13 November 2006

La danse des canards

It's duck season. I'm glad I'm finally awake (I slept "on both ears" last night, as we say in French, for about 10 hours). Today the supermarket ads came in the mail. Intermarché sent a Marché frais — fresh products — flyer, and it's full of good seasonal food. A lot of it is duck.

A whole fattened duck — canard gras — for a good price

The whole duck, eviscerated and without the liver, costs €2.60 per kilo — that's about $1.50 per pound. Of course, there's a lot of waste. The head for example. What can you do with that, besides maybe make stock?

Duck fat — graisse de canard — in plastic tubs

A whole duck produces an amazing amount of fat when you cook it. The fat is very good for frying or sautéing potatoes, for example, or flavoring beans, greens, or other vegetables. If you don't have enough, you can buy some for just €3.00 per kilo, or about $1.75 per pound. A pound of duck fat goes a long way, unless you are very extravagant. It's cheaper than butter and, evidently, a lot better for you.

Goose fat and peppercorns at good prices too

If you don't relish the thought of eating duck fat, what about some goose grease? It'll cost you about 50% more, at $2.69 a pound. But you can make up for the high price by buying a few pounds of black peppercorns at just $2.99 a kilo, or $1.75 a pound. Do you realize how many peppercorns it takes to make a pound? A kilo of peppercorns lasts us at least a couple of years. What do peppercorns cost in those little jars they sell at Safeway or Food Lion in the U.S.?

That reminds me of bay leaves. We have a bush in the back yard that produces thousands of the good, fragrant, aromatic European bay leaves every year. In the U.S., those little tiny vials containing 10 or 12 leaves that they sell in the spice aisle at the supermarket cost five or six dollars. Maybe we should go into business, since they are free here. And they are so good. I use them in all the sauces, stews, and soups that I make.

Finally, if you want duck foie gras — the enlarged liver of a fattened duck — there are two grades, ordinary (tout venant) and extra.

Ordinary duck foie gras, the liver of a fattened duck

Extra-fine duck foie gras

The little note at the bottom of the last picture says Suggestions de présentation. In other words, what you buy in the store might not look exactly like the picture shown. It certainly won't be decorated with those little red berries.


  1. Very interesting shopping "trip," Ken! Those are great prices on duck and goose. I get bulk peppercorns at Costco, and they last forever, too. I go for a hike and pick a bunch of bay leaves from the California bay laurel trees that are abundant in this area. I haven't purchased a bay leaf since the '80s, I think! Glad to hear you have a bush of your own.

  2. Ginny, I'll have to send you some bay leaves from our back yard so you can see if they are the same as the ones you get in California.

  3. I used one of your bay leaves in soup on Saturday- it was better than the ones I used to use from the jar- besides that I know the tree it came from.

  4. The bay leaves I got from your tree seem much more aromatic than the California variety.


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