One of the great classic dishes from the south west of France. The curing process changes the texture and the flavour of the duck completely.
For curing the duck, lay the duck legs on a tray, flesh-side upwards and spread the rock salt, crushed pepper, garlic, thyme and bay leaves evenly over. Wrap tightly in cling film and place in the fridge to cure for 12 hours.
Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2.
Scrape the salt and herbs off the duck legs and pat dry with kitchen paper. Put the fat and the duck legs into an oven-proof saucepan. Bring the fat up to 85C/185F (using a kitchen thermometer to check – you will also know the correct temperature has been reached as there should be no bubbles breaking the surface – the fat is kept just under simmering point).
Transfer to the preheated oven and cook for three hours (or alternatively you can cook the duck on the hob for this time). With a slotted spoon lift the leg out of the duck fat and reserve.
While the duck legs are cooking, put all the ingredients for the beans in a saucepan with 900g/2lb water.
Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and gently simmer the beans on the lowest heat for 50 minutes. Taste to see if they are perfectly cooked - the beans should be soft and melting and not powdery. Remove the bay leaf and thyme.
To finish the duck, in a dry frying pan, on a medium heat, crisp and colour the duck legs on the skin side for 5-7 minutes.
To serve, generously spoon the beans and some of the cooking liquid into a soup bowl and top with a crisp duck leg and some chopped parsley.
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