braised duck legs

Posted on April 18, 2011

The answer is always pork … except when it’s butter … or when it’s the topic of today’s post: duck fat!  I’ve been wanting to experiment with duck for quite some time, so I rode down to the Fatted Calf, picked up 2 duck legs and got to work.

I began by scoring the fat in a cross-hatched pattern so that it can render out.  I then seasoned the duck with salt, let it rest, and prepared mirepoix (half an onion, a carrot, and a stalk of celery, all finely diced).  Once everything was ready, I got to rendering. Just put the duck skin side down in a skillet over low heat and you’ll see the lovely fat fill the pan.

The picture above was after about 20 minutes and there was no fat in the pan when I started!

After you’ve rendered off most of the fat and the skin starts to brown (about 3o-40 minutes), flip and repeat on the other side.  Since there is much less fat on the other side, it will render much more quickly (maybe 5-10 minutes).  Remove the fat from the pan and save it; don’t throw it away!  Increase the heat to get good browning on both sides of the duck.  Remove the duck, lower the heat to medium, add the mirepoix, and cook until the onion is translucent (2-3 minutes).  Deglaze with about half a cup of wine, add a cup of broth, and bring to a simmer.  Put the duck back in the pan, cover, and place in a 300 degree oven for 2.5-3 hours.  I also added a sprig of rosemary, some fresh oregano, and a couple cloves of garlic for good measure.

Once the duck is tender, remove it from the oven, set aside and keep warm.  You can make a sauce from the braising liquid if you’d like.  When you’re ready to serve, just throw those legs under the broiler skin side up until it’s brown and crispy.

Conclusions:
This was delicious and a simple sauce made from the braising liquid added some nice flavor.  I just took out the herbs and then blended, strained, slightly reduced it, and adjusted the flavors in accordance my current mood.  This dish was also quite easy because you leave it alone most of the time; while the duck was rendering I was in the kitchen reading for school, and the rest of the time I simply ignored it all together.  One final thought: the same rendering technique can be used for duck breasts as well if you feel like being fancy, just render the skin side nice and slow until it’s brown, then sear the other side over high heat until medium-rare.

-Jordan