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Nov 11, 2011 08:06 AM

Duck confit - the French hambuger?

This is not a diatribe against confit - or heaven forbid, the hamburger. There is nothing like a good, juicy hamburger with all the fixin's, or a classic confit, with slightly crusty skin on the outside and succulent meat next to the bone. However, both have been done to death by being ubiquitous.
Time was (25-20 years ago) when the confit was to be found only in the Dordogne, Gers and to a lesser extent, in the Landes. It was the traditional way to make use of the leftovers from making the more important conserve - foie gras. But something happened in those last decades - now, instead of appearing on menus only in the Southwest or Alsace, foie gras seems to be everywhere in France - likewise confit. But whereas, putting it baldly, foie gras is now (just) one step up the gastronomic social scale (certainly in the said Dordogne/Gers - it is far pricier and exclusive in other regions), confit appears on menus and cartes from Paris to Calais, from the Loire to Nice to Grenoble. It has lost its "gout de terroir", and become a sad fallback for restaurants who want to have a touch of the provincial. When I make this "hambuger-confit" quip to the French, they largely agree. Do other chowhounds?

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  1. I did notice that many restos and ferme-auberges do duck confit and foie gras, all over France.
    It's ok with me. Their ingredients are not especially geo-dependent. I don't see the law of the terroir being violated.
    Ditto foie gras.
    Not every dish travels so well.
    For example, the Tielle needs fresh octopus as its chief ingredient, plus a good pizza maker. No wonder it is best near Sète.

    1. At least in the Nice area, it's not as ubiquitous as hamburgers. (Though, considering the restos we go to, there are no hamburgers or confit on the menu) I don't think I've ever seen confit de canard on a menu around here...

      However, foie gras is ubiquitous. And magret. But nary a cuisse, confit or no, except in the supermarket.

      1. There are good and bad presentations of every dish, everywhere. (Even hamburgers can be boring and humdrum, or pretty darned tasty).

        It's more a matter of choosing those that do it well --just like everything else.

        (and foie only from small producers, please...industrial is industrial)

        1. The ubiquitous confit you see all over restaurants in France is not really confit. It is based on run-of-the-mill duck legs (not canard gras) sous-vided for a few hours, popped out of their plastic and crisped in a pan, generally too quickly and on too high heat for a proper crust to develop. This has neither the texture nor the taste of confit so yes, I think it is sensible to compare that to the poorer, fast-food versions of hamburger.
          Of course the proper addition to that would be unevenly-roasted pommes sarladaises, with a few raw ones and the odd burned one tossed in, and just a remote nostalgy of the garlic and parsley that might have been sprinkled on them. Does that description ring a bell to some?

          11 Replies
          1. re: Ptipois

            don't forget that slightly funky taste of frozen potatoes.

            1. re: sunshine842

              Therefore stick to pommes salardaises near Sarlat (preferably in a ferme-auberge), or cook it oneself.

              1. re: Parigi

                or take a look around the dining room -- if it's the special, there's more than likely someone who's ordered it.

                Good pommes aren't easy to find, but they do exist outside Sarlat. Or my kitchen.

                1. re: sunshine842

                  I would trust Aux Fins Gourmets or L'Ecureuil, l'Oie et le Canard to produce decent sarladaises.

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    I've had good Pommes Sarladaise more than once at Bélisaire, in the 15me.

              2. re: Ptipois

                Pti - what's your opinion of canned confit? Junk food specialist that I am I regularly buy canned cuisses. Usually from Aldi. They seem better than the local ones I can buy at market.
                I have to say that properly cooked they aren't bad according ti my taste buds.
                Also, while we're on the subject sort of what about all the magret out there. Plain ducks or the real thing?

                1. re: Yank

                  Magret can be either -- from regular Muscovy ducks (or a hybrid thereof) OR from fattened ducks. If they're from fattened, they'll usually say "canard gras" somewhere on the label.

                  Pekin duck has white flesh.

                  1. re: Yank

                    Canned confit: I am a canned foods fan; I believe some foods greatly benefit from canning, and confit is one of them. The added advantage is that you can be sure it's properly made confit, since canning is a form of confisage. Also, canning is very good for aging.
                    I love all magrets as long as the are very large, plump and fatty. The real thing seems to win every time. I also like it slow-roasted, but still very rare.

                    1. re: Ptipois

                      I'm relieved & happy that one of my food heroines likes canned confit as much as I do.

                      I haven't tried to slow-roast magret, but will. Any tips?

                      I like to serve L'ailade Toulousaine with magret. Seems a marriage made in heaven to me. Its a bit of a pain to make, but freezes beautifully so I make large batches.

                      1. re: Yank

                        (Blushing and blowing nose in apron)

                        Slow-roasted magret: interesting when magret is criss-crossed skin-side with a knife and marinated in soy sauce, hoisin sauce, honey, rice wine, vinegar, a touch of five-spice powder and sesame oil. Then cook skin side down in nonstick pan on very, very low heat for about 20 minutes, eliminating excess fat at the end. Turn magret around and cook for 3 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes, then slice.

                    2. re: Yank

                      I just realized recently that confit is pretty cheap surprinsigly... at my local Monop' they have a couple of brands which sell for around 8 to 9 € / kilo.... I'm sure they're not the best confits, but I'll have to try them to check.

                  2. Where, pray tell, is the best duck confit in Paris?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: chompchomp

                      Although there's no such thing as "best" anything, we can locate some good duck confits. The one served at Le Bistrot Landais (rue du Cherche-Midi) is a textbook version of confit de canard, made just as it should be, and I recommend it.

                      One way to tell real-Mc-Coy confit de canard from stewed duck that has been crisped in a pan at the last minute is that the flesh, even near the bone, can be shredded easily with a fork, and the muscular fibres are slightly shiny, not dull. They should separate easily. That is the sign of proper, full-duck-fat, lengthy confiting, and that is what the Bistrot Landais version is like.