Confit is French for "conserved." The term is used for preserving meat by cooking and storing it in its own fat. It is also used for fruits and vegetables conserved by cooking them with sugar until they are like a jam. Before refrigeration, the French used the technique for preservation, but we continue to use it for the incredibly tender and succulent meat it produces.
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 tablespoon juniper berries
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons dried thyme
3 bay leaves
, torn into a few pieces
6 duck leg-thigh quarters, trimmed of excess fat
Use the back of a skillet or the side of a cleaver to crush the peppercorns and juniper berries a bit to release their flavor. Combine them in a small bowl with the salt, sugar, thyme, and bay leaves. Sprinkle the mixture liberally on both sides of the duck legs, stacking the legs in a pan or bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 4 to 48 hours. (If curing for more than 12 hours, reduce the salt to 3 tablespoons).
When you are ready to cook the duck, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Rinse the duck well, pat dry, and arrange in a single layer in a 2- to 3-inch-deep roasting pan. Cover with foil and bake for 2 hours. The duck is done when you can see about an inch and a half of the drumstick bone exposed, with the skin shrunk back. The meat should be very tender.
Carefully remove the pan from the oven and set on a heatproof surface to cool. When they are cool enough to handle, transfer the legs to a plate, taking care not to tear or pull off the tender skin.
About 20 minutes before serving, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Transfer as many duck legs as you will be serving skin side up to a nonstick ovenproof skillet, adding about a teaspoon of the rendered duck fat per leg. Roast in the oven until the skin is crispy, 15 to 20 minutes. (Alternatively, you can crisp the legs skin side down in the skillet over medium-high heat. Let the duck stand in the pan a few minutes off the heat before gently sliding a spatula underneath the skin to release it from the pan.)
Accompany the rich duck with something spiced and fruity, like a chutney.
As prepared, each serving contains 240 calories, 11g total fat, 105mg cholesterol, 5220mg sodium, 10g total carbohydrate and 25g protein.