Just before leaving France, we partook in the age old French tradition of bottling confit of duck and foie gras / fat liver. Foie gras is a much discussed product and I am not going to make a judgment about if one should eat it or not – I’ll let everyone decide for themselves. We enjoyed joining our French (and Scottish) neighbors / friends in preparing this traditional French delicacy so I thought I’d tell you about our fun evening and give you the recipes.
You’ve met Sam, Florian, Lily and Charlotte in previous blogs and you will continue to do so as we always have great fun together. At a mere 5 years of age, Lily gave me cooking advice! And this particular evening, we were joined by Irene (a man so I am possibly spelling it wrong and if you hear it said in French you would know it was male!), an absolutely delightful (and single, ladies..) French friend. Maybe I should rephrase that, as we joined him at his (magnificent) house to prepare these delicacies.
Not only did we:
1. freeze the (big juicy) duck breasts,
2. salt the cuisses / thigh and leg quarters, and the wings and gizzards (so that Florian could cook them the next day),
3. cut up the fat into pieces to fry and make fritons,
4. remove the veins from the foie gras, put them in jars and preserve them along with the innards (separately of course),
5. grilled the carcasses over the open fireplace in Irene’s (gorgeous) house and ate them for supper!! FANTASTIC is all I can say.
As you can see in the very top photo, Vegas the dog is helping out with the barbecue as well. His ears have been cropped and he “walks tall” so the first sight of him is enough to put you off your dinner (ah ha, so that’s his plan…!), but he is a gentle giant and would only steal if you weren’t looking.
I made roast potatoes and roast butternut to go with the “Demoiselles” and I just grabbed them with my fatty fingers once I had ripped the flesh of the bones with my teeth. Cave woman has nothing on me! There are village fetes (meals) in France where the main meal consists of duck carcasses. The meat closest to the bone is reportedly the best, and I LOVE it, so I shall be attending any within a 100 mile radius in the future. Feel relieved that there will be no photos of me slathered in duck fat, bits stuck in my teeth, and fat spots on my shirt – not a pretty sight.
Eating the carcasses makes use of absolutely every part of the duck – you didn’t die in vein Donald! Now, now, I am a huge animal lover and all animals on our farm have a really good life (far too good according to my hubby!).
LET THE DUCK BEGIN!
Although duck is available all year, the fat liver is only available fresh in the autumn /fall and the ducks are more readily available at this time too. There is a very interesting piece on Wikipedia that is well worth the read. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foie_gras
I found it interesting that fat liver was enjoyed by the Egyptians in 2500BC! And one of the Roman emperors Elagabalus fed his dogs on foie gras during the four years of his chaotic reign. I would have been on all fours going “woof woof” had I been around!
FOIE GRAS OR FAT LIVER
The trick with foie gras is not to handle the liver too much as it will start to “melt” or fall apart. There is a vein connecting the two lobes that you can easily find between them and then follow it with your finger into each lobe.
Try not to damage the liver too much, especially if you are making it “entier” or whole. Pull the vein a little to get it to come out, trying not to snap it. This was a lot easier than I had expected and it took no time at all to do.
You then put the foie into a glass jar and sprinkle it with salt and pepper and a tsp of Armagnac (French brandy) or sweet wine. We put small pieces of liver into 200g jars and bigger ones into 350g jars. It all depends on how much you want to eat in one go – if you want to share with guests the bigger one is better, but if you are greedy (like me!) and want to eat it all yourself, then make the smaller as you shouldn’t leave it opened (in the fridge) for more than a couple of days.
Once the foie/liver is in the jar, put the lids/rings on and put in a sterilizer of water bath for 30 minutes. Remove, dry the lids and Voila!, you have an amazing appetizer ready to go.
CONFIT DE CANARD / CONFIT OF DUCK
The confit of duck is a specialty in the area of France that I live in, namely Gascony. There are many, many ways to prepare the duck, but I am sharing the one Florian made last month as I know that it is good! Some people salt the meat for longer, cook it longer, or don’t sterilize it at all, they just put it into fat and seal it. Here is once again Wikipedia’s version: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duck_confit
The legs quarters, wings and necks are rubbed with salt and left for 12 hours or more before being thoroughly washed to remove the salt. They get a great flavor from the salting, but if you don’t wash it properly the end product can be quite salty.
Then you sauté or bake (in a medium oven) the duck pieces for about one hour (or more) in its own fat until it is cooked. The fat on the legs alone is enough, but you can add more fat from the fritons if you wish.
Now place the pieces in glass sterilizing jars and put them into a sterilizer or water bath for a further 45minutes. This preserves it for years. A great way to eat the confit is to warm it and use the fat from the jar to fry or roast potatoes to go with it. Not good for the waistline, but it’s a treat meat so enjoy seldom but with gusto!