Food #9: Confit de Canard
Confit de Canard smells.*
It pongs like the arsehole of a rabid badger, which has been mysteriously coated with ghee.
[Insert your own Brian May jokes here.]
Tipping it from its jar, pulling a face like Alan Rickman sniffing kippers, I decided it was probably the second worst edible food stuff I’d ever whiffed.**
“I hope it smells better once it’s cooked,” said my wife.
“I hope we don’t get botulism,” was my reply.
We’d bought the duck confit from The Cheese Hamlet in Didsbury the same day we picked up this little lot…
…and were so full when the time came to eat it, we decided to simply have it on its own rather than as part of a full meal.
Before I inflicted the noxious odour on my poor nose, I had to melt the preservative duck fat by placing the closed jar in a pan of boiling water. Once done, I removed the duck legs from the gloop, placed them in a roasting tin and poured the fat back over the top.
It smelt much better after 20 minutes cooking in a hot oven. In fact it smelt bloody marvellous.
I found myself thinking of the Waterside Inn and the scent of its eternally-roasting ducks – an aroma so heady I couldn’t help but open the door to my room every ten minutes just so I could breathe it in.
The first taste was a big wow. When you eat as much terrible takeaway crispy duck as I do, it’s easy to forget what a properly-cooked leg should taste like, and the flavours here were leagues away from even my highest expectations. A jucier and more succulent piece of duck I have never had.
But it was to get better. A lot better, in fact. I’d heard people say that the best bit about duck confit is the crispy skin, but there was nothing crispy at all about the gelatinous membrane on these legs, which had all the gluey consistency of watered spunk.
I’m not particularly shy about what I eat, but this looked disgusting so I scraped it off and moved it to the edge of the plate. Lost in the bird’s moist flesh, I’d completely forgotten about it until my wife piped up to ask me if I’d tried the meat with the fat yet.
“You definitely should,” she urged. “It’s amazing.”
And amazing it was. Again my mind went back to a great meal, this time at Hibiscus, when I had duck foie gras for the first time. The flavour of the confit dish was just so much more potent with the fat involved; an intense ducky taste, light years beyond that of your pan-fried breast and other standard duck fare.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the confit wasn’t as good as the foie gras at Hibiscus or the whole-roast duck at the Waterside Inn. If you tasted them one after another, you’d think I was insane; these two limbs, which had spent god knows how long basting inside a spreadable heart attack, would not compare.
But the greatness of the duck confit – from the moment it was in the oven to the last ounce of meat I picked off the bone – was that it was good enough to help me relive a small portion of these incredible experiences in my own home, for a fraction of the cost, and with a minimal amount of effort.
There was nothing revolutionary about it; nothing that I’d I miss if I didn’t eat it again for as long as I live. But I will eat confit de canard again, definitely. I’ll eat it again, and again, and again and again.
Why? Because it was easy. And – more importantly – it was absolutely delicious.
NEXT UP: Raw Oysters
*I should probably say, for any new readers, that this is one of my Foods To Try Before You Die. I would normally mention this in the main text, but I forgot, so here you go!
**Without a bit of badger rectum added to it, ghee smells far worse.