Confit Duck and…That One Special Dish

When Carl was growing up his mother, bless her, was an appalling cook, bless her, and, God, please don’t let her read this!  For any and every special occasion she had ‘That One Special Dish’ she would troll out and everyone but her husband, bless him, suffered through the misery of it all.

Confit Duck

Having spent some years in South America, she returned to Australia with a recipe she thought contained a variety of flavours and textures everyone would enjoy.  I believe the recipe is called Pastel de Choclo and this is apparently a very popular dish in Chile but I guess it all depends on who’s the cook, bless her.  My mother-in-law makes it with mince that’s then combined with onions, raisins and olives, then it’s poured into a casserole dish and topped with tinned creamed corn and finished off under the grill.  I think it’s the tinned creamed corn I don’t have much of an appetite for especially when it’s combined with raisins.

Confit duck legs marinating

Years ago Carl and I and the other siblings were very polite and well-mannered and when we were up at the table and presented with ‘That One Special Dish’ we’d be pushing it around our plates and some would be scraping off the corn and others would be picking out the raisins and then as always, we’d be offered seconds.  We’d quickly pipe up and say, ‘Oh, if I’d known you were cooking this I wouldn’t have eaten before I came’, and, ‘Oh, I couldn’t possibly, it really is very filling, isn’t it?’ and ‘Oh no, you’ll want that for tomorrow wouldn’t you?  You could heat it up for lunch.’  These days we’re just blunt.   When we’re invited for dinner we immediately say, ‘We’re not coming if you’re cooking Pastel de Choclo’.  Blunt attacks like this can be avoided by saying, ‘Oh take the night off, come around here instead’.

Just out of the oven

Over the weekend we’ve had a celebration for Carl’s birthday.  I asked him what he’d like me to cook for his birthday and surprise, surprise, it wasn’t ‘That One Special Dish’.  He asked for confit duck Italian style.  The recipe I used is from Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Kitchen cookbook but I have modified the recipe because I’ve found the duck needs to be rinsed to remove the salt or it’s too salty and I know the legs have to be cooked in a lot of duck fat but I don’t think you need 2kg (4 1/2lb).

Italian-Style Confit of Duck

Twice cooked duck legs

Serves:  6

Degree of Difficulty:  4/5  It’s not really difficult, it’s just time-consuming and the recipe has to be started a day ahead.

Cost:  Expensive.  The duck legs aren’t too badly priced but all that fat is.  Never throw out duck or goose fat, it is gold!  I had two containers of duck fat in the fridge that I’d bought from a butcher for $5.00 each.  I had to buy more so went to Harris Farm and bought two smaller containers for $10.00 each.  You need to shop around as the price does vary greatly.

Confit Duck served with Potato Gratin and Braised Red Cabbage

  • 12 large duck legs
  • about 1.5kg duck fat
  • 1 handful of fresh rosemary, leaves picked (nicked mine from the neighbour)
  • 10 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 tbspn dried juniper berries
  • 1 tbspn peppercorns

For the marinade:

  • 8 tbspns coarse sea salt
  • 1 small bunch of fresh thyme, leaves picked
  • 10 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 small handful of dried juniper berries
  • zest of 2 oranges

Chop the ends (about 1cm) off the duck legs as this will give you better presentation when plated.

In a pestle and mortar (or in a metal bowl using the end of a rolling pin) bash up the marinade ingredients.  Rub this over the duck legs and leave overnight to let the flavours penetrate and any moisture drip out.

Preheat the oven to about 170C (325F).

Rinse the marinade off the duck legs, pat dry with paper towel, and put them into a small heavy-bottomed roasting try that they can fit into tightly.  Add your duck or goose fat.  Put the tray into the preheated oven and cook for about 2 hours, spooning the fat over the duck legs every so often, until the skin of the duck is crisp and the meat is tender.  Five minutes before the end, add the rosemary, bay leaves, juniper berries and peppercorns to the tray to crisp up.

Take the tray out of the oven and allow the duck legs to cool a little.  Put them into a sterilized container or Tupperware tub with the rosemary, bay leaves, juniper berries and peppercorns.  Pour over the fat from the roasting try – you may want to sieve it.  Cover and allow to cool  The confit is now ready to store in the fridge.

When you want to eat some, just remove the number of duck legs you need.  Put them on a roasting tray in a hot oven at 250C (450F) for about 20 minutes, until the skin is really crisp and the meat is so tender it will fall off the bone.

Is there a relative in your family with, ‘That One Special Dish’?

