Sunday, 7 March 2010

Finest Fast Food: Duck Confit & Lentils

Much as pasta at home must count as contender for Finest Fast Food, sometimes you run out of olives, or anchovies, or parmesan, or tomato sauce, or butter to mix in it with it.  Or you cannot face that jar of half eaten pesto you wished you'd never bought (and always wondered what relation it had with basil).  And sometimes, you run out of pasta.
If, like me, you are lucky enough to pop over to France regularly the vital thing to haul back from Carrefour and the rest is tins of preserved duck (confit de canard).  These keep for ever at the back of the cupboard and, whilst I hate most tinned meat of any description, the duck contained within is delicious.  The word confit, which seems to be entering common English usage, means preserve (hence confiture for jam) and the duck here is preserved in its own fat.
It's easy to prepare from scratch at home (Jean-Christophe Novelli has a good recipe in "Your Place or Mine") but takes about four days and then benefits from storing in a jar for a month or so.  The duck legs are rubbed in salt (and herbs) and then left to exude moisture and are thereafter submerged in duck fat and cooked very gently for a few hours.  The legs are used because they are tough and benefit from the tenderising and flavour developing effects of salting and long slow cooking.  But here we want something fast and now and just want to reach for the can opener.
Turn the oven on high, preferably with the grill on too which helps to crisp up the skin, scrape the excess fat off the meat and roast for about 20 minutes.  A good accompaniment are tinned lentils which just need 5 minutes in a saucepan. 
 You can buy cans of confit in smart delis, Harrods,  and Selfridges probably, but you'll pay a lot more than in France in spite of the strength of the Euro.  But it's worth splashing out because the end result is so good you could be in a restaurant in Gascony instead of in your Acton bedsit.

And a huge bonus is that you have enough fat left over in the tin to fry potatoes for the next 6 months.

Which is another contender for Finest Fast Food as long as you have some spuds to hand.


  1. Is this the brand of tinned confit de canard that you recommend? I bought one other brand once and it was waaaaaaaaaaay too salty. Love the idea of great food out of tins though!

  2. Su-Lin: It's a brand I look out for (and it is commonly available) but so far I have not been disappointed with any particular label. You inspire me to do a comparative tasting! Yes, it can be very salty but if you serve with something starchy that helps absorb the salt. And red wine helps, especially something tannic to cut through the fat. The local SW French wines are good: Cahors, Madiran, Fronton, and claret of course.

  3. Oh now a comparative tasting would be a post I'd keep an eye out for - I always struggle to choose a brand when buying things like this in France!

  4. Kavey: Reflets de France is a brand covering several regional specialities and I have never been disappointed. There is a Spanish version too. Whilst I would naturally tend to avoid supermarket own brands at places like Lidl and Ed I was pleasantly surprised last week in Paris by a tin of Leader Price confit de canard.

  5. I love the "Reflets de France" confit. I brought back 48 cans with me when I came back in 2003 from a 3 year assignment in France. Needless to say, they are long gone (everyone friend we had over for confit usually left with a can under the arm on their way out). Anyone knows if they are available in the US? All I can find is Rougié but its roughly 40$ for the same serving size that sells in France for 9 euro...