Confit of Duck
14 November 2002
Actually, this is the kind of virus that I like. Just the one day of feeling positively Neanderthal, huddling in my cave and having to think on my fingers. This morning I slept so late that even the cats got bored and abandoned me; my body is still slow and achy (which I just looked up, to be sure it wasn't achey - and did you know that the verb was originally ake and the noun ache, as in speak and speech?), but my head is okay. Or possibly ochay. So I wrote a couple of pages and did my Chinese homework before lunch (good sausages, fried very very slowly as they must be, with chestnut mushrooms flash-fried in the sausage fat, on ciabatta from the Café Royal, which is the best bread in Newcastle). And I'm back on the good books, reading Firesong by William Nicholson, the third of his Wind on Fire sequence. I love this series; it's written for kids, but has both the ruthlessness and the restless imagination that Harry Potter so conspicuously lacks. There is, I think, nothing quite like it; put it somewhere in the range between Diana Wynne Jones (I'm thinking of her Dalemark books particularly) and Peter Dickinson, perhaps?
And now, while I think about another page or so before Buffy, I'm making a confit of duck legs. I have a menu in mind - pan-fried breast of duck on a bed of Puy lentils, with a confit of the leg - and obviously this has to start with the confit, way ahead of fixing a date or inviting guests. It's dead easy to do: melt plenty of goose-fat in a pan with a couple of bay-leaves and a sprig of thyme, immerse duck legs, be sure they're entirely covered and bubble them as gently as possible for an hour or so. Then let the fat solidify, and so long as the meat is well below the surface you can keep it as long as you like. It's an ancient way of preserving, for months on end. These days we don't need that, of course, we have deep freezes; beyond curiosity, my only excuse is taste and texture. After a week, it will be rich and melting. I've never managed to hold myself back longer than a week. This time, though, the plan is to confit six legs and invite four people to dinner. Demonstrably, this way there's a spare leg; I intend to keep it as long as I can bear to. I'll let you know what it's like, if I survive it.
© Chaz Brenchley 2002
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.