Canard – Duck. Duck on French Menus.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman


Photograph courtesy of photophilde

Duck will be on far more menus in France than those in North America or the UK. The recipes that include duck are also far more interesting than most of those you may see at home. When visiting France, be ready to include their excellent duck dishes in your plans.

This post includes many of the most popular farm-raised ducks on French menus and a few of the most popular duck dishes. However, with the significant place that ducks hold in French cuisine, there is too much for a single post in a food blog. Consequently, there are separate posts for canard sauvage, wild duck, for foie gras, fattened duck's liver, and magret de canard, duck's breast.  

Farm-raised ducks on French menus:


Canard à l'Orange or Canard à la Bigarade – Roasted, farm-raised duck, cooked in an orange sauce. This is one of the most famous duck dishes. The sauce is usually made with the mildly bitter Bigarade or Seville oranges; the sauce's recipe will include a liquor or a dry white wine.


Duck in orange sauce.

Photograph courtesy of Geoff Peters


Magret de Canard  aux Figues Fraîches   Duck breast prepared with fresh figs. 


Salade d'Aiguillettes De Canard et Foie Poêlé A salad of slices of duck served with lightly fried duck liver.


Confit De Canard, Sauce aux Prune Duck confit served with a plum sauce. Confits began long before modern refrigeration and were made by cooking the meat in its own fat and juices. After cooking, the meat would be preserved under a layer of its own natural fat in a glazed pottery container and kept in a cool place for the winter. A confit would not have been invented today; everyone has refrigerators. However, the unique taste that a confit creates keeps the recipe popular. When Confit de Canard is on the menu, do not pass it by, all the fat will have been removed before serving, and the taste is unforgettable. NB: In French, a prune means plum, and a prune is a pruneau, pronounced prune-oh.


The other duck confit


The dish above is the traditional confit. Other confits will be on the menu, and modern duck confit would be on a French menu as a Canard Confit (not a Confit de Canard as in the menu listing above). Canard Confit indicates a duck very slowly cooked, usually roasted on a low heat over several hours, until the flavors set and the meat practically falls off the bone.


Duck confit with roasted peaches and cherries.

Photograph courtesy of Ann Larie Valentine


Emincé de Canard Réduction au Miel et Jus de Viande - Slices of duck served with a sauce made from honey and the meat's natural cooking juices.


The French connection and the English kitchen


Emincé in French means sliced, not minced. Emincé, like many other words used in the English kitchen, came to England with cooks of William the Conqueror, and his barons invaded England from Norman France in 1066. All the French cooks employed English workers and taught them hundreds of words that have become part of the English language, even if their original meaning has slightly changed. has the origins of the French word emincer meaning to "make into small pieces." For more about the French connection and the English kitchen, click here.


Magret de Canard du Sud-Ouest, Sauce à l'Orange et KumquatPommes Façon Anna aux Herbes Duck breast from France's South-West served with a sauce made with oranges and kumquats, accompanied by herb-flavored Anna potatoes. The kumquat or Chinese orange is a very small orange family member and used for its intense flavor. France's southwest includes the department of Dordogne in Nouvelle Aquitaine and continues further south. The southwest is famous for its ducks and geese and its many other contributions to France's cuisine; the department of Dordogne is renowned for its Cuisine Périgourdine.



Photograph courtesy of gianna elena


Anna Potatoes


Anna potatoes are thinly sliced potatoes baked in butter in a casserole. This dish was created by Adolphe Dugléré, a pupil of the most famous chef from the era of Haute Cuisine Antonin Carême. Adolphe Dugléré was the Chef de Cuisine at the famous 19th-century Parisian restaurant, the Café Anglais, where an important customer was Anna Deslions. Anna was one of Paris's most famous courtesans. She entertained her wealthy customers in one of the restaurant's upstairs rooms and brought in so many customers that she had a dish named after her.


Pommes Anna - Anna potatoes.

Photograph courtesy of Meilleur du Chef.


Salade Du Canard (Gésiers, MesclunMagret FuméVinaigrette Au Vin Rouge) - A duck salad with duck gizzards confit, a salad mesclun, and smoked duck breast served with a red wine vinaigrette. This is about as close as you may get to a Salade Périgourdine without calling it one. It is considered a poor sign of a chef's abilities if his or her salad uses only one or two types of lettuce or salad greens. A salade mesclun initially indicated a green salad with at least five different salad greens. A salade mesclun may also indicate a mixed salad with five or more ingredients, though not all need be salad greens. Included may be Haricot Vert, France's popular green beansmache, lamb's lettuce or corn salad; and two or three different varieties of lettuce, as well as rocket or another herb chosen for color, texture, and taste. In season a chef may add asperge, asparagus.


