The case of the most delicious Confit de Canard

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By Betsy Gazo

Kaleidoscope

Saturday, July 19, 2014


JUST in time for the French National Holiday, Le Quatorze Juillet a.k.a. Bastille Day, which is celebrated on July 14, is this story of my friend’s search for Confit de Canard or Duck Confit, that classic fat-rich French dish.

Now, there’s this restaurant that my friend Sofie and I went to for lunch just this week but I shall not mention its name. Mon amie must have been nostalgic for the good ol’ days in Paris that, when we skimmed over the menu for perhaps a salad and a pasta dish, Duck Confit caught her eye.

Her eye had the kind of gleam that spoke of unexpectedly finding hidden treasure; this treasure happened to cost P695 a serving. So, we skipped that, and moved on to other items on the menu. We chose a salad (romaine lettuce with Norwegian salmon and shaved prosciutto) and went on to choose another dish. Yet, it was always the confit that we’d go back to again and again.

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“So, what do you think, Sofie?”

“Well, I hope that the cook did justice to this dish. It’s difficult to make and requires a lot of time to prepare.”

“Let’s choose another.”

“My sister who used to live in Paris makes good duck confit.”

“Do you want to order the paella? It comes in a mini-paellera so it’s just right for one.”
“The confit is cooked very slowly so that at the end, you get the duck part still whole but very tender.”

“The last time we were here, we had the aglio y olio.”

“You know, my sister would use the sauce to cook vegetables in. It’s very good.”

“(Sigh) Okay. Let’s get the Duck Confit.”

The delivered Duck Confit, which was a well-browned piece of duck leg with its bone sticking up smartly, lay on a plate beside mashed potatoes. I exclaimed, “This is all?” Sofie replied that it’s usually just the leg that’s cooked and served but I could sense that she was concerned, too, about sharing it with me.

Well, the waiter had said, after all, that two can share it but now we doubted his word. Anyway, we dug into our big bowl of salad with (trembling?) anticipation of what is coming soon. The salad, by the way, was lovely with ample enough shavings of smoked ham and thinly sliced pink strips of salmon.

Then, the Confit de Canard! Sofie gingerly poked a fork into the side of the leg. She smiled and said, “It is tender.” She proceeded to hurriedly halve the leg, took her share of leg and mashed potatoes, and left mine as I finished off the last mouthful of lettuce and prosciutto while she happily bit into her first mouthful of a beautifully-done confit de canard.

And so, what about the confit? Yes, it was tender, seasoned just right and perfectly fried. My dear friend was in heaven and was extolling the virtues of the dish between bites. The potatoes (pommes sarladaises) were a suitable partner to temper the saltiness of the duck which was marinated for 24 hours (sometimes 48) in the refrigerator. Salting was essential to the preservation of duck and goose (or other meats) before the advent of refrigeration.

When I got to the skin, it was crisp and the fat trapped in it melted into my amused bouche. I am embarrassed to admit that I allowed the skin to bring me to cholesterol paradise. And what could have been better than potatoes to go with it? A cup of rice, of course! The confit, as all confits are, was rich. Confit de canard is duck legs (usually from the meatier Peking and Muscovy ducks) cooked in rendered duck fat and the cook makes sure that the duck is submerged in fat! This is a literal case of “ginisa sa sariling mantika.” And, may I add, “at sa mantika din ng iba” for not only do we buy the duck which comes with its own fat but we also buy extra duck fat. Fat. Fat. Fat.

We congratulated the waiter for giving us a good lunch, paid our bill after dessert (two pieces of cake, of course, to celebrate such a joyous occasion) and left. On our way out, we had to pass by the kitchen so we, naturally, congratulated the kitchen staff and even the cashier.

Sofie said to the staff present that the confit de canard was very good and that it was how she remembers it in France. (As for poor me, my French hostess in a little quaint ancient town at the Cote d’Azur never cooked me confit de canard. Merde. Gallic shrug.) Sofie added that the chef got the dish right.

Now, here’s the bomb. One of the waiters listening said, “We get it from a can.” I almost dropped the bag of fabadas I picked up from the top shelf of a nearby display of the restaurant’s “For Sale” items. “What? From a can? The confit is from a can?” We girls were madly incredulous. The waiter said, “Yes. That’s the can.” And pointed to the lowest level of the shelf. Sure enough, about half a dozen huge cans were partly hidden among the wares. I bent to get one and there staring at me were French words printed all around the can. Canned confit de canard all the way from France! That’s what we had. That’s what we were served. Our only consolation was that, at least, the confit could never be more French than this. I could have trashed the kitchen if the can said, “Made in China.” But then, why not? The Chinese have ducks that quack in Pekingese.

Now, it is very clear to me why duck is “canard” in French. So, I rest my case. Merde. Gallic shrug.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on July 19, 2014.

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