The poor duckies should have tasteless fat. I feel for them, I do but because I'm higher on the food chain I appreciate their existance. About two weeks ago on a particularly rainy day I got the hankering for Cassoulet, a heavy dish made primarily in the southwestern corner of France. It's not fine food like you'd expect from the French but rather a heavy casserole with lots of meats and beans in it. Arguably the most important meat in it is Confit de Canard - or duck preserved in duck or goose fat. In my effort to avoid giving up a years salary to an online reseller I decided I'd just make Confit de Canard and in doing so would need about 5 cups of duck fat. My recipe says the best way to get duck fat is to just pour it off every time I make something with duck in it thus saving the cost of buying it. Like I or anyone I know cooks duck every day right? I do this for bacon grease but I'm afraid I don't cook enough duck in a year to get a cup of duck fat so I had to go hunt for it. A quick google search for "duck fat seattle" gave several results pointing to various grocery stores and markets that had it. One of my favorites - Central Market in Mill Creek was listed so off we go for a 1 hr bus ride to pick up our duck fat. "We usually carry it" was the answer I got and empty handed is how we left. The next day I boarded the Swift/M358 bus to Central Market in Shoreline and there I found duck fat - for $16/lb.. Gag, cough. I needed about $30 worth of duck fat for one meal - a bit steep I thought. Getting the M358 bus to Seattle again and an hour later I was in Chinatown (the International district, ahem) at Uwajamaya Market. They had duck fat too in solid blocks but a man standing between me and my duck fat kept putting package after package into his cart which he talked on the phone. He left only 3 packages - which thankfully was all I needed. Had he taken the rest I would have followed him around and package by package removed it from his cart. It's not legally his until he pays for it right?
Duck fat in hand I returned home to make my Confit de Canard. To make this you salt duck thighs and legs heavily and let them rest for two days. Then you melt the duck fat in a pan on very low heat so it doesn't boil then you rinse the salt cured duck pieces then dry. Once dry you cook them in the duck fat for about 90 minutes and let them cool. Salt the bottom of a dish, layer duck fat in the bottom, layer duck pieces then melt the rest of the duck fat again and pour it over the top. Then melt pig lard and pour a layer of that over the top, cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for 4-6 weeks. Yes 4-6 weeks. I did everything except the 4-6 weeks part. It seems that making Confit de Canard out of a bunch of ducks at the same time would be more effecient. Then take the carcases and make duck stock out of it.
Why all the fuss over Duck fat? Because it's very very nice. I don't know how one fat can taste better than another but it does. I've never had the urge to drink vegetable oil, peanut oil, olive oil or lard but it's taken all of my strength not to go to the fridge and take a swig of the duck fat. The smell is all over the house, it's on my hands and it's in my mind. I can't wait to fry potatoes in it. Since my primary motivation was to make Cassoulet I'll have a later post up about that as soon as it's done. This one meal has been a week long project.