Toulouse is all about duck. I challenge you to find a restaurant here without duck on the menu in some form or fashion: duck breast, duck livers, duck foie gras, duck confit, cassoulet (the Toulousain specialty), etc. There’s even a fast food restaurant that serves all fried duck product: Duck Me. Now, don’t get me wrong – I like duck, but I’d never ventured to cook or eat it at home. My exposure was mostly my brother ordering it anytime it was on any menu anywhere and it being the main protein in what might be my favorite salad of all-time (Duck Salad – baby greens with duck breast [grilled medium/medium rare], goat cheese, spicy walnuts & craisins) at Monk’s Cafe in Philadelphia.
With all that in mind, I told Jim I wanted to start taking advantage of the proteins we have at our fingertips that are far more rare back in the states. Sure, we branch out and buy rillettes here and there, salted cod, jambon constantly, all types of local seafood, and entrecôte, but most everything else we’ve been cooking at home consists of proteins you can find in the states, as well. Not any more. I vowed to start mastering the eating/enjoying of readily available proteins like duck and rabbit (haven’t totally warmed to the idea of eating horse just yet). Our first foray into duck at home was the purchase of duck confit from my new poultry place in Marché Victor Hugo.
If you’re unfamiliar with duck confit, it’s duck that has been preserved (“confit”) via a process that requires salt curing the meat and then cooking it in its own fat. The process (I’ve read) takes up to 36 hours to fully render the fat. I’m told (also) that cooking the meat typically takes from 4 to 10 hours in a low temperature oven, poaching the meat. Then it’s cooled and can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 6 months (covered/sealed). Pretty handy, really.
While that process sounds fun, I jumped the gun and purchased duck thigh/legs that were already preserved (see photo below). So, all I had to do was stick them in the oven at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 15-20 minutes until the skin was very crispy. So, cooking a protein on a weeknight only takes 15-20 minutes! Amazing.
Traditional duck confit is usually served with potatoes (cooked in the duck fat) and a green salad. I have to admit that I bought 4 duck thigh/legs, so we ate duck confit two nights in a row. The first night I made the potatoes and salad and the second night we just opted for the salad. Both, by the way, were outstanding.
What is in our salad, you ask? Well, it is probably my favorite salad, as well, which we have been recreating from Pizzeria Delfina in San Francisco for close to 4 or 5 years now. It’s their insalata tricolore (arugula, endive, and radicchio) with a lemon vinaigrette and grana padano. When I saw radicchio at my veggie stand, I knew we’d be eating it for as long as the radicchio and endive are in season. Only, we swapped out the padano for parmesan and the vinaigrette for a Barefoot Contessa vinaigrette that’s in another of of favorite salads. It’s so, so good. Make it at home and be a huge hero.
Since ready to eat duck confit is hard to come by in the states, I’m including a link to David Lebovitz’s counterfeit duck confit. The photos make it look just about as tasty and delicious. I hope you all are just able to find some duck legs/thighs.
Michael/Michelle – this will be waiting for you when you come in July.
Next up…rabbit in a mustard sauce. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it…