A Salade Mesclun.

Photograph courtesy of Jason Lam


Canard Rôtie - Roast duck.


Canard Sauvage - Wild duck.


Caneton aux Cerises – A roast male duckling, served with a cherry sauce.

Duck terrine with blackcurrant jelly.
Photograph courtesy of Alpha.

Canard Colvert – The mallard duck.  

Canard Colvert – The mallard duck. This duck is both farm-raised and the most common wild duck in France. Colvert means green collar, the identifying mark of the male duck. This is a tasty, lean duck.

A pair of Mallard ducks, the canard colvert.
Photograph courtesy of Jean

Wild mallard ducks may be on the menu between the end of September and the beginning of February. The wild or farmed mallard ducks should not be confused with the Canard Moulard. 

The mallard duck in the languages of France's neighbors:

(Catalan - ànec collverd), (Dutch - wilde eend), (German – stockente), (Italian - germano reale), (Spanish - añade real).

Canard de Barbarie – The Muscovy duck.

Canard de Barbarie – The Muscovy duck. A very large duck that originated in South America and is farmed in France.


Suprême de Canard de Barbarie Rôti, Coulis de Vin Rouge - Breast of roast Muscovy duck served with a puree of cooked fruits flavored with red wine.

The Muscovy duck in the languages of France's neighbors.

 (Catalan - ànec mut) (Dutch - muskuseend ir barbarieeend (German – moschusente), (Italian - anatra muschiata , anatra di barberia). (Spanish - canard musqué, canard de barbarie), (Latin - cairina moschata).


Canard de Barberie.
Photograph courtesy of La Ferme de Belair 

Canard de Challans – The Challans duck.

Canard de Challans or Canard Challandais Label Rouge  The Red Label, farm-raised ducks that come from the area around the town of Challans, in the Pay de Loire. Challans is famous for its chickens, capons, turkeys, geese, guinea fowl,  quail, and ducks. Among all these, the most admired includes the Canard de Challans, the Challans duck. The Challans ducks are a cross that developed from wild ducks and domesticated ducks brought from Holland in the 17th century; now, they are part of food history and maybe on your menu. All the Challans poultry holds the Label Rouge, the red label, for their consistent quality. For poultry, a red label also has strict requirements on how the animals are raised; they must be free-range for 95% of the time that they are being raised. No growth hormones or antibiotics may be used, and neither may any animal-based feed be fed to them, and there are also strict limits on the number of ducks in a specific area. The rules are enforced, and without prior warning, there are spot checks made on all the farms that raise the poultry. Red Label poultry costs 25% more than other poultry, but in France, 20% of the population willingly pays the difference.


Poitrine de Canette de Challans Rôtie au Miel et Graines de Coriandre  - Breast of Challans duckling roasted with honey and coriander seeds.


Duck soup
Photograph courtesy of shivery timbers

Canard Moulard – The moulard duck

Canard Moulard The moulard duck, a cross of the Pékin duck (the Long Island duck), and the Muscovy or Barbary duck. This is an exceptionally large duck. It is the duck most often used for duck foie gras, fattened duck's liver.

Smoked moulard duck breast
Photograph courtesy of Edsel Little

Canard Laqué – Peking Duck

Canard Laqué or Canard Laqué au Pékin  The French name for the Chinese dish of Peking or Beijing Duck.  

The benefits of France's 19th-century search for an Asian empire may be enjoyed in the thousands of Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants in France. These restaurants are often owned by the descendants of immigrants who arrived after 1857 when Napoleon III decided France needed an Asian presence and created French Indo-China that included Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The ancestors of others came after 1898 when France sought to have a Chinese colony similar to the British colony of Hong Kong and signed an agreement with the Chinese for Guangzhouwan in 1898. However, Guangzhouwan had none of the success that Hong Kong had, and the region was returned, after WWII, to China in 1946. Guangzhouwan is now called Zhanjiang with a population of over 10,000,000 and is a major deep-water port and center for container ships.

This is not a post on Chinese cuisine in France; however, I believe that a correctly cooked and decorously served Peking Duck is both a tasty dish and excellent restaurant theater. When available in a recommended Chinese restaurant, it certainly should be considered.

Beijing (Peking) Ducks.
Photograph courtesy of Franklin Heijnen

Canard Pékin – The white Pekin duck.
In North American the Long Island duck.

Canard Pékin  The white Pekin (Peking) duck, also called in North America, the Long Island Duck is lean and tender and the most popular duck in North America. The Long Island Duck is a distant descendant of the mallard duck from China. The name Canard Pékin creates confusion for English speaking visitors with the French Canard Laqué au Pékin (Peking or Beijing Duck).

