Confit de Canard
Region: France, Languedoc
Difficulty: Easy but takes non-working time
Preserving duck is an old method in Languedoc from a time before refrigeration. Perhaps the best way to begin making confit de canard is to read Paula Wolfert’s monumentally thorough method in The Cooking of Southwest France. She has done a great service for anyone wishing to capture the true taste of southwest France. That being said, my recipe is different from hers. My method is the one described to me by Odile Lacarrière, my father’s neighbor in the southwest of France where he lived part of the year during his retirement. Mde. Lacarrière, who makes her own confit as easily as we would shape a hamburger patty and also uses her twenty ducks to produce foie gras, described the making of confit in such a matter-of-fact way that I will never hesitate doing it myself. The only real difficulty in making confit de canard is getting all the duck fat you need for it. One way is to save the fat every time you make a duck recipe. Another is to buy the fat through Internet mail-order such as D’artagnan or see “Food Products-French Food” in the Links section. In any case, this recipe is specifically for use in cassoulet.
[photo: Clifford A. Wright]
Yield: Makes 1 confit of duck
Preparation Time: 4 to 6 weeks
1 duck (about 5 pounds)
½ cup salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf, crumbled
4 to 5 cups rendered duck fat (see Note)
1 cup melted pork lard
1. Separate the duck with a heavy cleaver or poultry shears into two thighs, two wings, two legs and two breasts. Divide each of the breasts in two. Rip away and pull off all the fat and skin. Chop the fat into small pieces and set aside. Remove the wing tips and save for making alicuit (pages 201, 203-04 of A Mediterranean Feast). Save the neck for fond de canard (made by replacing the chicken bones with the duck in the chicken broth recipe and cutting the recipe by half) and save the liver and gizzards for salade tiéde de foie et gésiers de canard (page 194 of A Mediterranean Feast).
2. Mix together the salt, pepper, thyme, and bay leaf and toss with the duck pieces in a large bowl. Arrange the duck pieces in a ceramic or glass baking dish and let marinate for 24 hours, covered, in the refrigerator.
3. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Put all the cut-up duck fat and skin in a medium-size casserole and place in the oven for 1 ½ hours. Pour off the liquid fat and let cool. Add to the other rendered duck fat. Cover and set aside. Discard the duck chitterlings (the crispy bits), unless you want to eat them, in which case chop them up and toss with some spaghetti, parsley, and black pepper.
4. In a medium-size heavy casserole or saucepan, place all of the rendered duck fat and melt over very low heat, about 25 minutes. Rinse the duck pieces and dry with paper towels. Add the duck thighs to the completely melted duck or goose fat so they are covered. If you do not have enough fat, cook in batches. Cook the duck thighs 30 minutes, then add the remaining duck pieces and cook for 1 hour, making sure all the pieces are covered with fat. Turn the heat off and let everything cool and solidify.
5. Sprinkle salt on the bottom of a ceramic or glass casserole or terrine. Skim off the top layer of duck fat and cover the bottom of the bowl or terrine with it. Place the pieces of duck over the fat. Melt the remaining fat again and pour it over the duck to cover, making sure you do not include any meat juices, and let it cool until solid. Melt the pork lard again and cover the duck fat layer with a ¼-inch layer of lard. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 weeks before using in cassoulet.
Rendered duck fat is merely the fat collected in
the baking pan after roasting a duck.
Pour off the fat, making sure you don't collect any of the meat juices,
cool, then refrigerate until needed. It
will keep indefinitely.