Recipe for a French Thanksgiving

Tired of the traditional turkey? This year, why not celebrate Thanksgiving the French way — with a duck confit! Take inspiration from the world’s most decorated chef, French culinary superstar Joël Robuchon, whose duck confit recipe is featured on the menu at his latest restaurant, L’Atelier.

[For 2 persons]


For duck:
2 duck legs
2 Ib (1 kg) duck fat
1⁄4 cup plus 2 tbsp (10 cl) water

For the marinade:
1 clove garlic, peeled and degermed
1 oz (30 g) coarse salt
1 stem fresh thyme
2 whole cloves
1 tsp crushed pepper

For the confit:
2 cooked duck legs
1 large stoneware crock with a cover and glazed interior


– The night before: Rinse the thyme, place the legs on a large deep dish covered with plastic wrap enough extra to thoroughly wrap the legs in it. Rub the meat with the garlic, then with the coarse salt. Sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves, rubbing the sprig between your hands, and discard the stem. Add the cloves and the pepper, thoroughly wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 24 hours.

– The next day: In a saucepan, melt the fat over lowest possible heat, and add 1⁄4 cup plus 2 tbsp (10 cl) water. Remove the meat from the refrigerator, discard the cloves and pepper and use a brush to carefully remove all traces of salt and thyme.

– When the fat is just barely beginning to simmer, carefully lower the legs into it. Still over lowest possible heat — the cooking must be done very slowly and very gently — simmer 1 hour 40 minutes. You can check doneness by probing with a large needle: The juice that comes out should be perfectly liquid. With a skimmer or slotted spoon, remove the legs to a rack.

– To preserve the confit: While the legs rest on the rack, clarify the fat: Use a small ladle to remove any scum from the surface. Put a fine strainer over a large bowl, then carefully ladle all the fat from the upper half of the pot through the strainer and into the bowl, making sure not to take any browned bits from lower down.

– With the same ladle, put about 3⁄4 inch (2 cm) of the strained fat into the stoneware crock, then refrigerate the crock until the fat solidifies, about 10 to 15 minutes.

– When this is done, remove the crock, place the legs on the bed of fat without allowing them to touch each other or the sides (they must be completely submerged in fat all around) and cover the legs with three-quarters of the strained fat remaining in the large bowl. Cover and refrigerate. Transfer the remaining strained fat to another tightly closed container and refrigerate. After a day or two, gently reheat this remaining strained fat until it is liquid, then pour into the stoneware crock to fill any remaining pockets of air.

– Refrigerate again for at least an hour to allow the fat to solidify. When it has solidified, heat enough lard to make 1⁄3 to 3⁄4 inch (1-2 cm) layer at the top of the crock: Denser than duck fat, lard insures that the confit will be better preserved.

– Refrigerate again. When the lard has solidified, press a sheet of waxed paper onto its surface and cover the crock with its lid. Thus prepared, the legs should keep 5 to 6 months in the refrigerator.

– To pan-fry or grill the confited legs: Preheat the oven 10 minutes in advance to 400 ̊F (200 ̊C/Th.7). In a skillet or on a grill, brown the legs (5 minutes) on all sides over rather high heat. Arrange them in a baking dish so that they do not touch one another, then bake on the second highest rack for 5 minutes.

– Serve with a plate of roasted vegetables and a potato purée. As for the wine, we recommend a hearthy, tannic vintage such as Bordeaux, Madiran, Pinot Noir, Malbec, or Beaujolais!

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