Louise Pick­ford pre­pares one of her all-time favourite dishes

Living France - - À LA MAISON -

There are good dishes, there are great dishes and then there is con­fit de ca­nard and, for me, this would definitely be one of my ‘dessert is­land dishes’. Not for the faint-hearted of course, but then this was a dish in­tended to sus­tain through the cooler months in a part of France that does get really cold.

Orig­i­nally from Gas­cony, a re­gion renowned for the qual­ity of its duck, lo­cally reared birds would be slaugh­tered at the end of sum­mer and then salted, cooked and stored in fat to pre­serve them through­out the win­ter. This was a method in­tro­duced long be­fore the days of re­frig­er­a­tion, and in fact the word con­fit is ac­tu­ally the past par­tici­ple of the French verb, to pre­serve. To­day, this process has been adapted to pre­serve not only duck but other types of meat such as pork and chicken, and in­ter­est­ingly enough other in­gre­di­ents in­clud­ing gar­lic.

The meat is firstly salted which helps re­move ex­cess liq­uid be­fore be­ing roasted in

Not for the faint-hearted of course, but then this was a dish in­tended to sus­tain through the cooler months in the cold parts of France

duck or goose fat un­til melt­ingly ten­der (orig­i­nally this would have taken many hours, per­haps all day). Once cold, the meat can ei­ther be stored in the set fat for up to six months, or nowa­days re­frig­er­ated overnight and then re­heated. As well as pre­serv­ing food, this method also helps to ten­der­ize the tougher cuts making it ideal for duck legs. You will find duck con­fit on menus all over France, but in Gas­cony it is also tra­di­tion­ally in­cor­po­rated into one of the re­gion’s other fa­mous dishes: cas­soulet.

Al­though read­ily avail­able in France in al­most ev­ery su­per­mar­ket, making duck con­fit at home is not only easy; it’s fun. It is a very sim­ple process and to in­cor­po­rate ex­tra flavour, you can add var­i­ous aro­mat­ics dur­ing both the salt­ing and cook­ing process. I like to add hardy herbs such as thyme and bay leaves, but you could also use rose­mary or sage. Once cooked, you must en­sure that all the meat is to­tally cov­ered by the hot fat be­fore cool­ing and chilling. To re­heat the duck, sim­ply scrape away most of the fat and roast or pan-fry the duck legs to crisp up the skin. The re­main­ing fat can be used to cook some pota­toes, making it a very rich yet really eco­nom­i­cal dish.

Louise Pick­ford is a food writer and stylist with more than 25 cook­books to her name. She lives in Char­ente with her food and life­style pho­tog­ra­pher hus­band Ian Wal­lace.

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