Canned Cassoulet au Confit de Canard

Roasting duck is a pretty involved process.  I’ve done it once or twice in the past and have always been pretty happy with the results.  However, the process of rendering the fat off the bird is not for the faint of heart so if I can avoid it, I do.  I order duck out at restaurants often and when I’m in France I buy a lot of it in a can.  Yep, a can.

I buy big old honkin’ (pun intended) cans of six leg/thigh combos packed in enough duck fat to swim in.  The confited fowl work well in the oven by themselves or I’ve also used them to make a delicious sauce for pasta that includes a squeeze of fresh lemon.  Flavor city.  I have never eaten that meal without a short nap afterward.  It’s that good.

So imagine how intrigued I was during my last visit to France where I sampled duck cassoulet.  I’ll admit that I had never had cassoulet before but I’m glad I tried it.  It’s a good mix of beans, sausage, spices and tasty duck legs.  Little NH managed to steal most of the pieces of duck off my plate.  I was willing to share just to let her widen her gastronomic horizons.  Eating it at the base of a castle didn’t hurt my mood either.  Or the wine.  But I digress…

Fast forward to the last day in France where my wife told me to stop at a grocery store to stock up on wine and any other local goodies.  For me that means wine, foie gras, canned duck and, lo and behold, canned duck cassoulet.  Très bien! (Or, SCORE! in English.)  The cans ran about 15 euros if I recall correctly.  They’re big and they expire in 2015.  Not that they’ll last that long.

I opened one up last weekend and surveyed the goodness inside.  Beans, four duck legs and four sausages.  I quickly split it into four equal portions and froze two in ramekins for a bit later.  The flavor was better than anything from a can deserves to be.  The duck was perfectly prepared, the sausage was delicate and full of flavor while the beans and seasoning helped to balance the whole dish and act as a counterweight to the intense richness of the meats.

I paired it with a Chardonnay to cut some of the heaviness of the dish.  It would have worked just as well with a light French red.  I can also imagine doing this with a Duvel and having it work out very well.

So yes, great things do come in a can – and not just those hot tamales I used to eat back home.

Sherried Duck Empanada Recipe

Duck Empanadas

After a ridiculously delicious Saturday night, I found myself in the house on a rainy, cold Sunday.  I also found myself with two duck leg/thigh combos in the fridge and a wife that blew me away by saying, “Let’s make duck empanadas.  I’ll make the dough.”  Giddyup!

A few hours later, I was cradling a puffy, golden sherried duck empanada in my hand marveling at the result of husband and wife teamwork.  In the other hand I was holding a glass of la Gitana Manzanilla.  On my face was a big, fat grin.

Here’s how it all went down…

For the Filling:

2 leg/thighs of duck (skin on)
salt and pepper
1/2 can of beer
1 diced red pepper
1 diced onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cup dry sherry (Not La Gitana Manzanilla!  But an oloroso would also be good in this recipe.)
1/2 cube beef bullion
1 tablespoon cumin
1/2 tablespoon chili powder

Season the duck with salt and pepper and pour the beer in the bottom of  a casserole.  Bake covered for 2 hours on 350°F.  Bone and shred the cooked duck and discard the skin.  Reserve the beer and duck fat juice from the casserole.  Place the shredded duck meat aside.

Sauté the pepper, garlic and onions in the oil and gradually add spices, bullion and sherry.  Let the sherry cook off and then add some more.  Add a few spoonfuls of the beer/duck fat juice for flavor.  Add shredded duck and cook until moisture is an empanada filling consistency.

For the Dough:

Have your wife find a good empanada dough recipe and then say, “Thanks for doing this!” a lot while she rolls the dough and fills the empanadas.  Oh, be helpful and turn on the oven and chill the Manzanilla.  She’ll be grateful.