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  1. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says:

    I remember years ago when I saw goose fat for $20! Ever since I roasted a goose, I kept every drop afterwards 😛

  2. Gian Banchero says:

    The confit sounds delish, must try it, luckily I live near an large Asian mall where duck legs go for about the same price as chicken… I know what you mean about there being so much fat when it comes to duck, I’m always amazed that cookbooks fail to tell readers the trick of piercing duck skin all over with a fork and oven cook until most of the fat has been rendered then to proceed with the recipe once the fat has been jarred (yes, it is “gold”), if not then duck is far from eatable. Thanks for the recipe! 

  3. Charlie, you make me laugh and laugh. I’ve never seen so many blessings in the one paragraph.  Tell me Carl’s family aren’t actually South American, because if they are, and she reads this, you are going to be in SO. MUCH. TROUBLE. 😉

    Love confit duck, and I seem to have litres of duck fat in the freezer. I can’t bring myself to throw even the smallest bit away, and I just keep reusing it whenever we make this. I don’t make it very often though – I used to keep a casserole pot of it in the fridge, and Big Boy would raid it when I wasn’t looking, so I’d get to it and it would just be a casserole pot of duck fat. 

    • hotlyspiced says:

      No, they’re not South American. They just spent about 10 years there and unfortunately she became ‘inspired’ by a few recipes!!! I don’t worry about being in trouble because I’ve been in trouble for many, many years! xx

  4. LMAO you are a crack up – bless you. I really hope she doesnt read this post cause despite all the bless hers, I think you could be in a bit of trouble. Your punishment….hmmm how bout a very special dish  ha ha ha 🙂 xxx

  5. Niasunset says:

    WOW! Seems so beautiful and so delicious… Thank you for this recipe and for making me laugh too… With my love, nia 

  6. I have that book and don’t remember seeing this recipe. Your duck looks amazing. Carl would be a lucky man even if you just made That One Special Dish

  7. The duck confit ingredients sound very similar to my French recipe (apart from juniper), but it is prepared in a different way. I must try this method. It sounds fantastic! 
    (I hope you mother-in-law doesn’t read this post 😉 ) 

  8. Ah, I’m glad you and Carl were able to finally get a delicious version of that “special” dish!

  9. I would try your version … unfortunately, my wife doesn’t like duck. Hope you had a good weekend!

  10. Ohhh this recipe looks great but too bad Mr Bao can’t eat duck and hahaha i’ve never cooked ducked at home before so i’m a little scared hehe ~ 

  11. Sweet Posy Dreams says:

    This looks like a very special dish, and quite time-consuming to prepare.  A wonderful birthday treat.  Happy birthday to Carl!

  12. I love the story of the one special dish. I am so lucky that when my MIL made a dish that she knew I wouldn’t care for…she would make a lovely roasted meat pinwheel for the two of us. She was so thoughtful and a good cook.

  13. I totally forgot to say how great the duck sounds…it is one of my favorite meals. Now I have a good recipe. You are right about how expensive the duck fat can be.

  14. Deeps NaughtyCurry says:

    lol.. well at least ur lucky u dont have to live upto a mil who is an amazing cook 😀 im sure ur husband considers himself very lucky to be marrie to such a great cook 🙂

  15. Minnesota Prairie Roots says:

    Happy birthday to Carl! My mom wasn’t much of a cook. Let’s just say she fried hamburgers until they resembled hockey pucks. Our meals were always meat, boiled potatoes with gravy and a vegetable. Meat from the farm and veggies from our farm. I confess that I don’t much enjoy cooking either. My mother-in-law also could not cook except for chicken and caramel rolls. 

  16. Glamorous Glutton says:

    My mother used to be an amazing cook, but you’d never know it now. The usual offering is microwaved chicken leg with sweetcorn and boiled potatoes. An entirely beige meal. I love confit duck,it is expensive but so luxuriously tasty. Happy birthday Carl. GG

  17. What a lovely birthday present to Carl… and to readers of your blog: I don’t come across to many recipe for duck.

  18. FiSh SzeHui says:

    well, i hadnt tried the feet before, but your duck confit looks aromatic just by viewing the picture 🙂 

    Latest: Frog Addiction 

  19. I love your creative phrases for getting out of eating that “special” dish 🙂

  20. I sympathize…my mother-in-law wasn’t much of a cook either (at least not by the time I met her).  And the creamed corn sounds rather icky.  The duck, on the other hand.  sounds divine!

  21. Choc Chip Uru says:

    That is so cute that she had one special dish – I’m sure she enjoyed it at least 🙂
    Beautiful aromatic duck recipe perfect got the occasion!
    Great fun post my friend!

