Duck, pancetta, garlic. It started out intended as a cassoulet-type dish. © 2012 Sugar + ShakeI had no idea my dad was such a fan of duck.

Shake and I took my parents out to dinner at Tangö Café earlier this month for a belated celebration of my mom’s birthday. Unexpectedly, my father ordered the duck entrée: a smoked duck breast with duck leg confit. He loved it. He wouldn’t stop talking about how much he loved it. So I offered to make duck for his birthday dinner. (We always have steak for his birthday dinner.)

I’ve made duck several times before, and it’s turned out wonderfully. That, however, was duck for two. Now I was dealing with duck for six, and some of my family members are what you’d call “healthy eaters.” I didn’t think the standard half-breast serving would do. I figured a half-breast and a leg for each person would be appropriate, but I don’t have a pan anywhere near big enough to cook that much at once. What to do…?

I decided to make a cassoulet-type bean and duck leg dish, on top of which I could serve the breast, seared and pan-roasted. I envisioned something with crispy shredded bits of duck confit and pancetta chunks, with some tomatoes and arugula.

Sort of like this:

Best use for left over roast pork. Chopped up, crisped in duck fat (yeah, that’s probably a bit extreme) with white beans and fresh herbs. © Sugar + Shake

It didn’t quite turn out that way.

I started out by crisping chunks of pancetta in the Le Creuset.

Pancetta. A lovely ingredient for all sorts of dishes. © 2012 Sugar + Shake

I tossed in a handful of garlic cloves and the duck legs and let them cook for four hours.

Now, confit recipes call for about four cups of duck fat (not to mention the fat that’s already IN the duck pieces…more on that later) for the meat to slowly simmer in. At $15 per bottle of duck fat, and since the grocery bill for this dinner was already pretty high, I decided to take a chance and do without the extra fat, just rendering out what was in the pancetta and duck legs to begin with. So it’s not quite confit, but it’s not bad either!

After four hours…tender duck, falling off the bone.

And a whole lot of fat. All of this came out of the duck! Well, some of it’s from the pancetta, but not a lot.

Duck confit. Mmm. © 2012 Sugar + Shake And here is all the fat from the confit, with a bit of pancetta fat mixed in. © 2012 Sugar + Shake

I’ve decided that I went astray from the original vision when I decided to make the duck and beans ahead of time, instead of on-the-spot at my parents’ house.  I really should have crisped the duck meat at their house and added the beans and veggies right before serving.

Instead, I ended up with a duck-and-bean-hash type of thing.

Duck breast over duck and bean sorta-hash. © 2012 Sugar + Shake

Not what I envisioned. Still, the family seemed to enjoy it (except my brother picked out all his tomatoes).

Duck & Bean “Hash”

I’ve been eating this on its own as my lunch for several days, but it was intended to be served with a piece of seared, pan-roasted duck breast on top. The amount I made serves an army, so I’ve reduced it here to a more reasonable amount.

  • 4 duck legs
  • ¼ lb. piece of pancetta, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 10 cloves garlic, divided (6 whole, 4 minced)
  • ½ onion, diced
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • 2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 – 3 cups arugula
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4 pieces duck breast (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 350°.

Heat pancetta in an enameled cast iron pot until fat begins to render out and the pancetta starts to get crispy. Remove pancetta and set aside. Add duck legs to pot, skin side down. Sear until golden brown. Flip legs over; add pancetta and 6 whole garlic cloves to the pot. Cover and cook in the oven for three to four hours, until meat is tender and ready to fall off the bone.

Remove duck from the pot and set aside to cool. Also remove pancetta and garlic. Dice pancetta, discarding any parts too blackened and hard to eat. Discard garlic. Pour off, filter and cool fat; it can be saved in the refrigerator and used to cook other items. (If you’re planning to serve with seared breast meat, leave the oven on.)

When duck legs are cool enough to touch, shred the meat and rough chop into bite size pieces.

Wipe pot clean and heat approximately two tablespoons of saved duck fat. Sauté minced garlic and onion. When onion is translucent, add shredded duck and diced pancetta. Mix together to incorporate everything. Add wine and stir thoroughly.

Add beans and turn heat to low. If necessary, add water to keep duck and beans moist. Simmer for an hour.

If serving with duck breast, heat oven-safe pan on high and sear breast pieces (skin side down) to crisp skin. Flip pieces over and put pan in the oven. Roast for 20 – 25 minutes (meat should be medium-rare, pale pink in the center).

Add arugula and tomatoes just before serving.