Do you enjoy learning about local and seasonal foods? Perhaps you’d like to learn some simple techniques for curing meats or the finer points of butchering? Come learn about authentic and local cooking with your neighborhood chef, James Bell. 

Chef James Bell has worked for many fine dining restaurants and resorts in Missoula and throughout Montana. James’ extensive career includes cooking at Plonk Bozeman and helping to launch Plonk Missoula as well as cooking at Scotty’s Table. He is currently a chef at A Moveable Feast Missoula. 

Duck Butchering

For our final class in the Locavore Recipes series Chef James shows us how to carve up and cure a duck in order to serve it as a delicious confit for the holidays. Below is his recipe and instructions along with a couple of suggestions for side dishes, further discussed in the video. Bonus: James shows us the finished product from his Curing Techniques class, fully cured and dried guanciale (pork jowl).


Duck Confit

2 duck legs
1 cup coarse sea salt or kosher
¼ cup brown sugar or white
1 crushed bay leaf
1 toasted and crushed cardamom pod
1 toasted and crushed star anise
1tbs toasted and crushed peppercorns


Lightly toast the spices in a skillet until fragrant (except bay leaf) then combine all the dry ingredients in a container. Rub the duck legs liberally on all sides with the salt cure until the meat stops absorbing it. Let the legs sit overnight in the refrigerator, then wipe dry the following day before cooking.
Preheat your oven to 225 F. Melt your saved duck fat or some lard in a small pan (enough to cover your duck legs). In a baking dish pour the fat over the legs so they are covered. Cover the baking dish with foil and cook slowly for 2 or 3 hours, until the duck is tender. You can check for tenderness by poking the flesh side of the legs with a knife; there should be little resistance. Serve as a main dish with all your favorite sides for the holidays. Suggested accompaniments could include roasted veggies or other classic French dishes such cassoulet.

Curing Techniques

In this lesson Chef James Bell discusses curing salt. He demonstrates salt curing by preparing a classic Italian guanciale (pork jowl) using his own recipe (below). James takes much of his curing practices from the book Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing by Brian Polcyn and Michael Ruhlman


Guanciale (cured pork jowl)

1-1.5 lbs. pork jowl

1 cup course sea salt or kosher salt

4 bay leaves, crushed

2 tbs peppercorns

2 tbs juniper berries


Toast peppercorns and juniper berries in a pan, then cool and crush. Mix all ingredients together. Rub the jowl liberally with the mixture and refrigerate in a tightly sealed container. A zip lock bag works well.


At this point, time is on your side. There should be some of the salt cure left. Check and dry your pork jowl daily. If the cure has dissolved add more. Let the jowl cure for up to 3 weeks.


Next is more time. You can rinse the jowl with some white wine and rub dry. Wrap the jowl in cheesecloth and dry it for up to 6 weeks, outside the refrigerator. If you have the space to hang it somewhere cool and dry, even better. Hang over a pan that can catch any remaining liquid.


Guanicale images (pdf)

Salt & Spice

James Bell explores the history of seasoning as well as a few spices of local interest or origin. He also provides expert tips on perfectly seasoning basic dishes and his own spice blend recipe.

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