02 January 2012

Confit de canard and cassoulet

The southwestern French bean dish called cassoulet doesn't always contain duck or goose, but in my opinion cassoulet is always better when it does. Depending on the cook and the recipe followed, the only constant in cassoulet is beans. The meats served with the beans can include fresh or brined pork, fresh pork sausages, slow-cooked duck or goose, lamb or mutton, or even partridge.

Cuisses de canard confites
Slow-cooked wing & thigh meat of a duck

In France nearly anywhere, you can buy confit de canard packed in tins/cans. Confit is duck, usually leg, thigh, and wing sections, that are marinated for a day and then cooked slowly in enough goose or duck fat to completely cover all the meat. The leaner duck breast is reserved for grilling or pan-roasting.

Here is the confit de canard with the skin stripped off.

The word « confit » means slow-cooked. Confiture is slow-cooked fruit. Fruits confits are pieces of candied fruit. Both those processes require a sugar syrup. Confit de canard or d'oie is duck or goose cooked in the savory equivalent of syrup, which is melted fat. Cooking fruit is sugar syrup, or cooking meat in fat, has one purpose: the food is preserved in a form that can be stored long-term. And the flavor is actually enhanced.

Duck and Toulouse-style pork sausages are good in cassoulet.

Part of the process in making duck confit is letting the duck pieces "cure" in the fat they've been cooked in. The curing can take a long as three months. Submerged in duck fat, the meat is protected from oxygen and from bacteria that would cause it to spoil. It can be kept in the refrigerator or in a cool cellar for the time it takes to cure completely.

Here's what's left after you put the duck meat in the beans.

The result is meat that is tender, flavorful, and falling off the bone. There are two ways to eat confit de canard. One is to take the duck leg & thigh sections out of the fat they cooked in, put them on a rack in the oven, or even in a pan on the top of the stove, and heat them until the fat on them drips away and the duck skin crisps up and turns golden brown.

Making cassoulet — another layer of beans goes on top,
over the boneless meat and sausages.

Another way is to heat the "confitted" duck pieces up slightly and then strip the skin and meat off the bones. The skin can be cut into strips and fried in a pan to make "cracklings" that are good cooked into cornbread, served in a salad, or served with a dish of beans like cassoulet. The meat stripped off the bones is what you put in the cassoulet beans, along with some pork or pork sausages.


  1. I did a mental "wow" to myself
    when I saw your new header photo.
    Beautiful shot.
    I'm sure the cassoulet was
    delicious. Nice that you go to
    the trouble of boning the duck.
    Always wonder how long you can
    keep "re-confitting" with the
    same fat.

  2. Chambord looks lovely on your header today.
    I can almost taste your cassoulet from here....

  3. I've been waiting for this post, Ken! I remember when you fixed up the duck to cure. Looks just fabulous - great work!

  4. Very interesting post, and I, too, love the new banner photo :)

  5. Sheila, the duck fat keeps indefinitely, assuming you heat it up and re-seal the jar it's in regularly. Mine is several years old. The main problem is that it gets saltier and saltier with each re-use. Mine right now is at its limit. I'll have to start over again with new fat this year.

    Judy, Evelyn, and all, that photo is from February 2003, nearly nine years ago. At that time I was coming to Saint-Aignan to seal the deal on the house we live in now.

  6. I've never had cassoulet with goose and probably never will. I tried goose for Christmas dinner at a German restaurant. I didn't like it; it was too fatty for me.

  7. Yoiu can also buy in UK in tins at confitdecanard.co.uk. It wouldn't be fair otherwise...

  8. Hi, I've been given a preserved jar of Cassoulet au Confit de canard from France and I'm wondering how to heat it and what to serve it with. I personally don't eat duck but am having some friends over and I know they will enjoy it. It may be too rich to have as an entree so what do you think I could serve it with for the ones that don't eat it and in case I muck it up?




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