[Photographs: Vicky Wasik]
As demonstrated recently with prime rib, savory and funky shio koji is great at bringing out the meaty best in ingredients.
For this spin on French duck confit, we use shio koji in place of the traditional salt and spice cure, slathering it on duck legs with black peppercorns and star anise. The salt and enzymes in the shio koji quickly go to work, deeply seasoning the meat in just 12 hours. The koji cure is then rinsed off, the duck legs are submerged in rendered fat, and they’re cooked low and slow in the oven until tender.
This duck confit is intensely savory, with a background note of sweetness from the natural sugars from the koji kin, which also helps produce deep golden brown skin when you eventually crisp it for serving. If you’ve been curious about the transformative powers of shio koji, this is a great recipe to start with.
Why It Works
- Curing duck legs with funky shio koji imparts savory depth to the meat with a hint of sweetness, while also tenderizing it. Because of the salinity of the marinade, thereis no need to season the duck with additional salt.
- The sugars in the shio koji also help the duck skin achieve a burnished, deep golden brown color when crisped up for serving.
- A gentle and slow cook in a low oven yields tender and silky duck confit.
- Fully submerging legs in duck fat allows them to be stored for a long time after cooking, while also imparting the fat with extra flavor for subsequent cooking projects.
- 4 duck legs (about 2 1/4 pounds total; 1kg) (see note)
- 1 cup (300g; 240ml) homemade shio koji (see note)
- 2 teaspoons (6g) whole black peppercorns
- 3 star anise pods
- 2 to 4 cups (475 to 710ml) rendered duck fat (see note)
The Day Before Cooking Confit: Combine duck legs, shio koji, peppercorns, and star anise in a 1-gallon zipper-lock bag. Seal bag, pressing out as much air as possible. Massage bag until duck legs are evenly coated on all sides with shio koji. Lay bag flat on a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate, for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours. Do not cure legs longer than 24 hours, as they will over-cure, resulting in salty and dry confit.
When Ready to Cook: Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 225°F (105°C). Melt duck fat, either in a 3-quart saucier over low heat, or in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave. Remove duck legs from cure, wiping away as much of the cure mixture as possible before rinsing legs gently under cold water to remove all seasonings; discard cure. Pat duck legs dry with paper towels, then arrange in single layer in saucier with duck fat (if using), making sure they are completely submerged in fat. Alternatively, arrange duck legs snugly in a small baking dish and cover with melted duck fat, making sure legs are fully submerged in fat.
Cover saucier or baking dish with lid or aluminum foil, and transfer to oven. Cook until duck is completely tender and meat shows almost no resistance when pierced with a paring knife, nd skin has begun to pull away from bottom of the drumstick, 3 1/2 to 4 hours.
Remove from oven and cool duck to room temperature in its cooking vessel, removing lid but keeping it submerged in fat. Once cool, cover container tightly and transfer to refrigerator, where confit can be stored for up to 1 month.
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