Christmas dinner in Paris – The buck stops for the duck

6 Jan

Confit de Canard, the buck stops for the duck at G.Detou Photo by Jennifer FlueckigerVoulez-vous ceci . . . ,” the woman to the side of the counter put her hand in her armpit and waved her elbow around like she was trying to fly.

 “. . .ou cela?” She balanced on one leg and shook the other.

People in the long queue behind me were enjoying the show.

“We don’t need to speak French to provide good service,” she said—or probably something like it—and took a little bow.

I shook my leg and held up 5 fingers, “Pour cinq personnes, s’il vous plait.”

More giggles from the crowd.

My parents and I were at G. Detou (58, rue Tiquetonne), stop number two on a culinary walking tour of Paris drawn up by a good foodie friend. The store’s name is a pun, according to Paris food author and writer Clotilde Dusoulier. “G. Detou” sounds like “J’ai de tout“, meaning “I have everything” and I believe it.

Friendly service at G.Detou Paris Photo by Jennifer FlueckigerThe store is divided into two parts. One was packed to the rafters with weird and wonderful foodstuff and ingredients from all over France. Some of it I recognised: chocolate, mustards, teas, large bags of fresh nuts, fruit in jars, and sardines. Much I did not know existed or how  it might be used: flavoured essences, metallic edible balls, flower petals, a multitude of different sugars and honeys. Fresh food like meat and fish were in the second section located in the store front next door.  

After 15 minutes in the queue, I was finally in front of the counter and, with the help of a few charades, had just ordered the main event of our Christmas dinner: Confit de Canard.

My first exposure to Duck Confit was at my landlady’s house in May. She graciously offered to loan me a scarf for a wedding and make me dinner.

“I think the first one is the best: the white one with the small flowers,” she said.  I looked at the 6 scarves laid across the bed.

“Which one?” I asked.

Sardines at G.Detou Photo by Jennifer Flueckiger“The one with the tiny flowers . . . ,” she said and picked up one of the scarves. “This one.” She handed it to me. It was white, but the blue flowers on the scarf were the size of volleyballs. My landlady functioned so well I often forgot she was almost totally blind.

Misidentifying the scarf was no big deal but I was very concerned about dinner.  Before we went to her room to choose a scarf, she arranged white, frozen duck legs in a pan and said they would only take 10-15 minutes to heat through in the oven. Frozen to cooked in 10-15 minutes? Had she taken the wrong pan out of the fridge and not noticed? Clutching the large patterned scarf to my chest, I was anxious about how to politely handle a situation where we all cut into raw, cold duck legs.

However, they weren’t raw and were steaming hot.  The duck legs hadn’t been frozen at all. The white film I saw as she arranged the legs in the pan was duck fat, not ice crystals. To make Duck Confit, duck legs are salt cured and then slow cooked. To preserve the legs, they are submerged in duck fat and stored in a can/tin. The fat, solid at room temperature, clings to the skin, and melts while the legs heat.

Ahh, my first duck confit—the tender, tender meat and the rich, salty, plumy taste—where had it been all of my life?

Despite my description of heaven, I had a bit of convincing to do when I suggested duck confit to my husband a few months ago. 

“Meat from a tin?” he asked.

It did feel so wrong to venture into a foodWindow at G. Detou Photo by Jennifer Flueckiger area also populated by Spam, corned beef and Vienna sausages, but I had tasted the truth. I knew I needed to be brave and bought a tin of Confit de Canard from Monoprix, an upmarket supermarket. I reasoned that if I paid mre for it, it would have to be good.

I put the tin in a bath of warm water to melt the fat.  I removed the legs and put them skin side down in frying pan. I threw in some sliced potatoes to let them cook in the duck fat.  When the skin was crispy, I served the legs with the fried potatoes and green beans. After one bite, my husband declared with a big smile, “This is Christmas dinner.”

And so it was, and mighty tasty, too! 

I would like to say a special thank you to my parents and  friend who helped make Christmas dinner such a treat.

Mom, Dad and the shop that has everything Photo by Jennifer Flueckiger

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15 Responses to “Christmas dinner in Paris – The buck stops for the duck”

  1. Sion @ paris (im)perfect January 6, 2012 at 12:02 pm #

    Delicious! Thank you *so* much for having me over for Christmas dinner. Confit de canard is one of my absolute favorite dishes. And as someone who rarely cooks, the fact that it comes from a can – though disconcerting at first – makes it all the more cool for being so convenient.

    • Jennifer Flueckiger January 6, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

      Sion,
      It was a real pleasure to have you with us on Christmas. Yes, it’s convenient and delicious. I think duck confit will be on my Christmas table for many years to come. Thanks again. x

  2. christinainlaos January 6, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

    Wow. I’m regretting my newfound vgetarianism! Although I’m pretty sure that Buddhist vegetarians are flexible if the meat is very very delicious…

    • Jennifer Flueckiger January 6, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

      I am sure you are right about the flexible buddists. A good friend in Paris says that her weakness for Duck Confit is the only reason she is not a true veggie. Great to hear from you and hope all is well in Laos! x

  3. parisbreakfast January 6, 2012 at 2:00 pm #

    I love that shop but it is full of land mines…
    I can’t enter for the Brittany caramel au beurre sale smiling in the vitrine at me.

    • Jennifer Flueckiger January 6, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

      Yes, and the wall of chocolate . . . Best to leave any healthy eating resolutions at the door.

  4. Mary Kay January 7, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

    Many thanks to you and your landlady for this post! I’ve only eaten confit de canard in restaurants and always assumed that it requires hours of labor in the kitchen. I love the description of your shopping trip to G. Detou and the good-natured response of the saleslady.

  5. Deborah Thompson January 7, 2012 at 10:16 pm #

    Fantastic Post Jennifer, as usual! Really loved hearing about your experience. Now I want to try Duck Confit too! Thanks for sharing with us.

  6. Liz's mom January 7, 2012 at 10:41 pm #

    very cute parents; i would go crazy in a store like that – what fun

    • Jennifer Flueckiger January 10, 2012 at 8:52 am #

      Susan, I thought of you and liz when I was in the store. Next time you guys take a trip to Paris I will pass on my friend’s top foodie spots. Take care

  7. Kathy Morby January 10, 2012 at 1:14 am #

    Hello Jennifer!! So fun to see your mom again – I order duck where ever I find it which is not a lot of places even here in the desert. Beaux Arts, French of course is the best – they do breast with fig sauce…YUM – Kathy & Bill

    • Jennifer Flueckiger January 10, 2012 at 8:53 am #

      Kathy and Bill, So glad to hear from you both and hope you are well. I think I want to go to Beaux Arts! Hope to catch up with you soon.

  8. Annie GL February 10, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

    You schweet lil’ thang, I can’t believe you’ve never eaten this before! They sell it in Valvona and Crolla and Harvey Nicks by the way – if you can bear to go into either of them – so you needn’t go without when you get back to the frozen north. Come to think of it, if that’s where you’re planning to shop, the whole fur coat thing might work for ya too…

    Bisous

    Annie GL x

  9. Daniel Ford from walletsforwomenreview.com December 3, 2012 at 7:56 am #

    Set the duck legs skin side down, in one layer, in the skillet. Cook the duck legs low and slow over low heat to render the fat. This process may take a while, don’t rush that.

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