Duck Confit features famous Brome Lake fowlTuesday, October 16
I often think back to when I was a child and remember my parents telling me just how much more I would appreciate certain things when I was older.
A scenic drive, the leaves of the maple trees in the fall, just enjoying a quiet morning together as a family, somehow they were all supposed to carry so much more meaning as I aged. Here I am years later, realizing just how right they were.
I spent the first two decades of my life growing up in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, nestled on the border of Vermont.
It was a region known for maple syrup, an abundance of lakes, antique shops, and farmer’s stands around every corner. Every weekend and holiday it was overtaken by city folks, escaping the hustle and bustle of big city life in Montreal.
As a youngster I couldn’t wait to escape its “quaintness” and hit the big city. Most of the things that made this part of the world so special were lost on me at that time of my life. It wasn’t until I got older that I started to realize just how right my parents were and just how many great things I took for granted.
One such memory that comes to mind often as I work in the kitchen is the duck farm I grew up near. Every morning as I took the bus to school I would pass by it. Many of the kids in my class had parents who worked there.
In all of those years it simply was the stinky, noisy, duck farm.
It wasn’t until I took a trip to Florida when I was 12 that I began to piece things together. While down there we took a cruise to the Bahamas and during the cruise we were served some incredible food, all capped off by the Captain’s dinner, served on the last night of our trip.
When I read the menu I was floored. There it was — Brome Lake duck was being served for the main course. I couldn’t believe that the very farm that I had passed by so many times was selling their duck to a cruise ship that, in my 12-year-old mind, was half way around the world. I saved the menu just to show my mom when I got home.
Suddenly I had a sense of pride for the place I had been raised, even though I had nothing to do with their success.
As I began my journey into the culinary world, I learned just how popular they were. Even when I made my way out west I realized that chefs would ask for the duck by name. Much like Alberta is known for serving up world class beef, Brome Lake was known for making duck that was second to none.
So, when I was asked months ago to take part in Gold Medal Plates this week, an invitational cooking competition held annually nationwide to help raise money for our Olympic athletes, I knew exactly what I was going to prepare.
I had been invited in the past, and although I always enjoyed doing it, I have remembered leaving feeling like I didn’t prepare the dish I wanted to, the dish that was a reflection of me. This year I won’t let that happen. I have decided to work with my home-grown Brome Lake duck and showcase it in two ways, preparing a prosciutto wrapped breast, and using the legs to prepare a duck confit, featuring it in a forest mushroom arancini. I used the duck bones to prepare a stock for the risotto, and even lacquered the skin to serve as a crunchy compliment. I am putting my heart on this plate, cooking the way I love to, and win or lose, I can say that the dish is a reflection of my cooking at its best. I can’t share the dish with you just yet, but will post a few pictures on my facebook page, facebook.com/ChefShufelt, following the event on Thursday. Rather, I will share with you how I prepare duck confit, and show you a quick fennel salad that pairs nicely with it! I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
Prep time: 30 hours
Active prep time: 30 minutes
4 Brome Lake duck legs (*Wild Game Consultants, 780.452.6890)
1 litre rendered duck fat (*Wild Game Consultants, 780.452.6890)
cup coarse salt
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 clove garlic
4 juniper berries
1 tsp. peppercorns
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
Lightly rinse, then pat dry the duck legs
Peel and press the garlic to release the oils
Using a mallet, squish the juniper berries to release all of the flavour
In a bowl combine salt, sugar, garlic, juniper berries, peppercorns, fresh thyme and bay leaf
In a pan, or plastic tub, generously rub all the salt rub into the four duck legs, don’t worry, this is a cure and is used to flavour the ducks, and to begin to break the ducks down, you won’t be eating all that salt!
Wrap the duck in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, allow it to cure for 18-24 hours
Once it has cured, lightly rinse the duck legs again, to remove any excess salt, then pat dry
Preheat the oven to 300F
In a pot, bring the duck fat to a simmer
Either place the duck legs in a deep roasting pan and pour the oil over the duck legs to completely immerse them, or carefully immerse the duck legs right into the pot, as long as the pot can go in the oven
Cover the pot or pan with aluminum foil and place in the oven
Allow to slowly braise the duck legs in the fat until they are fork tender and the meat is falling away from the bones, about 4-5 hours, you want to cook it enough for them to be tender, but for the sake of presentation, not so long that the meat falls right off the bone
Allow the legs to rest in the fat while you prepare the salad
Fennel, Orange & Walnut Salad
2 large or 4 small fennel bulbs
4 navel oranges
1 tsp. fennel seeds
cup white balsamic vinegar
cup canola oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Clean away the stalks and the fennel fronds, keep the fronds for garnish
Using a slicer, or the thinnest blade of a food processor, slice the fennel as thinly as you can
Zest two of the oranges, then segment all four oranges, making sure not to get the pith, and preserve all of the juice from the oranges too
In a bowl, combine the shaved fennel, the orange segments, orange zest and juice, in a bowl
Coarsely chop the walnuts, add to the fennel
Lightly toast the fennel seeds, then add to the fennel
Finish the salad with the oil, vinegar and seasoning
Now, it’s time to crisp up the duck legs
Preheat the oven to 450F
In a pan, on medium high heat, place 2 oz. of the duck fat
Then gently place the duck legs in the pan, skin side down
Allow the skin to crisp up nicely, checking occasionally
Flip the duck over and place in the oven to warm through and get the skin crispy, 3-4 minutes
Place a generous mound of fennel salad on a plate, top it with the crispy duck leg and dig in! Enjoy this tasty memory of my hometown!