Cafe Society

In the kitchen with Ya Ya's Aaron Whitcomb: Duck confit with frisee and sherry vinaigrette

Ya Ya's Aaron Whitcomb, the mouthpiece in this week's Chef and Tell interview, promises that his recipe for duck confit, despite the numerous ingredients and steps, isn't difficult. "Just make sure," advises Whitcomb, "that you pack the duck tight with cure and completely rinse the cure off after 24 hours."

Whitcomb, who came up with this recipe while he was behind the burners at Table 6, calls duck confit "one of the best things in the world -- an absolute passion." As for all the spices in the cure, he likens them to a symphony. "I love all the variations and nuances of the spices and herbs, and if you take any of those spices or herbs out of the recipe, then it's like taking the oboe out of the orchestra," he explains.

The best wine pairing for the confit, recommends Whitcomb, is the Peter Cargasacchi Point Concepcion Celestina pinot grigio (rose). "This is a rose produced from pinot grigio -- the skins of pinot grigio are slightly gray red and Peter cold soaks and ferments the wine on its skins, which is where the color in wine mainly comes from," says Whitcomb. "I love the aromatics and acid that this wine provides as a backdrop to the confit. There's a wonderful strawberry aroma and taste that, combined with all the other elements on the plate, creates a whole new dish."

Duck confit Serves 10

Duck confit cure

8 ounces salt 9 ounces sugar 1 teaspoon cloves, ground 1 tablespoon allspice, ground 1/2 bunch Italian parsley 1/4 ounce tarragon 1/8 ounce rosemary 6 each star anise 1 teaspoon nutmeg 2 tablespoons black peppercorns 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon fennel seed 1 teaspoon chili flakes 10 bay leaves 1 tablespoon garlic powder


1. Toast the star anise, black peppercorns and fennel seeds in a small saute pan, until fragrant. 2. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and blend until well incorporated.

Duck confit ingredients

10 pounds duck leg and thighs 1.25 pounds duck confit cure 5 pounds duck fat (see note below for sources)


1. In a plastic food container, or cambro, just big enough to fit the duck, sprinkle a layer of confit cure. 2. Lay, skin side up, the duck. Pack the duck so that it is a tight layer but not overlapping. 3. Sprinkle another layer of confit cure on the duck, just enough to cover. 4. Continue layering the duck and confit cure until finished. 5. Cover tightly and store in the cooler for 24 hours. 6. After 24 hours rinse the duck of all confit cure and drain thoroughly. 7. Place duck, skin side up, in a 600 hotel pan and cover with the duck fat. 8. Cover with plastic wrap and aluminum foil. 9. Cook at 225°F for 6 hours. 10. Allow the duck to cool in the fat. Remove the duck from the fat once cooled and reserve for service.

*** Duck fat is available at Oliver's Meat Market, Whole Foods, Marczyk Fine Foods and some King Soopers locations. The fat can be used several times over before being disposed of.

Sherry Vinaigrette


1/2 cup sherry vinegar 1 shallot, peeled and minced 1/2 tablespoon garlic, minced 1 1/2 cup canola oil 1/2 cup dry sherry Salt and pepper to taste


1. Reduce the dry sherry by one-half. 2. In a bowl combine the shallot, garlic, sherry vinegar and reduced dry sherry; marinate for 20 minutes. 3. Transfer the contents of the bowl into a blender and puree until fairly smooth. 4. Emulsify the canola oil into the vinegar base while the blender is running. 5. Season the vinaigrette with salt and pepper to taste.


1 confit duck 1 ounce frisee, chopped 1 ounce watercress, trimmed 1 teaspoon chives, minced 1 tablespoon fresh blueberries 2 ounces sherry vinaigrette

1. Place the duck on a sheet pan and heat in the oven under the broiler to crisp the skin. 2. In a salad bowl toss the frisee, watercress and chives with the vinaigrette. 3. Plate the greens in the center of a round salad plate and top with the duck. 4. Garnish the dish with the blueberries and a drizzle of the vinaigrette.

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Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson