braised duck legs

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.

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.


Randomness San Francisco

pork happy hour at the fatted calf

The Fatted Calf is an amazing artisanal charcuterie based in Napa, CA. They also have a store in the Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco where you can purchase their delicious sausages, salamis, pates, confits and freshly-butchered, humanely-raised meats.

The Hayes Valley store (320 Fell St) hosts a Pork Happy Hour every Wednesday from 5:30 pm – 7 pm. The best part: they expertly butcher a whole hog right in front of your amazed eyes!!! Other great parts: free beer and snacks, custom cuts of meat, samples of their delicious wares and general pork-lover merriment.

If you are in the area on a Wednesday, check out the Pork Happy Hour. It doesn’t disappoint. And if you can’t make it out on a Wednesday, visit some other time and enjoy access to some mind-blowing charcuterie!

(Seriously, how awesome is that!)



pork belly with pomegranate molasses

This was our first foray into homemade pork belly and it turned out really well. (To be honest, I was worried, but Jordan really impressed me with this one).  He based his dish on a recipe by David Chang of Momofuku fame for Pork Belly Buns.

Pork Belly with Pomegranate Molasses

1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
4 cups water
1 1/2 lbs fresh pork belly (ours was from the Fatted Calf Charcuterie)
1/2 c chicken stock
1/2 c water

Brine pork:
Stir together kosher salt, sugar, and 4 cups water until sugar and salt have dissolved. Put pork belly in a large sealable bag, then pour in brine. Carefully press out air and seal bag. Lay in a shallow dish and let brine, chilled, at least 12 hours.

Roast pork:
Preheat oven to 300°F with rack in middle.

Discard brine. Cut pork into portion sized pieces and put it, fat side up, in an 8- to 9-inch square baking pan. Pour in broth and remaining 1/2 cup water. Cover tightly with foil and roast until pork is very tender, about 2 1/2 hours. Remove foil and increase oven temperature to 450°F, then roast until fat is golden, about 20 minutes more. Jordan also put the pork belly pieces under the broiler for a bit to really crisp up that last layer.

Serve with a splash of pomegranate molasses, a little acid to cut the delicious pork fat. Yummmmmmmm!