27 November 2011

Cuisses de canard confites

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I was preparing some duck legs and thighs as confit de canard. Then I sort of forgot about them. They've been cooked and are "curing" in the cold pantry off our utility room downstairs.

Duck leg & thigh sections sold in shrink-wrap
vacuum packaging at the supermarket in France

I'm not sure that all the Americans who leave comments on forums and in trip reports about enjoying confit de canard in France know how the duck is prepared. What they know is that it's delicious. The duck legs can be served in several ways, but most often in restaurants you get them browned in the oven until golden and served with fried or sautéed potatoes.

These are the legs and thighs of ducks that have been
fattened for
foie gras production.

Personally, I like the slow-cooked duck legs and thighs served other ways. For example, they are very good with turnips cooked with a little of the duck fat. Canard aux navets — duck with turnips — is a classic combination. Of course you have to like turnips. Use young fresh ones that have just a hint of bitterness along with their natural sweetness. Or have the duck with oven-roasted winter root vegetables — turnips plus carrots, rutabagas, parsnips, and potatoes.

This time of year, duck legs are available at very reasonable prices.
Each one weighs a little less than a pound.

Two other good combinations including confit de canard come to mind. Serve the slow-cook duck with beans flavored with duck fat as part of a southwestern French cassoulet, with some good fresh pork sausages (saucisses de Toulouse). Or serve it with sauerkraut along with smoked pork sausages and boiled potatoes. Flavor the sauerkraut, too, with some of the duck fat.

A better idea of what the duck pieces look like unwrapped

I see both of those in our future this winter, since I have several bags of dried beans of different varieties in the pantry, and nearly three kilos of raw sauerkraut in the freezer. I also like the idea of having the confit de canard with some of my home-grown collard and mustard greens. Or what about confit with some Brussels sprouts roasted in duck fat, as seen on The Celiac Husband's blog? Can I say that the possibilities are nearly endless?

I've posted about making confit de canard several times before:

The duck pieces in their salty marinade

I won't repeat all that. What I will say is that the duck pieces are covered in coarse salt with herbs, onions, garlic, and spices and left to marinate for 24 to 48 hours. Then they are rinsed under cold running water, dried off, and cooked at low heat either on the stovetop or in the oven, in enough duck fat to cover them. Discard the salty marinade. The cooked duck legs should be very tender, with the meat fairly falling off the bone.

Arrange the marinated, rinsed duck legs in a pan like this...

The duck legs, however, will still be pretty salty after cooking. It's best to let them cure for several weeks, or even months, in the duck fat they cooked in. They need to be kept in a cool place, but not necessarily in the refrigerator. If you have a cellar, or a cold pantry like ours, well, that's ideal. Make sure the congealed duck fat completely covers the duck leg-and-thigh sections. Some mysterious chemical reaction between the duck fat and the salt will happen, giving the tender duck meat a mild but rich flavor.

...and cover them with melted duck or goose fat
for cooking in a slow oven.

When you're ready to serve and eat the duck, put the pan or crock they're stored in into a warm oven and wait for the fat to melt again. Take out the pieces you plan to serve, and leave the others in the fat, again stored in a cool place.

This might look like mashed potatoes, but it's the congealed
duck fat covering the duck legs and thighs
that are curing in the cold pantry.

Drain the pieces you've taken out of the melted fat on a rack for a few minutes — put the rack in the warm oven again — so that the fat will drip off. Use the fat to season the vegetables or potatoes you're having with the duck. You can turn up the oven and let the duck legs turn golden brown and kind of crispy if you want them that way. Or you can keep them succulent and tender by just letting them warm through.


  1. Those duck legs look an exceptionally good price even for this time of year. I got a very cheap whole duck the other day, but have had no luck with legs. I cook them wrapped in foil in the oven on low heat after marinating - saves having to deal with all that fat. It's similar to my method for jerk pork or chicken. I do have to be careful about salt levels though, and I have to freeze them to keep, rather than just sit on a shelf in the larder.

  2. A chacun(e) son goût, Susan. I would say it's a shame — a sin — to throw out the duck fat. It's so good for cooking potatoes or seasoning other vegetables, in the place of butter or even olive oil. We all have to be careful about salt, but it's not like you eat confit de canard every day, or even every month...

  3. I thought I'd get a bite :-)

    Anyway, once upon a time I would have agreed with you, but these days I find it so much easier not to have to clean up after and dispose of used fat and I find I don't get round to using the fat I've saved for such things as fried potatoes. It just sits there festering in the fridge.

  4. Susan, soit. Fact is, the fat doesn't deteriorate. It lasts indefinitely if you store it the right way. And why not use it?

    Are you just being provocative? LOL.

  5. Susan

    I keep the duck fat in small containers in the freezer and they are very handy for cooking potatoes or veggies as described by Ken.


    The legs are "very" big :-) compared to what I get in Montreal.

  6. You're right, we don't pay much attention to how they're cooked, but we've had them with several different side dishes.

  7. The Beav', hello, these duck legs/thighs are from canards gras, which are much bigger than other duck breeds. They are perhaps more tender too.

    Starman, I'm glad to hear that restaurants in Paris are serving confit de canard with something other than sauteed potatoes. With potatoes it's good but there are other choices.

  8. I cannot believe how duck fat influences the flavor of vegetables.
    The Brussel Sprouts were just the beginning, today we did roast some Cauliflower (1.00 at Carrefour), the 11 year old fussy eater doubled up.

    What I am looking forward to though,once with our own, proper equipment, is to make french fries in that fat.
    I heard they turn out fantastic.

  9. H.P., making pommes frites in duck fat is one thing I haven't yet tried. Maybe this winter...


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