Is it just duck?

The last time I had this dish, it was raining lightly, there was a definite chill in the air, the skies were gray, and we were comfortably inside a home in a foreign country. The weather is similar now and we are home but my wife is no longer wondering if she might like duck. She had never liked it until she tried duck confit or le confit de canard in La Bastide D’Armagnac, a small town in the southwest of France.

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La Bastide d'Armagnac

 

 

Confit derives from a word that means to preserve – so, for instance, confiture or fruit preserves refer to preserving fruit using sugar. In the case of duck confit, the meat is first cured in salt, then immersed in duck fat and slow cooked at very low temperatures before storing in the clarified fat. The salt along with the liquid fat braise removes most of the water, resulting in meat concentrated in flavor, and capable of converting non-duck eaters to eaters.

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Le confit de canard at La Bastide d'Armagnac

Interestingly, duck fat unlike other animal fat, contains significantly lower levels of unhealthy saturated fat, and also has a high smoke-point making it ideal for frying or crisping potatoes.

 

Here’s a simple method to confit duck:

Duck legs

Duck fat

Salt

Pepper

Garlic

Thyme

Bay leaf

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Clean and pat dry duck legs with the skin on. Rub legs with crushed garlic, season with salt, pepper, powdered bay leaves and thyme; cover air-tight, and refrigerate for twenty four hours. The next day, rub off excess seasoning, pat dry and arrange in a single snug layer in a high-sided enameled cast iron pan. Melt duck fat, and pour over the meat until immersed. Cook in an oven at around 200 ˚F for about three hours or until duck meat is tender and cooked. Store the duck in the clarified fat under refrigeration. When ready to cook bring fat to room temperature, remove legs, and cook in a hot oven, skin side-up until skin becomes golden brown and crisp.

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Le confit de canard

In Armagnac, the flavor of the confit was only exceeded by the simplicity and pride with which it was served by the hostess, not to mention the strength of the Armagnac to bring the food and the moment together.

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Armagnac

The process of salt curing and dehydration as a means to preserve meat has been used for many centuries across many cultures. As a matter of fact, in thinking about the duck confit I was reminded of a childhood dish from south east India called uppu kandam, that involved salt curing goat meat and sun-drying it to preserve after which when needed the meat was pan fried and served with rice. While preservation of meat by confit and salt cures is no longer a necessity, the process of preserving meat that must have been done in large batches to justify the processing time, should have brought people together. Is it then worth one’s time to get back to these traditions despite the lack of necessity?

Happy New Year!

 

 

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14 thoughts on “Is it just duck?

  1. José Luiz

    Bala, Happy New Year! I'm addicted to confit de canard. my coronary arteries don't like it. I will post at FaceBook some 'items" of my confit's "colection".
    Hugs,
    José Luiz

    Reply
    1. Bala

      José,

      I agree about the effect on the coronary arteries, but also think that some confit and some armagnac on occasion could not hurt, and might in fact help!

      Happy New Year!

      Hugs,
      Bala

      Reply
  2. Sarah Jane Copeland

    YES IT MOST DEFINATELY IS! A great dish for feeding a crowd. I would also like to try another tradition of duck pressing. Not easy to find a duck press! I never did hear what you thought of the Armagnac and have you used it in any dishes?

    Happy New Year Bala. I hope 2016 brings together your family and friends for many happy memories and meals.

    Reply
    1. Bala

      Sarah,

      Great to hear the "yes"!

      I was in Rouen thinking of the duck press among other things duck, but it was too heavy to carry back home! It would be lovely to recreate that tradition, may be over a get together sometime?

      The armagnac was and is wonderful especially this time of the year and especially with the confit - I managed to still save some in vials. The hostess I refer to in the blog, whose husband makes the armagnac, actually used a bit of armagnac to deglaze the duck bits of the pan which she served with a soft boiled egg as an appetizer - given the small amount I have left I can't bring myself to use it to cook.

      Thank you for your wishes!

      May the new year be filled with wonderful gastronomic memories with family and friends!

      Happy New Year to you and yours!

