January 30, 2009

Confit de Canard. Duck Confit. Part 1- How to buy a 4-headed duck

To market to market to buy a Fat Duck...

That was the idea. Traditionally the Wednesday morning market in Agen has been the live poultry market. When I first arrived in the Lot-et-Garonne in 1987, there were rows of benches on which housecoat-wearing Frenchwomen and beret-sporting Gascons sat behind piles of feathered friends tied together at the ankles or next to cardboard boxes with beaks and tails sticking out. The Wednesday morning soundtrack was a low murmur of gossip and clucking.

Even in this Southwest France modern times have arrived and the buying of live poultry in an urban environment has slowly disappeared from Agen. There was but one truck of cages filled with bedraggled-looking chickens from a local 'semi-industrialized' farm. I had expected there to be a great show of fatted ducks at this time of year. What I found instead was a wonderful show of winter produce at bargain prices with a smattering of artisan poultry growers with their wares prepared for a more urban audience- fatted ducks already cut, cleaned and parceled out ready to confit.

Here are the January Market season specials:

ORANGE is good in the Winter!




Rather than look this gift duck in the beak, I took home a deconstructed duck with which to start. Those ordering duck from D'Artagnan or one of the other internet sources can relate to this piece meal approach. Although I am missing a few of my favorite 'bits'- the gesier or gizzard, the tasty heart and succulent the wing tips, the bargain of getting 4 duck necks for 2 euros more then made up for the gap.

So here is the take from this smiling enterprising Artisan Duck vendor:
  • One carcass called a 'demoiselle'
  • One 'manteau' or cloak- that is the legs and breasts removed in one piece from the carcasse
  • a big bag of fat and trimmings including the pure white inner fat from near the foie gras
  • and four duck necks and heads- les cous
These ducks were the best; they were fresh, meaty, fatty. They had been carefully butchered and handled with care. The prices were reasonable and the total 'duck' came to 23 euros, about 6 kilos of meat and fat- less than 4 euros a kilo, or about 2.50 dollars a pound. there is very little waste or scrap so making confit here is a most economical way to preserve meat.

Returning home I abandoned the duck to the refrigerator until I had a moment later in the day to salt and cure for the coming confit . Stay tuned. Salting comes next. It's the very important part.

"Patience demands, work rewards."


David said...

you can buy peeled pumpkin? funny, those Gascons are happy to spend hours preparing foie gras and cassoulet, but don't want to peel pumpkins...bof...

Kate Hill said...

For 20 centimes more, you don't have to add to the compost pile! Seriously, I only see this in the Agen market rather than the village markets. And the guy selling these has all sorts of strange and wonderful things like whole radicchio as small as flowers and bouquets of dandelions. I think he just like to wrap,tie and peel. I smell like duck fat now.

Sylvie said...

All the vegetable look so good! and those ducks, oh those ducks... There are times I DO miss France.