12 March 2010


One of the wonderful things that we discovered after we’d moved to Belgium is duck confit. In French, it’s called cuisses de canard confit. Cuisses de canard means duck thighs. Confit is a word that doesn’t translate well into English. Prepared? Pickled? Preserved? Not exactly the same thing, but in that family of ideas.

Here’s how they’re made: duck thighs are packed in a mixture of salt and herbs for a day or so to draw out the moisture, and then they’re cooked gently in goose fat (or duck fat) for a few hours. This produces a meat that has a very special texture and a wonderful flavor. Cooled and packed in the goose or duck fat, they keep about six months. Making them, though, is a complicated process, so we just buy them.

Finding them at the supermarket, though, is not without its problems. The first time I went looking for them in my supermarket, I went to the aisle I thought was the appropriate one, and found a (very nice looking) young man stocking the shelves.

In my very best French, I asked him if he had ‘cuisses de canard’, duck thighs. You can see what’s coming, can’t you? No, actually, it was worse than that. In French, the word canard means ‘duck’. It’s pronounced KAH-nahr. Being a native English speaker, I tend to be a little sloppy with my vowels. What I actually asked him was if he had cuisses de KUH-nahr. Not really hard to understand, given my (ahem) slight accent.

The problem is that there’s another word that’s close to that one--connard. Pronounced KOH-nahr. It’s a word that Sister Mary Francis didn’t teach us in French I. Or even French IV. It’s extremely rude.

So when I asked this young man if he had cuisses de KUH-nahr, he looked down at his own thighs and said, “I hope not, Madame.” Oh, man. What could I do? I looked him straight in the eye and said, “Confit, Monsieur. Confit.” At which point he laughed and showed me where they were. Since then I’ve been veryvery careful with my vowels when discussing cuisses de canard confit. I’d advise you to do the same thing.

Normally I find cuisses de canard in cans or glass jars. However, the ones I bought most recently came vacuum packed in plastic. To prepare them, you put them in a pan in a moderate oven for about 10 minutes. The idea is just to melt all the goose fat around them so that you can get the gorgeous meat.

When they’ve cooled, you still have to remove the skin and the gristle and the bones. You’re left with shreds of duck meat that is deeply flavorful, with a texture sort of like prosciutto. It can be used in many ways. One of my favorite is in a salad of greens with a blue cheese vinaigrette. This is a really nice dish for this time of the year--the meat is hearty and the salad is light.

If you're like me, you'll have made more of this than you eat at one time, because you LOVE leftovers. Here's an idea for how to use leftover duck.

Salade de Cuisses de Canard Confit

2-3 cuisses de canard

approx 3 Tablespoons mild vinegar

1/2 teaspoon mild mustard

3-6 Tablespoons Olive oil

approx 50 g / 2 oz blue cheese

Lettuce--your favorite mixture

  • Pre-heat the oven to 160 C / 350 F
  • Free the duck thighs from their packaging (can, jar, plastic). Put them in an oven-safe pan in the oven for about 10 minutes or until the fat that they’re packed in is melted.
  • Remove the pan from the oven and take the duck thighs out of the fat. Drain on paper towels, and leave till cool enough to handle.
  • Put the vinegar in a large salad bowl. Add the mustard. I use Dijon mustard for this. It really doesn’t matter too much, because the mustard is mostly only there to make the oil and vinegar emulsify. Whisk the mustard and the vinegar together till combined well.
  • Add olive oil slowly, whisking constantly to form an emulsion. You want this to be a runny vinaigrette, so you’ll use about the same amount of oil as you had vinegar, maybe a little more.
  • Crumble the blue cheese into the vinaigrette, and let sit while you wait for the duck to cool.
  • When the duck is cooled, remove the fatty skin and bones and gristle from the meat. Shred it into pieces as large or small as you want and set aside.
  • Wash and dry the lettuce, tear it into the salad bowl. Toss gently until the dressing is thoroughly mixed with the greens.
  • Put on your prettiest plates and top with the duck confit.
  • Practice your French pronunciation: KAH-nahr. KAH-nahr. OK, now you can eat.

Serves 4 if they like it and 10 if they don’t.


  • Traditionally, after the duck thighs are removed from the fat, they’re fried (skin side down) to make a crispy skin and served like that. That’s a wonderful way to eat this, but for me it’s a little too fatty. I like to take the skin off and just eat the meat.
  • After you’ve used the meat, the fat that it’s packed in is wonderful for cooking. Traditionally, it’s the fat that’s used to cook potatoes or to fry anything that needs flavor added. It keeps for a long time in the fridge.
  • If you can’t find cuisses de canard confit in your area, here’s a recipe for making them at home. Here’s a video from Gourmet Test Kitchens that shows it too. I encourage you to look for them, though. It can be fun. Just be sure to specify that you want them confit. And watch your vowels...


La Table De Nana said...

My children love this dish..I have found a recipe for a lovely smoked duck salad..I may try that for Easter..

Your story is so cute:)

My Carolina Kitchen said...

Oh Kate, if you can easily buy duck confit we're moving to Belgium. Lucky you.

I love that "it serves 4 if they like it and 10 if they don't." It might only serve two in my house.

2 Stews said...

Nice post...nothing worse than a French faux pas....I make them all of the time.

Thanks for the recipe and the video link. C'est bon. I agree, the skin comes off. This is perfect on a salad, especially with spring (finally) coming.


Stella said...

Funny Kate! I remember the first time I had duck confit in Atlanta at South of France-I loved it. I bet you can get such wonderfully done confit where you are...

zurin said...

