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Old 01-24-2006, 08:13 AM   #1
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Translation of magret de canard and filet de canard?

Hi,

I live in Southwest France, where magret de canard is a pretty common dish. It's delicious, and the easiest thing in the world to cook (just score the fat, put the magret under the grill, fat side up, leave for 10-15 minutes, turn over, and then grill again for very little time on the lean side, so it's nice and pink in the middle. Voilà !).

Would the most common name in English be "duck magret"?

You see, I'm not sure about "duck breast" since I'm not at all convinced that the meat actually comes from the breast...

This is further complicated by the fact that I recently went to a store and bought filet de canard, which seemed to be pretty much exactly the same thing as magret!

My wife surmises that magret comes from force-fed ducks used for foie gras, whereas filet comes from ducks that have not been force fed.

I notice that confit de canard has gone from preserved duck to duck confit over the years.
Do most English speakers use the French word magret?

Best regards,
Alex R.

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Old 01-24-2006, 08:15 AM   #2
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Well, over here in the UK we use duck breast - I think your wife may be right about the force-fed ducks using the magret term... however, here in the UK we have never subscribed to that practice!
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Old 01-24-2006, 10:26 AM   #3
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Hi Alex,

Interesting question. I'm no expert -- I just like the French language and cooking (and eating).

So I looked it up in my Le Robert dictionary and found MAGRET defined as 'Filet (maigre) d'un gros canard'. To me, this indicates that magret derives from maigre, meaning lean, a correct adjective for duck breast (that is, without the skin & fat!).

While we know filet is a term used for cuts of various animal meat (beef, pork, chicken, duck) which does not always refer to the same part across the animals, magret seems to strictly refer to duck only (I haven't yet come across magret d'oie, or goose).

I think magret and filet of duck refer to the same part, which is the breast.
Supporting this conclusion is something I learned in culinary school: when we fabricated a whole duck, we basically just removed the two breast filets (and prepared them as magret de canard) and the two whole thighs with legs (for confit de canard). There wasn't any other part of the duck we could make use of. There was nothing else left of the duck that was substantial enough. Well actually, we could have made great use of the best part of our duck, its liver, if only it had been fattened first...

As to your wife's hypothesis, I can't hazard anything.

To your other question, in my part of the world, I sometimes see magret de canard in the menus of fine dining restaurants but more often than not, it's called breast of duck. I've never seen preserved duck legs though -- it's always duck confit on the menus. (I guess it's because the latter sounds more exotic and appetizing...)

For whatever this is worth...

Chopstix

P.S. Must be great living in your part of the world...!
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Old 01-24-2006, 10:37 AM   #4
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You don't see "magret" often in the US. Duck breast is the most common designation. A foreign language dictionary I found on the internet translates magret as grilled duck breast.

As to your wife's theory re: force fed vs. regular ducks - I think not, but cannot substantiate my thoughts.

Ask a local butcher.
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Old 01-24-2006, 11:28 AM   #5
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Thanks for all of your answers, especially to Chopstix.

Magret does indeed come from "maigre", but it's always sold with a very thick layer of fat!

You do come across magret d'oie, although it is less common. The goose meat tends not to be as tender, and thus less enjoyable grilled.

Duck legs tend to be much less tender than the magret, which explains why so many of them are made into confit (not really a dish that suits the climate in Thailand!).
You are right, there is not a great deal of meat on a duck. The other cut you find a lot is called "aiguillettes", which is defined this way by the Oxford-Hachette dictionary:

Culinaire (de bœuf) tip of rump steak; (de volaille) breast fillet; (mince
tranche de viande) fillet;

I would contest this definition (I run a translation business). I think the best English word is "strips" or "thin strips" (aiguille on its own means "needle"). These are delicious very quickly panfried and served with a raspberry vinegar reduction.

Because duck is so popular for: magret, confit, aiguillettes and foie gras, you can often find the carcass on sale for a pittance at the supermarket. You can turn this into an excellent soup!

All the best,
Alex R.
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Old 01-25-2006, 01:08 AM   #6
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Hi Alex,

From the sound of it, aiguillettes are similar to chicken tenders (some people call it chicken tenderloin). Chicken tenders are long strips of meat attached to the breast meat but towards the sides. It's normally trimmed off from the breast meat. If so, I recall now that in class, we did have to trim off some tender strips from the duck breast we fabricated. Interesting to know that it's called aiguillettes, and sold separately much like chicken tenders.
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Old 01-25-2006, 11:56 AM   #7
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Magret is, specifically, the breast of a Moulard duck. At least I am pretty sure of that.


A recent Rosengarten Report was all about different types of duck. I know I didn't throw it away, so will try to find it and provide more info.
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Old 02-18-2006, 06:46 AM   #8
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Gee, I can hardly find a duck to cook here!!!! When I do it is frozen and whole. It is frustrating sometimes! You guys are making my mouth water!!
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