Confit de Canard
To get back to my original reasons for writing this blog, that I had to develop new ways of cooking and shopping (and eating!) Duck was something that I rarely ate in the UK (unless it was ‘crispy fried’ from the Chinese take-away!)
But here I eat duck as regulary as would have eaten steak (as previously mentioned, unless I make the trip to M&S to buy some ‘Aberdeen Angus’, or the local market has some ‘…………’ I just can’t get the same succulent cuts, such as ‘fillet’ that I got in the UK.)
When I did occasionally eat duck, it used to be confined to a breast cooked in pretty much the same way as I would cook steak, but a few weeks after moving here, a very good friend of my partner gave us a little hamper of French produce (from the wonderful ‘Reflets de France’ range that you can buy in most supermarkets) In this hamper was a large tin of ‘Confit de Canard’. I eyed it with suspicion and put it in a box beneath the kitchen cupboards not knowing what it was, or what to do with it……..
‘Confit de Canard’ is duck (generally legs) preserved in large amounts of duck fat (sounds pretty gross and this is why I hid it out of sight, hoping that my partner would forget that it was there!) But after I had been living here 12 months, we drove down to the ‘Perigaud noir’ region for a holiday, and ‘Confit de Canard’ was pretty much all that anywhere had on the menu, so I had no choice but to eat it – and guess what – it was delicious, not at all greasy as I had imagined, but amazingly tender with a crispy skin (not too far removed from ‘crispy duck’ at my local ‘Fung Wong’)
I won’t pretend that this is not messy, as when you open the tin, you must remove the individual joints and wipe off all the excess fat, but it is well worth the effort. The duck is then cooked for around 20 minutes in a very hot oven and eaten immediately, before the skin begins to soften.
I usually serve this with green beans and potato Dauphinois, this is a rich meal and not one to be eaten regularly or I would end up waddling like a little duck myself, but as we will soon be moving into spring, I thought that it was essential to include this lovely ‘comfort food’ while the evenings still have a nip in the air…..
There are many recipes for ‘Gratin Dauphinoise’ all varying in degrees of complexity, and all claiming to be the authentic one! Some include Cheese some, eggs and others copious amounts of butter, and some just use potatoes and thick cream.
My version uses a combination of cream and milk, giving it a slightly lighter texture, but if you want to go all out you can just use cream…….I also do not add cheese when I serve this dish with duck, but I have topped it with 30g of freshly grated Gruyere when serving with fish.
The most important thing with this dish is to properly prepare the potaotes.
Ingredients Serves 4 if serving with the duck alongside other vegetables, but if serving with something lighter and alone.
1lb/500g of potatoes (ones suitable for baking are good)
225ml thick cream (7/8th of a pint)
75 ml whole milk (1/8th of a pint)
2 cloves of garlic
A pinch of nutmeg (Muscade)
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper for seasoning
Peel and slice the potatoes into thin disks (preferably with a Mandolin) and rinse thoroughly in cold water to remove any excess starch then completely dry on a clean tea-towel (torchon)
Peel and crush the garlic and mix it with the half butter to form a paste
Grease a lasagne dish with the garlic butter and add the potatoes in layers, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper and dots of butter between each layer.
Mix the cream with the milk and pour over the potatoes and season and dot with any remaining butter and sprinkle with a little nutmeg
Bake in a preheated oven at 150 degrees/gas mark 2 for 90 minutes then increase the heat to 200 degrees/gas mark 6 and cook for about a further 10 minutes until the top begins to bubble and turn golden.