This week, Gilt Taste is proud to offer a spectacular opportunity to visit Blackberry Farm, one of the premier culinary and outdoors resorts in America; capping the visit is a dinner hosted by Ruth Reichl. Check back in through the week for recipes from Blackberry Farm’s chef, Joseph Lenn, and to meet some of the artisans who make it so special. This recipe is excerpted from their new book, The Foothills Cuisine of Blackberry Farm.– Ed.
Blackberry Farm chef Joseph Lenn originally conceived of this dish as a riff on his mother's chicken and dumplins, the classic Southern chicken stew topped with biscuits cooked right in the broth. We make it year-round, as often with duck as with chicken.
Like many faithful sons, Joseph knows for sure his mother's original is the very best this side of the mountains. I'm not one to argue with Joseph about much of anything—especially not when it comes to his mother's cooking—but I will say this: his duck confit and dumplings is the best rendition of this Southern classic you'll ever taste, no matter which of those two birds you use.
The duck must sit overnight so that the salt penetrates the skin.
Duck and dumplings with poached eggs
For the duck:
3 cups (1 pound 7 ounces) kosher salt
¾ cup (5 ¼ ounces) natural cane sugar
20 fresh thyme sprigs
6 duck or chicken leg quarters with skin
2 quarts duck or chicken fat
For the dumplings:
2 to 3 large Idaho baking potatoes
2 large eggs, well beaten
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
¾ to 1 cup (3¾ to 5 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling the dough
1 to 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil, if needed
2 tablespoons duck or chicken fat
2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, for serving
For the eggs:
2 teaspoons distilled vinegar
6 very fresh large eggs
Cure the duck overnight: To prepare the duck, in a baking dish just large enough to hold the duck leg quarters, combine the salt, cane sugar, and thyme. Evenly and generously coat the duck pieces with the salt mixture and arrange them in a single layer in the pan, tucking them into the salt mixture. Refrigerate uncovered overnight.
Arrange the duck for baking: Preheat the oven to 250°F. Rinse the duck and pat it dry. Arrange the duck pieces in a single layer in a large, heavy pot (such as an oval Dutch oven) or a heavy roasting pan with sides that are at least 4 inches deep.
Bake duck: Melt the duck fat over low heat and pour it over the duck. The pieces must be submerged. Bake until the meat is spoon tender, but not falling off the bone, about 2 ½ hours.
Pick (and store) duck: To use the duck at once, remove it from the fat and set it and the fat aside to cool to room temperature. Pick the duck meat from the bones, trying to keep the meat in large pieces. Discard the bones and skin. Use now or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Transfer the fat to an airtight container and refrigerate until solid. Discard the layer of solidified cooking juices at the bottom of the container and refrigerate the remaining fat for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 3 months. (For longer storage, leave the duck on the bone and submerged in the fat. Cool to room temperature and then cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week. When ready to use, reheat in a 250°F oven until the fat is liquid and the duck is just warm.)
Bake and rice potatoes: To prepare the dumplings, preheat the oven to 350°F. Pierce the potatoes in several places with a fork and bake until tender, about 1 hour. Set aside until cool enough to handle and then peel. Force the warm potato flesh through a food mill into a large bowl. Set aside exactly 1 pound of riced potato for the dumplings; discard any excess or save it for another use.
Make dough: While the potatoes are still warm, fold in the eggs and salt. Stir in ¾ cup flour and then add the remaining flour a little at a time until the mixture resembles soft biscuit dough. The dough should be a little sticky, although when poked with a fingertip the dimple should not close up. To test the dough, bring a small saucepan of salted water to a simmer. Break off a ¾-inch square piece of dough and drop it into the water. If the dumpling breaks apart in the water, add a little more flour to the dough.
Form dumplings: Pour the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and cut into 4 equal pieces. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly dust it with flour. Working with one piece at a time, roll the dough into a ¾-inch-thick rope. Cut each rope crosswise into bite-size lengths, 1 to 1½ inches. Roll each piece on a gnocchi board or the back of the tines of a fork to ridge them lightly, if you wish. (The ridges help the dumplings hold the delicious broth.) Spread the dumplings onto the prepared baking sheet.
Cook dumplings: Bring a large pot of water to a simmer. Salt generously. Set a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet and place them next to the stove. Add half of the dumplings to the boiling water and cook them until they float. Use a wire skimmer to transfer them to the wire rack. Cook the remaining dumplings. The dumplings can be used now as part of the finished dish, or they can be stored to use later. To store them, refrigerate the dumplings on the wire rack until chilled. Toss the cold dumplings with enough oil to keep them moist (to prevent sticking). Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
Poach the eggs: Fill a large skillet with water to a depth of 2 inches. Add the vinegar and bring to a simmer. Prepare a large bowl of very cold water. Break 1 egg into a small bowl or cup and slide the egg into the simmering water. Repeat with each remaining egg, spacing them evenly in the skillet; cook them in 2 batches if necessary. Poach at a bare simmer until the whites are firm but the yolks are still runny, about 2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the eggs to the cold water, taking care to not break the yolks. Use at once or refrigerate until ready to assemble the dish, up to 1 day. Set the skillet of water aside.
Saute dumplings: In a very large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the duck fat over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add half the dumplings and cook until they are golden brown on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of duck fat and cook the other half of the dumplings. Return all of the dumplings to the skillet.
Add duck and stock: Add the duck and the chicken stock and cook over medium-high heat until the duck is warmed through, 3 to 5 minutes. Season with the pepper and taste for salt.
Rewarm eggs, if needed: Bring the water used to poach the eggs back to a bare simmer. Working with 1 egg at a time, slip it back into the simmering water for 30 seconds. Lift each egg from the water with a slotted spoon and pat the bottom dry with a clean kitchen towel.
Serve: Divide the duck, dumplings, and broth among 6 warmed shallow bowls. Place 1 egg on top of each serving. Sprinkle with thyme leaves and serve at once.
Recipe excerpted from The Foothills Cuisine of Blackberry Farm, Clarkson Potter 2012