11 February 2009

Duck from the supermarket

One of the things I like about our local Intermarché store is its « marché frais » — fresh products — advertising and specials. The store sends out a special flyer every few weeks focused on meats, cheeses, vegetables, fruits, breads, and wines that are on sale at reduced prices.

The actual products on sale vary from season to season. Besides ducks, this week they have leeks, Belgian endives, and shallots on special. Those would probably be considered local, seasonal products (if you consider Belgium, northern France, and Brittany local). They also have specials on avocados from Israel and bananas from the Americas. Those are not exactly local.

This week, Intermarché is having a sale on fresh ducks. It seems to be mostly what they call « canards gras » — I think those are the ducks that are fattened for foie gras production.

Whole ducks, ready for the oven

If you want a whole duck, minus the liver, heart, and gizzard, it will cost you €2.85 a kilogram. That would be about $1.70 U.S. per pound at the current exchange rate of $1.30 to €1.00. Such a deal.

Duck leg & thigh sections cost about the same
and are great for making confit de canard.

Remember that a "fat" or "fattened" duck, a canard gras, has a layer of fat over the breast, thighs, and legs. You can trim off most of it before cooking the duck and then render the fat (melt it). Or you can just cook the duck very slowly to render the fat.

The magret de canard — the breast, which is « maigre »,
or lean — costs a lot more, about $4.90/lb. Notice the E.U
origins of these filets. They are not produced in France.

If you drain the fat away before you eat the duck, then you can use the rendered duck fat for frying potatoes, seasoning cooked vegetables, or making slow-cooked, preserved confit de canard. It will keep indefinitely in a sealed jar in the refrigerator. Here's an older topic about making confit out of a duck.

Fattened ducks' legs sold already slow-cooked
and preserved in duck fat

It's interesting that you can buy duck legs that have already been slow-cooked in fat for less than half the price you'd pay for fresh duck legs. I assume that's because the cooked product has vague European Union origins, while the fresh pieces are « Origine France ». Whether that makes them better or not, I'm not sure, but I'm sure it makes people think the ducks are raised and butchered under stricter sanitary conditions.

Besides, everybody knows it's better if you cook it yourself.

To be continued...


  1. Ducks galore! One of the joys of visiting France. In the US, good ducks are hard to find, although I can get magret de canard here. But getting duck legs is almost impossible, at least without buying the whole duck.

  2. duck....only reason i need to move to france (add cheese & wine & c'est tout)

  3. Do you subscribe to the French notion that, concerning the healthiness of fatty meats, 'two legs good; four legs bad'?
    (i.e birds are better than beasts)

  4. They say the people in southwest France, where duck or goose fat is the main cooking and flavoring medium, have very low heart disease rates.

    But they also says that tout est bon dans le cochon.

  5. All is good with the pig! And the duck. Thanks for the great post. I'm going to call my chef boyfriend and have him order some duck for confit tout suite! (sadly, won't be as good as the duck offerings you are privy to though...)

  6. The rule of thumb is that the harder the fat the more saturated it is, so chicken and pork fat are 'healthier' than beef or lamb fat because they are less saturated. It is of course more complicated, but there is much good sense born out by experience in the traditional French and Italian attitudes to meats and fats.


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?