooking from his new cookbook, Cooking from the Heart.
This was a no-brainer for me. I consider Chef John Besh to be one of the most talented and well-respected chefs in the country. As you know, he steers the ship of New Orleans restaurants that include Domenica, August, Borgne and more, not to mention his first foray outside The Big Easy, Lüke San Antonio, on the City’s famed River Walk. So to be able to be one of the first people to cook from his book? Well, I jumped at the opportunity to share this with you and your readers.
All about duck
The chapter that was assigned to me was called Lessons of the Hunt. And the recipe I chose was Duck Confit. It’s not that I don’t like duck, but I’m honestly not the biggest fan of duck breast. Duck confit, on the other hand – now, I can get down with that.
There are two duck dishes that distinctively stand out in my rolodex of food. One, the first meal I ate in Paris, from a small local restaurant called Le Bistro du Peintre. It was crispy, tender and flavorful – all things a good duck confit should be, in my opinion. And two, at Mario Baltali’s Lupa in New York City.
It was a Tuesday night and my fiancé, Katy, and I were out to dinner. I ordered the nightly special, which was a Crispy Duck Agrodulce. It blew my mind and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Just how much did I thoroughly enjoy it? Five minutes into eating it, Katy looked up at me and said, “You really like that, don’t you?” I said, “Um, yeah, how could you tell?” She responded, “Because you haven’t said a single word in five minutes!” She was right. The crispy skinned, Italian sweet-and-sour style preparation blew my mind to the point that I instantly decided I would not need to order duck anywhere else, because this did it for me.
Trying it in my own kitchen
Which brings me back to my excitement about cooking Chef John Besh’s Duck Confit recipe. I am a trained chef, so I was confident I could achieve the tender crispness of the duck I crave, but it wasn’t something I had thought to try in my own kitchen before. To John Besh’s credit, the recipe is written in such a way that a home cook can accomplish it, but I see a large part of being a trained chef and working for someone like Rachael Ray is making recipes as accessible as possible to all cooks. Taking it one step further, I enjoy teaching home cooks how to stretch a recipe into a second meal using any potential leftovers (look out for my upcoming post on how to use the leftovers to make duck carnitas tacos) or by making a double batch.
As the headnote of the recipe states, “Confit – Slow-Roasted Duck stored in its own fat –is an ancient way to preserve duck.” While it may sound confusing and time consuming, fear not, this is such a doable dish, you will want to make again, I promise.
Tips for success!
As you read through the recipe below, here is my list of tips to ensure a successful outcome:
2. Many stores, including Whole Foods, sell containers of duck fat in their meat sections. The recipe says 4-6 cups – I opted for 6 to ensure the duck was completely covered.
3. Make sure that you have a baking dish with enough room to cook the duck in an even layer and that ALSO has enough room to have the duck fully submerged the next day. The first dish I put my duck in did not fit them all evenly, so I had to change dishes.
4. Always be careful when working with hot oil – after you melt down the duck fat, carefully ladle or pour it to cover the duck.
5. After you roast the duck for a couple hours, be sure to let it cool for a couple more hours before you cover it and refrigerate it.
6. When it cools overnight, the fat will solidify again, which is how the duck was preserved back in the day.
7. When you want to cook the duck, bring the dish to the counter and let it come close to room temperature for a good 20-30 minutes or so. Using your hands (the best tool in your kitchen), gently pry the duck out of the fat and peel off any big chunks that are adhering to the duck. Then go ahead and place the duck on a wire rack set over a baking sheet.
8. The recipe says to cook for 25-30 minutes. While this indeed works, in my quest for tender-crisp perfection, I left mine in for an extra 5-10 minutes to get some extra crispiness on the skin.
9. If using the duck for another recipe such as duck hash or duck tacos, let it cool, remove the skin, then pull the meat off the bones as you would pull chicken off the bones.
I know that “fat” is not always an attractive word, but you may not know that duck fat is a healthier animal fat alternative to butter or pork fat and compares favorably to olive oil in terms of polyunsaturated fats. In addition, duck fat is high in vitamin E and is 40% lower in saturated fats.
Rachael, I hope your readers have fun trying out John Besh’s recipe, because trying something new is what cooking anything is all about! I thoroughly enjoyed myself, as did the people that ate this dish. Thanks to Chef Besh for bringing an excellent Duck Confit recipe into the kitchens of home cooks! Readers, try out the recipe below and tell us how your recipe came out. Feel free to ask me any further questions in the comment section, below. And that’s what’s on my plate!
~ Kappy @OnKappysPlate
Makes 6 legs
Confit—slow-roasted duck stored in its own fat—is an ancient way to preserve duck. I love serving these hot, crispy duck legs with anything from a hearty salad with a bracing vinaigrette, to luscious lentils, to sautéed apples or Sautéed Potatoes with Quince & Onions (page 94). I also use this confit to make rillettes (boneless confit emulsified with warm duck fat) that are then layered with thin slices of duck breast to create a terrine, essentially using every part of the bird in one dish (Terrine of Rare Duck Breast & Rillettes, page 18).
6 duck legs and thighs
Freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
6 bay leaves
4-6 cups duck fat
1. Liberally season the duck legs all over with salt and pepper. Tuck a slice of garlic, a small branch of thyme, and a bay leaf on the flesh-side of each leg and lay in a large baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 325°. Melt the duck fat in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Pour the melted fat over the duck legs in the baking dish so that they are completely submerged. Slow-roast in the oven until the legs are fork tender, about 2 hours. Let the duck cool in the fat. When the legs and fat are cool, cover and refrigerate overnight.
3. To serve the duck confit, preheat the oven to 375°. Remove the duck legs from the fat and place on a baking pan fitted with a wire rack. Bake until the skin is crispy and the legs are heated through, 25–30 minutes. Strain the remaining duck fat into a jar, refrigerate, and use for crispy fried potatoes.
—From Cooking from the Heart: My Favorite Lessons Learned Along the Way by John Besh/Andrews McMeel Publishing
Andrew “Kappy” Kaplan loves food. A professionally trained chef, by day he runs Yum-o!, Rachael Ray’s charity focused on kids and cooking, and keeps special projects running smoothly for her. By night he hops course to course, place to place, all across the country. He’s Rach’s own personal dining guide! You can also follow Kappy on Twitter to see what’s On Kappy’s Plate in real-time!