I miss Paris. I’ve been home for almost two months now and not a day goes by that I don’t think about it.
I miss French food. I thought the ache might ease a bit if I cooked the oh-so-French Parmentier de Confit de Canard; a wonderful dish I learned to make at La Cuisine Paris. The recipe is very simple, but depending on where you live, some of the ingredients and equipment might be a little hard to find.
In an earlier post, Déjeuner in Paris, I mentioned that duck confit is sold in enormous tin cans in France. Inside those cans, tender ducks legs lay suspended in rich, flavourful duck fat. The only duck confit I could find where I live comes vacuum sealed and frozen, without the added fat. As a result, my Parmentier lacked the succulence that made the original so memorable. It was still delicious but a little less luxurious. A little less ooh la la.
Frozen duck confit is available at Save-on-Foods. Each package has two duck legs. Plan on one duck leg per person.
Piment d’Espelette is a smokey red ground pepper from the Basque region in the South of France. It has a special protected status from the European Union. I couldn’t find it in my area and instead of ordering it online from a specialty store I substituted smoked paprika. I didn’t notice any difference in taste, but it doesn’t play a starring role in this recipe. It’s a garnish that gets sprinkled on top of the finished dish.
For this dish, the mashed potatoes are flavoured with crème frâche, milk and butter. Crème frâche is a rich cream with a velvety texture and a slight tang. I did find this in my area and splurged on it, but I think you could easily substitute sour cream instead. (By the way, if you think adding cream, milk and butter is indulgent, you should see how they make mashed potatoes at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. They consider the correct ratio of potatoes to butter to be 2:1. Seriously. For every two pounds of potatoes, they add one pound of butter!)
Metal Pastry/Cooking Ring
You’ll need one to assemble the Parmentier. I bought mine from a specialty shop, and chose one that is 3.5 inches in diameter and 2.5 inches tall. Feel free to use whatever size you like.
Recipe – for 2 servings
adapted from La Cuisine Paris
For the potatoes
- Peel 2 small Yukon gold potatoes. Leave the potatoes whole and place in a pot of cold water. Bring water to a boil then cook until tender.
- Drain and mash them.
- Add 2 tbsp crème frâche (or sour cream) , 2 tbsp milk, 2 tbsp butter, salt and pepper to taste. If potatoes are a little runny, add more cream or butter. If potatoes are too stiff, add more milk. You want a consistency that is thick enough to hold its shape after you remove the ring.
- Pour a small drizzle of milk over the potatoes and leave it floating on top.
- Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and place it on top of a pot of simmering water to keep warm.
For the duck
- Discard the skin, pull the duck meat from the bones, and shred the meat
- Drizzle olive oil in a sauté pan.
- Add 2 finely minced shallots and sauté over low heat.
- Add shredded duck meat and a handful of chopped parsley.
- Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
- Heat until duck is hot and a light golden brown.
- Be careful not to let the duck dry out. Add more olive oil if necessary.
To Assemble (build a tower)
- Coat the inside of the metal ring with butter or cooking spray.
- Add a layer of mashed potatoes.
- Add a layer of duck.
- Add another layer of mashed potatoes.
- Carefully remove ring.
- Sprinkle with Piment d’Espelette (or smoked paprika) and sea salt.
It wasn’t the same as being in Paris but it did make me feel a bit better. Now if only I had a crispy, crusty baguette to go with it….