In January I made a big batch of confit, and right now it tastes so good I don't care if summer ever comes. I took a duck leg and two goose gizzards out of my 5-quart pot where they've been aging since January. A few tablespoons of fat into the saucier, and I cooked a few cloves of garlic and an onion, and then emptied a plastic tub of leftover ziti into the pan. (Last night we hosted a potluck for students interested in Peace Corps and invited all the returned volunteers in town as well. The students talked with all of us in an informal setting and heard different perspectives on Peace Corps service. We knew there'd be little kids, too, so my wife made a pan of "Italian macaroni" - at least that's what we called it when we were kids - hence the leftover ziti.) I coated the ziti in that nice duck fat; I sliced the gizzards after browning them, and the insides revealed the tight flesh, still slightly pink after all that cooking and aging. I browned the leg, too, and pulled it apart with my fingers, clumps of meat falling from the bone. I steamed a few spears of asparagus, cutting them in half and adding the bottom halves two or three minutes before the tips. I rinsed the asparagus in cold water to arrest the cooking and preserve the color, and dropped it into the mix.
Aged confit has a richness to it that softens everything. The small amount of cinnamon I added to the meat when it was fresh came whispering through the finish. The falling apart shreds of leg rewarded my patience with a nuttiness that I don't taste in other meats.
I'm surprised that many contemporary confit recipes treat the aging of confit as optional. They suggest lowering the amount of salt because un-aged confit would be too salty if it contained the traditional amounts of salt. But the preserving of meat by giving it a salt cure and slow cooking it in its own fat is the foundation that allows the meat to age so beautifully. The aging is what makes confit so remarkable. Whether I eat a piece of duck confit on a bed of wilted greens or make an enormous cassoulet, it's often the contrast between the aged meat and its counterpoint that satisfies my palate so thoroughly.
birch and grasses alone on the snow, grey sky indistinguishable. the flat world falls into the edge of time, lifeless, dull wedge of horizon and soundless ...