January 26, 2009

Fat Ducks- everything you need to know from Confit to Foie Gras

Tis the season.
Duck season. No, not hiding in a marshy blind, wet cold and waiting.

The fatted duck season, le marche au gras is more like:
hanging in a warm kitchen,
fire roaring,
cauldrons of duck fat burbling,
friendly faces pouring hot spiced wine,
sharp carbon knifes clacking against the steel,
and the smell... the scent of toasted hazelnuts as the duck fat melts and the crispy skins becomes cracklin's- Gascon popcorn.

For meat loving foodies, this is about as close as it gets to heaven. Gascon Heaven.

I read a lot about confit. A lot. And I have read pages and pages of misinformation, both well-meaning and intentional about confit, both duck and goose, and foie gras, both duck and goose, and all the bits and pieces of succulent meat like g├ęsiers (gizzards) and cou farci (stuffed neck) and coeurs en brochette (skewered duck hearts).

I'm not THE authority here, not by a long shot. But I know a few and I thought I'd take you on a seasonal ride through my extended neighborhood of Butchers, Bakers, and Armgnac-makers to meet some of the pros, expert home cooks and above all the artisan food producers that rock my French Kitchen world. There is always room for more and new info and scientific proof, but tradition and authenticity are the foundations of what I teach here. Hang on to your duck lovin' hat because we'll be jaunting all over the Gascon countryside and then some to uncover the private kitchens, the artisan cooking studios and the traditional winter Marche au Gras or Fat Markets through out this fatted land.

Be a voyeur or cook along for the ride! We'll all come together in the Virtual French Kitchen on Feb 24- le Mardi Gras for the Fat Tuesday Camp Cassoulet Cook-off where my version of Cassoulet features silky morsels of duck confit- the wings and sleeves, bite sized portions to infuse the cassoulet with salty nutty goodness. (I save the large meaty legs and breast for main course summer meals.)

Recipes here are more like storytelling. Lean in, pay attention, and taste often. anyone wishing to join me for one of the Fat Duck Weekends this coming month (See Google Calendar on the sidebar) need only write me in a nice letter asking if there is still room.

These pictures were taken with my phone last year in Cathou and France's amazing chateau kitchen in Montcuq. I love the slightly otherworld colors and focus of what appears to be another time and place. I have been invited again this year so stay tuned for more pix and details from this remarkable French kitchen.

the weight of the five foie gras

In the meantime, hats off to Heidi B. who sent the first cassoulet picture of her first cassoulet in her brand new Not Poterie cassole.

I do believe that is a leg of duck confit I spy! When asked how it was, a one-word description was enough. "Amazing!" That's all it takes to enter the Fat Tuesday Camp Cassoulet Cook-off. Send a picture and comments, recipes and anecdotes to me soon.

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