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Preserved Duck (Confit de Canard)
This recipe deviates from the classic one in a few small ways, but yields one of the best confits we've ever tasted.

Ingredients:
3 ducks
1/4 cup coarse salt
1 teaspoon mixed spices
pinch of saltpeter (optional)
6 sprigs of fresh rosemary
8 to 10 cups rendered duck fat

Directions:
1. Cut the ducks into pieces, removing from them pieces of leg and thigh that are still attached to each other. You will have 6 leg-thigh assemblies. (The duck breasts can be reserved for another use; the rest of the ducks can be used to make rendered duck fat- recipe follows.)
2. Sprinkle the leg-thigh portions with coarse salt on both sides. Turn them skin side down, and sprinkle with the mixed spices and saltpeter (if using). Place a rosemary branch on each portion, and press together pairs of portions so that you have 3 packages of thigh-leg portions with the skin on the outside. Marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
3. When ready to cook, remove the herbs from the duck, and scrape away most of the salt. Coat the pieces lightly with a little rendered duck fat, and place under a broiler until the skin has browned lightly, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from broiler, and dry duck pieces thoroughly with paper towels.
4. Place duck pieces in a large stewpot, and cover them completely with rendered duck fat. Place over low heat, and bring the fat to just below the simmering point. Cook over low heat for 2 1/2 hours, making sure the fat doesn't boil. Remove duck pieces from fat.
5. Pour boiling water into a wide-mouthed ceramic crock (or whatever storage vessel you've chosen), and pour it out. Dry the vessel well. Place a few sticks (like chopsticks, if they fit) on the bottom of the vessel, to keep the duck elevated above the juices that will collect. Then place the duck pieces on top of the sticks, either on one level or stacked up on several levels. Pour enough of the duck fat in which the duck cooked through a fine sieve and into the storage vessel to completely cover the duck. Let the duck come to room temperature, then place it in storage (a 50 degrees room or a refrigerator).
6. After the confit has chilled and the duck fat has hardened, you can improve the longevity of your confit by pouring vegetable oil over the top of the crock to a depth of 1/2 inch. Return to cold room or refrigerator.
7. When you're ready to cook your confit (3 months later, we urge), let the crock warm up a bit to facilitate removal of the duck pieces. Take out the duck (it should still have some fat clinging to it). Place enough duck fat in one or two sauté pans (large enough to hold the duck in one layer) to reach 1/4 inch of depth. Increase the heat to high. When the fat is very hot, place pieces of confit in the pan (or pans), skin side down. Cook until confit becomes very brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Turn over, and brown the other side briefly, about 2 minutes. Return to skin side for final browning, about 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.

This recipe deviates from the classic one in a few small ways, but yields one of the best confits we've ever tasted. Serve it with garlicky potatoes sautéed in duck fat, and a stout red wine. Serves 6