Over the Christmas break I had the good fortune of relaxing by the fireplace and catching up on my cookbook reading. I had a whole stack of books, each one as good as the other. So many recipes to try, so little time it seems. While reading Mimi Thorisson’s A Kitchen in France, I knew I wanted to hit the kitchen with a few of her recipes in hand.
The first of many that caught my eye was a recipe for Shepherd’s Pie made with duck confit. How absolutely clever, and ridiculously simple, I thought. Mimi makes her casserole with duck confit, and provides a recipe on how to confit duck legs (essentially, it’s a slow cooking method of braising duck legs in duck fat). I had two duck legs and two legs of confit duck that I purchased at the supermarket, and decided to make it with a combination of duck and duck confit. I roasted the duck legs in the oven after giving them a good sear on the stove. I then reheated the other two duck confit legs in the oven as per the instructions, and let all of them cool off while I boiled some potatoes for my mashed potato topping. Mimi keeps her topping pretty simple, with a bit of butter and some creme fraiche added in to make the potatoes nice and creamy. I didn’t have creme fraiche, so I added some sour cream and some light cream, and carried on.
Once the duck has cooled, you pull the meat off the legs, then add them to a pan of onions and garlic that you cook gently in butter. My daughter was hovering about the kitchen as I was making this, and asked if she could pull the skin off the duck legs. She quickly devoured the extremely crispy duck skin, and I then proceeded to shredding the duck meat from its bones.
Some red wine helps create a sauce with the buttery garlicky juices, and this forms the base of the pie. Topped with creamy mashed potatoes, this is my idea of a heavenly winter casserole meal. This was easy, and the flavours here are really simple but incredibly good.
My substitution of regular duck legs for confit ones was a huge success, and I wouldn’t hesitate to make it using only plain roasted duck legs next time. The garlic butter wine sauce helps to make everything juicy and tasty, and I would even make this with regular chicken broth instead of wine and it would probably be fabulous. Mimi used some shallots and parsley, which I did not have. I didn’t make any substitutions for that, and the dish was still spectacular. This is a recipe whose ingredient list is fairly forgiving…as most Shepherd’s Pie recipes are. So feel free to experiment with your own ingredients as you go along. The recipe below is Mimi’s own from her book, however my dish turned out fantastic even though I made a number of changes along the way.
A wonderful twist on a classic Shepherd's Pie recipe using duck confit instead of ground meat. This is Mimi Thorisson's Duck Confit Parmentier from her fabulous book, A Kitchen in France.
I've made a significant amount of substitutions (using a mix of regular roasted duck legs as well as duck confit, omitting the shallots and parsley, and subbing in sour cream and cream for the creme fraiche).
If you want to use regular duck legs, start by searing them skin side down in a hot pan for 5 minutes to start rendering the fat and crisping the skin, then bake them in a 400F oven for an hour). You can then proceed with the recipe below.
- For the duck:
- 4 duck confit legs (homemade or store bought)
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- A handful of finely chopped fresh parsley
- 2/3 cup dry red wine
- For the mashed potatoes:
- 3 pounds large russet potatoes (5 to 6), peeled
- 4 tbsp butter, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup creme fraiche
- fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Make the duck layer. Remove the skin and bones from the duck legs and shred the meat into bite-sized pieces.
- In a large saute pan, cook the onions, shallots and garlic in the butter over medium heat until tender and slightly golden, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Add the duck meat and parsley and cook for 2 more minutes.
- Pour in the wine and simmer to reduce for 4 to 5 minutes.
- Transfer to a 9 x 13 baking dish.
- Make the mashed potatoes. Put the potatoes in a pot, cover with salted water, bring to a boil, and cook until tender, about 15 minutes.
- Drain the potatoes, return to the pot, and mash with the butter and creme fraiche. Season with salt and pepper.
- Top the duck mixture with the mashed potatoes.
- With a fork, flatten the potatoes into an even layer. Sprinkle with Parmesan.
- Bake the Parmentier until golden brown, about 25 minutes.