The Pekin or Long Island ducks
Photograph courtesy of Nezih Durmazlar

Long Island ducks in the languages of France's neighbors:

(Catalan - ànec xerraire), (German – hausente), (Italian - anatra domestiche, pechino), (Spanish - pato blanco doméstico, pato Pekín blanco), (Latin - anas platyrhynchos).

Caneton Rouennais – The Rouen duckling.

Canard à la Pressé or Canard à la Rouennaise  – Pressed duck; still made using its over 120-year-old recipe.

The duck used for Canard à la Pressé or Canard à la Rouennaise is the Canard de Rouen, a farm-raised cross with the mallard duck that together with the recipe originated in the capital of Normandy, the city of Rouen. The recipe for Canard à la Rouennaise calls for a duck to be partially roasted, then its legs and breast are separated. The rest of the duck, bones, and all, are then are placed in a special press that crushes the carcass to make a sauce from all the juices. The duck breasts will be served, as is usual in France, rosé, lightly pink, while the legs will be grilled. The breast and legs will be served covered with the duck sauce. Part of the preparation and serving of Canard à la Pressé is wonderful restaurant theater, much as it was when the dish was created over 120 years ago. 

A duck press at the Tour d'Argent
Photograph courtesy of Wine Spectator

As far as possible, I have kept away from naming restaurants and chefs; there are too many changes over the short term within restaurant kitchens, chefs leave, and menus change. For up to date recommendations on restaurants, there are many magazines and newspaper articles available. However, Canard à la Rouennaise is a unique dish that is still made and served as it was in 1890 at the Parisian restaurant La Tour d'Argent, Paris. I think that over one hundred and twenty years is about long enough to be sure they will not make sudden changes in the recipe when a new chef arrives! The dish was created when in 1890, Frederic Delair bought the restaurant La Tour d'Argent and introduced the dish called Canard à la Rouennaise as his particular contribution. In 1911, the Terrail family purchased the restaurant after the death of Delair in 1910. They have kept much of Delair's original menu, including Canard à la Rouennaise. The grandson of the original Andre Terrail, who bought the restaurant in 1911, is the owner in residence today. The restaurant's wine cellar is said to include part of the wine cellar from the original wine cellar in the legendary Café Anglais, a wedding gift to Andre Terrail's grandparents for their wedding. The Café d'Anglais closed in 1913; who knows if any fabulous wines from the 1800s remain? If you cannot reserve a table at La Tour d'Argent, many other restaurants offer their authentic versions of Canard à la Rouennaise.

The special presses used to make Canard à la Rouennaise are sometimes seen as decoration in restaurants outside France. In the early twentieth century, many restaurants had copied this recipe and offered the dish accompanied by the requisite theater; unfortunately, that is no longer true. Canard à la Rouennaise requires a team of very well-trained waiters for each table, apart from the chef in the kitchen, and that is not inexpensive.

Long before McDonald's were numbering the number of hamburgers they had sold, La Tour d'Argent was delivering your half of a Rouennaise duck along with a certificate. The certificate indicates the exact number of your half-duck. If you order Canard à la Rouennaise in the Tour d'Argent today, you will know the precise number of yours in a long line of these half-ducks served since 1890. 

Ordre des Canardiers
Photograph courtesy of Rouen - Normandie Tourisme & Congrès

To protect and enhance this part of the French gastronomic heritage, along with other recipes for the Rouennaise duck, there exists L'Ordre des Canardières. Freely translated, that is the "The Order of Duck Lovers." L'Ordre is similar to other confréries, brotherhoods, and sisterhoods that promote their particular culinary preferences. Today L'Ordre has over 2,000 members, and they come from all parts of France and from all over the world. L'Ordres members all proclaim their love for recipes made with the Rouennaise duckling. At their annual dinners, they award their highest decoration, the Canardières d'Honneur, to its most outstanding members. If you wish to defend the honor of this exceptional duckling, you too could be a member.

Cane – A female duck; the male is a canard.

Canette  A female duckling.

Caneton – A male duckling, less than two months old; the female duckling is a canette. French menus that offer duck do not usually distinguish between a canard, a male duck, and a cane, a female duck. However, I have met a gourmet who claimed to be able to taste the difference. 

Canard Roti aux Clementines
Duck roasted with clementines.
While citrus fruits originated in China or its immediate area, the clémentine is a hybrid that developed in Algeria. The accepted story has a local monk, Clement Rodier (1829-1904), as the clementine's creator. Clement either accidentally discovered or was personally responsible for crossing a regular orange and a mandarin in the garden of an orphanage he ran in Algeria.
Photograph courtesy of Marie Claire, Cusine et Vins de France.


Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman


Copyright 2010, 2015, 2017, 2020. 


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