I seldom eat duck.. but that does look delicious!very interesting post :)

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

What a funny story, Kate! I'm glad the young man smiled about it ;)

It took me a while before I found duck confit in our area but I was so happy I did. The idea of serving it on a salad sounds wonderful.

Ju (The Little Teochew) said...

I'm wiping tears from my eyes after reading your faux pas!!! Kate, this is hilarious! Having said that, I have never eaten duck confit in my life. Sad, huh?

Crepes of Wrath said...

Oh man, I love duck! I need to make this.

Amanda said...

This made me salivate and laugh at the same time!

Lynnboerin said...

Oh Kate, this made me smile so much!! Have a nice story about 'duck's' - Mathilda the Dowager Duchess and self driving across Paris in her Ford Mustang but will have to tell u in real life! So when do you visit?? Are you going to join Pam on her course in September? And must say, for my French husband, Confit is his favourite dish with 'pommes de terres sautées à l'ail'!

Kitchen Butterfly said...

I love confit de canard. I had an outstanding dinner in Paris last year...with garlic potatoes and a salad. This is a great idea...

Pam said...

How funny! I wouldn't even attempt to speak any other language besides English. I'm not even very good at that!

Susan@The SpiceGarden said...

Kate! What is it about this time of year that we are all looking for wonderful ways to dress greens?
This looks so rich and wonderful! Here in the States, I only find frozen duck. There's one in my freezer, as we speak. I'm wondering if I can prep the thighs after roasting it and set them aside to absorb more flavor (read ...fatty moisture) so that I can make this when our fresh greens come in from the garden (read ... mid-June)? What do you think?

Linda said...

I have a can of duck confit that my friend brought me back from France...
I better open it up!

This looks wonderful!

Kathy said...

I don't know what's better Kate your recipes or your commentaries!!!

Thanks for the tip...I wouldn't even attempt asking for confit...surely I would slaughter the words!

Have had duck once in my life only...I'm really missing out.
Have a lovely weekend.

Off for a haircut and a the commercial says...I'm worth it!

xoxo~Kathy @ Sweet Up-North Mornings...

Kim said...

Loved the story about you speaking your best French in the grocery store:D The salad looks delicious.

Thanks for the tip about the pork rib roast and how you prepared it. I definitely want to make one again and would love to try your version.

Bob said...

Heh, that's one of the reasons I gave up on other languages. My brain runs faster than my mouth so I'm always stumbling over words, plus I'm from Boston, complete with accent. It makes for all kinds of comic/horrifying mispronunciations.

I've heard of duck confit but haven't seen it around here. I'll have to search it out.

~~louise~~ said...

I mean really, Kate. Are you sure you haven't considered writing a book or perhaps starring in a movie? Your encounters are priceless anecdotes of hilarium! (if that's a word:)

I absolutely adore duck and although there is no chance in this world I will ever make my own confit, (uh oh did I use the correct word:) I do relish the thought immensely!!! Yours looks heavenly:)

Thanks for sharing...

Barbara said...

Oh Kate, that is such a funny story! I had something similar happen to me when I was visiting my daughter in Paris. It was in a poultry shop and everyone in there laughed at me. So glad I have a sense of humor as Parisians can be nasty when you slaughter their language.

I love duck confit and we have a market that carries it which they buy from a store called D'Artagnan. I have mail ordered from this company too.

Your salad recipe is a delight! I've made a duck breast salad but never one with duck confit. With that nice light dressing, the duck's flavor will shine through!

Excellent explanation of how a duck confit is made too...

grace said...

thanks kate--i actually had no idea what defined confit. you've also just proven why i should never attempt to speak a foreign language--i'd butcher it posthaste and embarrass myself again and again. :)

WizzyTheStick said...

ROTFL Those tricky vowels. Reminds me of a time in Martinique when I asked an elderly store attendant where could I find 'les journaux'? Cheeky old geezer apologised and said sorry the store didn't carry young men 'jeunes hommes' there was just him.

Bit of Butter said...

Ohhhh, duck confit. How I miss living in Europe. :-)

Maggie B said...

There used to be a rustic farmhouse restaurant in a nearby village which specialised in confit du canard. They would grill the cuisses very quickly over an open fire and serve with fried potatoes & green salad. It was delicious.
Tragically their son died when a tractor he was using fell over on top of him. The family never recovered from their loss and closed the restaurant forever.
The young man is buried in the graveyard across from our home and I often see maman visiting him there.
C'est triste.

Tessa and David Nelson said...

Kate I love your Blog. It look so great!!!!
I miss you terribly too

Tessa and David Nelson said...

Kate I love your Blog. It look so great!!!!
I miss you terribly too

Hungry Dog said...

WHat a funny story! I love reading about your adventures over there. This looks delicious. I love duck confit, however you pronounce it!

zlamushka said...

how funny :-) Oh this duck confit looks so delish.I love mine simply piled on a fresh baguette.

Now u made me really hungry :-)

The Gypsy Chef said...

Kate, love your story. It made me laugh!
Every time I go to France I bring back confit. I am addicted to potatoes sauteed in duck fat. I can't eat enough of them. Last visit to Lynn, I bought too many cans, I could barely lift my suitcase. Next time I'll bring an empty one.
I'm now preparing cassoulet with my last cans, boohoo. I'll have to buy more in April!

Divina Pe said...

That's very funny. French language could be tricky sometimes. Duck confit is one of my favorite things to eat. :)

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