Saturday, May 21, 2011

Duck Confit And Lettuce

If there is one truly instant dinner we make, it is anything involving duck confit. I want to say duck confit is fast food, but the truth is it is very slow food that can then be stored, and when you are ready to feast, it is instantly ready to satisfy. It is a cooked duck leg packed in its own rendered, pearl colored fat. Pre-refrigeration meat storage techniques.
When I was pregnant with Colby, Craig's food craving was duck. Mine was lemon gelato. He cooked duck, mostly duck confit, so often that our small apartment acquired a permanent, not altogether bad, crispy duck smell. At some point when I started to feel a little tired of it, Craig told me that duck fat was high in omegas, which I needed for my growing baby. This did not explain why he was craving it and I was not, but I went with it. Sure enough, when Colby was born she had the most luxuriant, thick black hair, and gorgeous, plump cheeks. Her first nick name was, "The Baby That Duck Fat Built." Kind of a long nick name, but what does a new parent have to do but whisper and coo terms of endearment?
So now we are the family that duck fat built. We love it. And used in moderation it does not break the bank, despite its fancy restaurant associations. It is a simple, delicious, good for you meat that has been a staple probably since our hairier ancestors discovered fire.
Some tips:
For this dinner, put the confit in a pan on a low heat. The fat slowly turns clear, glistening and sizzling. After a few minutes the confit will warm through and fall off the bone. Take this out of the pan and slice the meat completely off the bone and lay it over the lettuce. Dress with simple vinaigrette immediately before serving.
The lettuce pictured here is a sturdy selection of small greens the local grower calls "confetti." The name matches the feelings of those who eat it I think, the celebratory feeling of lettuce season arriving makes me want to have a confetti parade.
When you make this with a lettuce that has strength and structure, like a butter lettuce, escarole, or even a young chicory, you can pour some of the fat off the pan onto the lettuce to wilt it slightly, then splash a little vinegar and salt and pepper and eat immediately.

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