Chefs don’t cut the fat, preserve tradition by serving up classic duck confit

Chefs don’t cut the fat, preserve tradition by serving up classic duck confit – On Food

Florence Fabricant

A creamy mushroom soup served at Daniel Boulud’s DB Bistro Moderne in New York is poured over strips of duck confit nestled in the bottom of the bowl. The duck adds texture and flavor to the soup. Boulud makes his own duck confit.

But at plenty of other operations, prepared duck confit purchased from an outside source will go into the soup or a salad or will be served just reheated and plated with stewed lentils. Indeed, there are menus across the country that feature duck confit one way or another.

Confit is a term that has come into general use on menus, usually meaning preserved in fat. It was a time-honored method of putting up meats like duck and goose, slowly cooking them covered with their own fat and then keeping them cool sealed in the fat. Meats cooked in that fashion are richly succulent. Today vegetables, fruits and fish are cooked in fat as “confit,” but duck still prevails.

Generally, it is only the duck leg that is given the confit treatment, and it is a classic ingredient in cassoulet. The breast usually is seared or grilled medium-rare.

Cassoulet for two with white beans and duck confit, smoked bacon, garlic sausage and roasted pork loin is served at Liaison in Berkeley, Calif. Similarly, a cassoulet is made with duck confit on the menu at Le Petit Robert in San Francisco.

At John Andrews Restaurant in South Egremont, Mass., a seared heirloom duck breast is paired with the confit leg, a typical combination, and served with mashed potatoes, local braised Swiss chard and a maple-balsamic syrup. At Strawberry Hill in Lancaster, Pa., Jamaican jerk-spiced duck breast is served with the leg confit, and it comes with ivory barley and dried cherries, cashews and spinach drizzled with cilantro oil.

Vincent’s on Camelback in Phoenix offers honey-glazed duck confit with fingerling potatoes as well as duck tamale with Anaheim chile and raisins in which duck confit is buried in the cornmeal for the tamale. At Fresh in San Diego, the duck is prepared in two ways: one involves the crisp, roasted breast and the other offers the leg confit in a cherry gastrique, which cuts neatly through all the fat. The Magnolia Grill in Durham, N.C., pairs duck confit with succotash.

In late summer at the James Beard Foundation, Jeffrey Russell, the chef at Desert Sage in La Quinta, Calif., prepared a duck confit summer tartlet with red pears, Vidalia onions, nigoise olives, micro arugula and aged balsamic vinegar.

At a dinner billed as a great regional chefs” reunion at the Beard Foundation, one of the reception tidbits was a tartlet of foie gras and duck confit with a cherry compote. The participating chefs were Patrick Coston, the pastry chef of Ilo in New York; Trey Foshee at George’s at the Cove in La Jolla, Calif.; Jason Knibb of the Sundance Resort in Sundance, Utah: Michael Kramer of McCrady’s in Charleston, S.C.; and Michael Symon of Lola Bistro in Cleveland.

Lapis in San Francisco tops flat bread with duck confit, taleggio cheese and a drizzle of white truffle oil. That restaurant also fashions a main course combination of pomegranate molasses-glazed duck breast with Swiss chard bundles filled with barley and duck confit and with medjool date and apricot chutney on the side. At Sage in New York, pappardelle are dressed with duck confit and sweet peas.

Though duck confit is inherently French, it is finding its way to other cuisines. For example, at Straits Cafe, a basically Singaporean restaurant in San Jose, Calif., one of the small plates is duck kapitan made of marinated duck confit served in a pandan crepe. And at Trader Vic’s in Emeryville, Calif., the Oriental duck confit is garnished with fresh soy beans, daikon and enoki mushrooms.

But at D’Artagnan in New York, the traditional approach, duck confit with lentils, is preferred.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Reproduced with permission of the copyright holder. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group