    Choc Chip Uru

  22. Duck is my husband’s favorite meal, and he especially order something like this at a restaurant.  Somehow I barely cook duck at home – but this Italian-style confit of duck seems very nice!

  23. ChgoJohn says:

    I hope you’re right and your MIL doesn’t read this!  Mom love to try new recipes in the kitchen, with varying degrees of success. Still, she would be the one to proclaim a dish  a failure and didn’t need any help from us.  🙂
    For me, living alone, duck is rather costly and time consuming to prepare. I keep promising myself to buy a whole duck, butcher it, and treat myself to a couple of duck dinners. Great recipes like this one are pushing me in that direction.

  24. I feel so bad for her, and by your own well-being she better not read this!!! hahahaha the dish looks great!!!

  25. Hi,
    Oh my raisins and corn, not to my liking I’m afraid.
    I haven’t had duck for a long time, it is just one of those things that I don’t seem to buy very often at all. I love your recipe for this duck dish and it does sound like it would be good for special occasions.
    I had no idea about the fat, who would of guessed that is was something that would be expensive.

  26. Happy Birthday to Carl! That confit duck does look incredible. I don’t know how it would go, mother-in-law-style though.. raisins and creamed corn? I just can’t imagine it!

  27. Your poor MIL! 

  28. Barbara at winos and foodies. says:

    I’ve always wanted to cook confit duck legs. They sound and look delicious Charlie.

  29. Happy Birthday to Carl, and what a way to celebrate. Duck Confit is such an impressive dish and of course, your presentation is always quite wonderful. Hope you have a great week, Charlie

  30. It’s gorgeous! I had never heard of Duck Confit until I saw someone making it on the food channel…a chef that had lived in France…I can’t remember her name. Hers didn’t look nearly as appetizing as yours.

    Thank goodness Carl didn’t have to eat Pastel de Choclo’ for his birthday dinner!  

  31. Oh dear, poor MIL.  Happy birthday to your Carl!  What an incredible meal to celebrate his birthday with.  I priced duck fat the other day and nearly fell over when I say the price!
    🙂 Mandy

  32. Justasmidgen says:

    I know what you mean!! And quite often we’re asked if we’d love that recipe.. it’s foisted upon us and then the hubs wants us to make it.. just like mom:) Please give Carl a big birthday hug for requesting the right dish this time! Beautiful, crispy duck!! MMMMM!!!

  33. Oh, this is funny! Truth resonates, ya know. In our family, it was Christmas Enchiladas, with big chunks of onion and the “enchilada sauce” was tomato sauce with black olives in it. Of course, this wasn’t just one meal, it was given in abundance as gifts–trays of it. Talk about dreading Christmas!  We finally worked up the gall to discourage her from ever making it again…funny now. 🙂
    I have only prepared duck breast for a salad, which I loved, but have never had duck prepared the way you have. It looks wonderful!

  34. Bitsandbreadcrumbs says:

    It’s a good thing Carl found you, Charlie Louie! 🙂

  35. A_boleyn says:

    What a superb special dish!

    I didn’t appreciate the ducks I got from my parents in the brief period that they raised them on their farm until later when I actually had to PAY the exorbitant prices at the city market. I did save all the clean white fat to give back to my parents for their fried/roasted potatoes however. Now I wish I still had some in my freezer for that dish. 🙂

  36. Raisins and canned corn! How interesting. LOL! I can’t imagine how she felt learning years later that her special dish was far from attractive the her whole family! On the other hand, she didn’t seem to want to observe you pushing it all over the plate, but not in the mouth! Your attention to making dishes special, really special this time, not that one special dish, is very evident. In this case, you know, Carl really may have married you for your cooking, Charlie! Happy Birthday to a special man, I’m sure. Debra

  37. Confit of duck is the ultimate Special Dish!!  Raisins, olives and creamed corn… not so much.  

  38. Haha, I love how you recount the story of this, er… interesting sounding dish, while interspersing it with beautiful pictures of confit of duck. Sorry Carl’s mom, but I don’t think that’s a recipe I’ll be trying out in the too near future… the duck however… mmm 😀 This reminds me of something my father likes to eat on his birthdays…. although he has a quail instead of the duck!

  39. Happy Birthday for your husband’s birthday! I love this dish, pretty expensive I know but it’s worth the cost!


  1. Illegal Acts says:

    […] and cooked until the proscuitto is crispy and the cheese slightly melted.  Then I’m serving confit duck legs with potato gratin and braised red […]

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