Confit de canard — preserved duck — hails from southwest France and is widely served throughout the country, although it is rarely seen elsewhere. The duck is preserved first in salt and then in fat, usually on the farm where the duck is raised. But guess what? You can also make it yourself. Meltingly tender, with a hint of garlic and thyme, it makes a fine dish for the holiday season.
Confit de canard / Duck confit
But beware — this is a classic ‘slow food’ dish. You need to get started a day or two before you plan to cook the duck, which is first salted for a day, then cooked for a couple of hours in rendered duck fat, then refrigerated in the strained fat before being roasted in the oven.
This process dates back hundreds of years. Until recently, when freezers revolutionized food preservation, preserving meat by salting or drying was the only way to ensure a supply throughout the year. The preserved duck was kept in jars — and it is still sold like that today in French supermarkets. This makes it an easy matter in Paris, say, to walk down the street, buy a jar of confit and serve it up the same evening.
But as I discovered when trying this recipe, the duck tastes fresher and sweeter when you make it yourself. It can be a simple fireside meal, accompanied with sautéed potatoes or a salad of tender leaves, or the centerpiece of a special dinner, served with sophisticated vegetable purées. The one essential in every case is a bottle of full-bodied French wine.
If you are looking to create a holiday menu in advance, there are some suggestions here.
Next week I plan to give you my recipe for blini, the wonderfully yeasty Russian pancakes that may be served with red caviar, tarama or simply sour cream and fresh herbs to make a spectacular start to a holiday meal. As we head into the darkest days of the year, I find that spending a little time in the kitchen is a fine way to lend brightness and cheer to your home, wherever it may be. Happy cooking!