      Bala

      Reply
  3. Fatima Lopes

    Congrats for this article! I love duck! Especially magret de canard and the Pequim's Duck. Actually I agree with Mr José. Confit is also very dangerous for my coronaries... Although I really enjoy it! Happy New year my friend!

    Reply
    1. Bala

      Thank you, Fatima!

      Magret de canard and Peking duck are lovely dishes.

      I agree that confit is a rich dish for the coronary arteries, but I do think eating some on occasion should be just fine because most of the fat is rendered out and what is left has low levels of saturated fats.

      Happy New Year to you and Filipe!

      Reply
  4. Roxa

    Happy New Year, Bala, to you and your family! Once again, you have presented us with food for thought and a lively question to ponder--which I am still doing so. The gastronomic juices are running concerning duck confit, but, what interests me, is the connection you make from one culture to another, leaping over continents in doing so. Due to your writing, I hope the pleasure and joy of keeping old traditions alive still continues...

    Reply
    1. Bala

      Happy New Year to you and yours, Roxanne!

      Thank you very much for your kind comments. There seem to be many connections between cultures through food but at some point they seem to fade away. As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts as you ponder the question.

      Reply
  5. nirmala

    Very nice illustrations that would tempt most to try to experiment in tasting the duck meat if one has not consumed it earlier like me for instance. I like the straight forward cooking of the duck in the recipe posted by you. There is no ingredient that will over power the flavour and taste of the duck meat. I am sure potatoes fried in duck fat would taste delicious.

    Living in southern part of India by the shores of Bay of Bengal I am familiar with particularly sea food cured with salt under the sun.The excess catch from the nets of the fishermen results in this kind of curing. It is a familiar scene when the women folk spread out the fish and prawn sprinkled with salt often on the sand of the shore and ward away the birds that visit to make a meal out of the spread. One would find the women sharing their problems and day to day experiences with one another. In a way a counselling session ,The sand helps in draining the excess moisture and the sand which gets hot due to the strong sun also helps in drying the fish faster. The sand would fall of once the fish is dry.

    Thanks for sharing your experience with duck confit in Armagnac,

    Wishing the family and you the very best in 2016

    Reply
    1. Bala

      Thank you very much.

      I have heard about salt curing of fish in south India but your description of the women curing fish by the seashore was interesting to read, especially the part about "counseling sessions" and the role of sand in the preserving process.

      Wishing you the very best in 2016!

      Reply
  6. Sibel Pinto

    Dear Bala, great post, thanks for sharing memories about duck confit.

    In Turkey we also have the tradition of curing fish and meat in salt. One of them is called Çiroz- mackerel that has been cured in salt. The small mackerels are hung outside and let to dry. Then they are marinated in vinegar and olive oil. Served topped with fresh dill, it’s a delicious meze to start a meal. Another specialty is called Lakerda. It's made of bonito fish (a member of the tuna family), and is typically served as an appetizer with red onions and lemon. As for meat we have the famous Pastirma, prepared by salting the meat, then washing it with water and letting it dry for 10–15 days. The blood and salt is squeezed out, then it's covered with a cumin paste called çemen, prepared with crushed cumin, fenugreek, garlic, and hot paprika, and then let air-dry. In fact the legend says that he Turkish horsemen of Central Asia used to preserve meat by placing slabs of it in pockets on the sides of their saddles, where it would be pressed by their legs as they rode. This pressed meat was the forerunner of today’s pastirma.

    As for your question, I think it is certainly worth one’s time to get back to these traditions which brought people together!

    Looking forward to your next post,
    Kindest regards, Sibel

    Reply
    1. Bala

      Dear Sibel,

      My apologies for the delay in response. I enjoyed reading your comment. It is very interesting to learn about Ciroz, Lakerda and the story and preparation of Pastirma. There seem to be differences between the South Indian and Turkish versions of the curing process and method of preparation of the seafood and meat dishes but there also seems to be similarities. And, how nice to realize them. Thank you. I do hope to taste these Turkish dishes someday!

      Kindest regards,
      Bala

      Reply

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