Confit de canard, or preserved duck, is an indispensable dish of southwestern France and a warm, comforting dish on a cold winter evening. Its origin lies in the culture of duck farming that has shaped the entire region, from the Pays Basque in far southwest, north to Gascony and east to the area around Toulouse. On my first visit to the southwest, it struck me as odd that so much of the land was dedicated to growing field corn, since corn figures very little in the local cuisine. Corn, it turns out, is the starting point for the raising of ducks for foie gras, and foie gras production is king here.
Confit developed from the thrifty farm ethos of whole animal eating. In foie gras duck terms, that means making use of the rest the large framed Moulard duck after the sumptuous liver has been removed. The thick, meaty breasts (or magrets) are usually seared on a plancha grill and served like a steak, or marinated with salt and spices then smoked, thinly sliced and enjoyed cold like best quality cured ham. The fat of the carcass is rendered for use in cooking, representing the the third pillar in the French pantheon of cooking fats (Butter in the north, olive oil in the southeast and duck or pork fat in the southwest).Continue reading