Okay, see it happened like this. I took out what I thought were chicken quarters to make dinner for my husband--it was late and I just took them from the cellar freezer and put them in the fridge to slowly defrost overnight. When I woke up and checked on the meat--I found out I had taken out...DUCK.
So, you know, I thought...duck confit. Tonight. But if you've ever made duck confit--that luscious, extravagant preparation of duck preserved (confit means preserved in French) in duck fat--then you know that it takes FOREVER. To begin with, you're going to want to cure the duck for about 36 hours in spices such as cloves, garlic, perhaps citrus peel.
So here it was, 12 noon yesterday, I had thawed duck quarters and confit on the brain. No duck fat, no time to cure anything. This is when you find out who your friends are. If this ever happens to you, do what I did: call a restaurant you love that you know has duck on the menu and ask them for some fat. Lots of it.
After setting up a pick up time I soon had a car filled with the amazing, savory aromas of duck fat--it was 2:30 pm. But here's the time-saver: because the duck fat from the restaurant was so rich--having been the cradle for previous renditions of duck confit the day before--that I didn't have to cure my duck. All I had to do was to toss the beautiful fat into a roasting pan--see photo at left, put in the duck, add some extra (basic) olive to make sure they were covered, and cooked them in a 275 degree oven for five hours. Yeah, five hours, but, then I didn't have to do a thing to them but take them out, season them, and lay them on a bed of green lentils. Oh. My. God. With a glass of Bonterra's organic Cabernet Sauvignon I was in heaven.
The recipe for the lentils was adapted from Maria Helm Sinskey's, The Vineyard Kitchen.
- 1 pound (about 2 cups) green lentils
- 4 garlic cloves
- 2 medium carrots
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 4 cloves
- 2 strips of apple-wood smoked bacon
- freshly ground pepper
- 1 bay leaf--fresh or dried
- 3 cups of water, 3 cups of chicken stock
Clean the lentils, picking out any debris. Peel and trim the garlic cloves, leaving them whole. Peel, trim and dice the carrots into cubes about 1/4 inch. Peel and halve the onion. Dice one half of the onion finely and take the four cloves and stick them into the intact onion half. Cut the bacon strips into thirds.
Heat a 4-quart pot over medium heat. Add the bacon cook until the fat begins to render and the bacon begins to brown. Turn up the heat and add the diced onion, carrots and garlic. Saute the vegetables until they begin to brown, season with salt and pepper.
Add the lentils to the pot and saute until the lentils are warm to the touch. Add the bay leaf and onion studded with cloves. Add the liquid and bring the pan to a boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Taste the broth for seasoning and add more salt and peppper if necessary. Cook until the lentils and vegetables are tender, about 30-40 minutes.
Drain the lentils (reserve some of the cooking liquid for reheating if not using immediately) and cool. Remove the bay leaf, bacon, and the onion half stuck with cloves. Reheat the lentils with a little of the reserved cooking liquid when you are ready to serve them. The lentils can be made up to four days ahead--store them in their cooking liquid in the fridge until ready to use.
*The lentils can be made vegan by omitting the bacon and using all water or vegetable stock instead of the chicken stock.