30 January, 2011

Duck, duck, goose.

Wherever you go, you see, hear, smell and taste things that can bring you back home.  Looking at ducks and geese in Vietnam did that for me.
Eating and preparing duck (and to a lesser extent geese) is something I only really learned living in France. The southwest of France is most famous for its fowl (especially in the form of foie gras), but you can find good sources across the country.
Confit de canard is duck that has been very slowly braised in its own fat, after having been cured in salt, thyme, bay leaf...It is impossible to overstate how succulent it is.  Confit de canard is traditionally served here in the Languedoc as part of a country-style white bean cassoulet, or stew. I'm not overly crazy about it, to be honest. Maybe I've come across it too much, maybe it's too heavy for me, I don't make it.
But the confit de canard itself, well, that lends itself to nearly anything, especially in the winter. I've even had it to delicious effect in a crisp fried Vietnamese-style spring roll. And the easiest (if slightly time-consuming) modification of a straight-up confit? Rillettes de canard.  A farmhouse kind of meat spread, to be eaten like a crostini, ever so yummy with an Alsace Riesling...
It is the dish you make when the sky is unbearably low, while the kids are doing homework, when the sun has set far too quickly, when there are a few confit legs left over from the big dinner with the neighbors (I compulsively make more food than necessary).  It is a recipe to be made by taste.  To the four duck legs' worth of flaked meat, I added about two tablespoons of duck fat and the same amount of the jellied, flavorsome duck broth.
Also a tablespoon or two of Cognac, a few grinds of pepper, and then everything got worked in by hand.
As the ingredients are kneaded, the texture changes.  Enjoy the process: keep tasting and seasoning until it seems about right.  There should be just enough fat to bind and just enough extra flavor to amplify the duck's inherent savoriness. The finished meat goes in small dishes covered with a preserving layer of duck fat (which isn't eaten).  Keeps for weeks, but think about handing some out to friends and neighbors.  They'll be more than happy to spread some on hearty slices of toast.
I actually made these last week, intending to keep them for a good while.  But we woke up to snow this morning.
I lit a fire in the kitchen stove, and by the time noon arrived, it seemed like the perfect day for rillettes and a steaming bowl of barley vegetable soup. 
After a couple of slices of locally made cheese, we dug into a generous gift of macarons and finished with green tea. 

 Happy sunday, happy day-dreaming, wherever you are.


  1. Ohhhhhh I love canard so much. Just bought two breasts on Thursday to make for my husband and I. A lovely friend brought me some dried porcini from Italy and I plan on making this:


    I've been craving cassoulet lately. I keep putting it on my weekly menu and it keeps getting bumped for time reasons. Although my cassoulet is a highly bastardized version and contains no confit. I have never made confit although I have been known to render duck fat and freeze them into little cubes.

    The macarons are gorgeous. Nothing like that around here....

  2. Oh, Rose, seared duck breast and shiitake are indeed delish, but I must insist that you try making canard confit! Find some duck legs as soon as humanly possible and go for it, you'll never look back...

  3. Had to come back to admire those macarons again. I know that in France, most people leave such baking up to the professionals, but sadly I have no Laduree around the corner. I dream of making perfect macarons someday.

    Any recipe I should use for the confit?

  4. Hello Rose,
    I am trying to make it to the Salon de Chocolat in town today. It's a chocolate show, where one of the pastry demonstrations will be on macarons...I'll try to take some decent photos!

    As for the confit, I will email you a recipe...


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