Restaurants & Bars 3

Redux confit

carswell | Feb 12, 200808:37 PM

Longtime readers of that other board may recall my affection for duck confit and my quest to find the city's best purveyor of it. (If not, google "who makes the city's best confit de canard" and follow the, uh, web tracks.) Of the two dozen or so establishments I put to the test, two stood out: Anjou-Québec -- which has two versions (one traditional, i.e. packed in jars and aged, and one modern, i.e. cryovaced and possibly even cooked sous vide) -- and, above all, Le P'tit Plateau (if possible, call the kitchen 514 282-9909 beforehand to give them time to package the legs before you drop by; they also sell takeout cassoulet (!)). The legs from La Girondine, a farm near Frelighsburg run by a couple of French transplants, also got two thumbs up, though the operation appears to have changed hands and I haven't tasted the confit -- available by special order through the Fromagerie du marché Atwater -- since.

Of course, in the nearly three years since I last posted to that thread, I haven't given up my duck confit addiction. Yet no new suppliers of note have appeared on my radar. And a recent comparison of Le P'tit Plateau's and Anjou-Québec's cryovaced products found the former as good as ever and the latter a little less resplendent than in 2005.

Last weekend, Les Fermes St-Vincent, the organic butcher at Jean-Talon market (they also have a store at Atwater market), was selling cryovaced duck confit for the first time since I've been frequenting them. Far be it from to pass it by. The legs are large (but lankier than LPP's moulard legs; could they be from muscovy ducks?), coloured a rich brown and packed with some fat. Didn't note the price -- they were part of a larger order and I don't think I was given a receipt -- but am pretty sure they don't come cheap.

For testing purposes, I use the Alain Loivel (chef-owner of LPP) reheating method -- now enshrined in Paula Wolfert's *The Cooking of Southwest France* -- which involves placing the legs skin side down in a baking dish or skin side up on a rack in a pan and baking them in a 400ºF oven for 15 to 20 minutes. My side was a thick stew of Puy lentils with carrots, lardons, thyme and winter savory, always a hit.

The duck emerged from the oven lean-looking. About a quarter cup of fat -- a little scant -- had been rendered. The skin was brown but not particularly crisp and had very little subcutaneous fat. While the meat was neither stringy or tough, it didn't have the melting succulence that's one of the hallmarks of perfect confit. It was also astonishingly undersalted and tasted as much like roast duck as duck confit, albeit a very high-quality roast duck (good enough that the bone was gnawed clean, though most of the skin remained).

Final verdict: while this was the best confit I've found at the Jean-Talon Market (bettering Prince Noir, Les Vollailes et Gibiers du Marché, Le Canard Goulu, La Boucherie du Marché and Première Moisson), Le P'tit Plateau and Anjou-Québec shouldn't lose any sleep. Good in a pinch or for inclusion in a cassoulet but in no way memorable. Sigh.

The wine was the 2000 Château Tour Pibran, a cru bourgeois from Pauillac in the Médoc. One of the findings of my earlier quest was that a tannic red from southwest France (Madiran, Cahors, Gaillac, Fronton, Bordeaux, Buzet, etc.) make a natural match that wines from outside the region (California Petite Sirah, French Côtes du Rhône, Uruguyan Tannat, etc.) can only approximate. This wine did nothing to dissuade me from that conclusion.

Boucherie les Fermes Saint-Vincent
7070 Henri-Julien
514 271-0209

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