Mâche, feminine noun (la mâche, de la mâche, but one doesn’t say une mâche or des mâches) = lamb’s lettuce.
Not to be confused with the verb mâcher = to chew (je mâche, tu mâches, il/elle mâche, nous mâchons, vous mâchez, ils/elles mâchent)(= I chew, you chew, he/she chews, we chew, you chew, they chew). Do you remember the lost ‘s’ denoted by the circumflex accent (^)? This comes from masticate, (mastiquer en français).
Il ne mâche pas ses mots = he doesn’t mince his words, he’s not afraid of plain speaking.
Lamb’s lettuce is not as frequently used as other salads, but it is becoming more “fashionable”, especially since it is now presented ready washed in packets. That’s the problem with lamb’s lettuce, it’s tricky to wash, because it grows on sandy soil which get stuck between the lower leaves. But it is worth the trouble, its emerald green adds sparkle to any dish, and it has a pleasant chewy texture and fresh flavour. I bought my mâche fresh this morning from a local farmer.
My recipe today is for a croustillant de canard sur lit de mâche (crispy duck on a bed of lamb’s lettuce). Let me explain. It consists of a cuisse de canard confit (a duck leg and thigh preserved in duck fat), and radishes and lamb’s lettuce. I think in our family it was my brother who first cooked a cuisse de canard confit crispy this way, my son also does a great version, but some people, in the south west of France particularly, thought it pretty heretical. I find it less rich and definitely economical, as one duck leg and thigh will do two people.
You will need for 2 people as a main dish:
- one cuisse de canard confit (I used a frozen cuisse, tinned is better for this recipe, there is more duck fat)
- a couple of good handfuls of mâche
- about 10 good sized radishes
- a little raspberry vinegar, salt and pepper
- Wash the lamb’s lettuce in a basin of water, swishing it around so that any sand falls to the bottom. Repeat several times with fresh water.
- Dry delicately in a tea towel.
- Nip off the root end but try to keep the rosette whole, it looks better.
- Clean and trim the radishes. Dry.
- Arrange the lamb’s lettuce on two plates, slice the radishes.
- Unless you make your own, duck legs are sold in tins surrounded with duck fat. Remove the duck leg leaving a little fat around it.
- Place it in a heavy frying pan, one which is not going to be damaged by the shredding process, warm it up, and with two forks, remove the meat from the bone; discard the bone, but keep the skin.
- While continuing to heat the meat, separate it with the two forks until it is completely shredded.
- Gradually pour off the duck fat (into a pot which you will keep for frying vegetables). Keep stirring and shredding the meat, turning it frequently so that it crisps on all sides. And continue pouring off any excess fat.
- When the duck is golden and completely crispy, divide it in two and arrange a little pyramid in the middle of each plate.
- Sprinkle half a tsp raspberry vinegar over the salad (not over the duck), and add several grinds of black pepper and some fleur de sel or salt flakes.
This dish is not as fatty and rich as plain confit, because the grease has been progressively poured off. And the thick salad leaves offset the duck perfectly.