Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Braised Duck Legs with Rutabaga, Leek & Celeriac

Decent chicken is surprisingly hard to get your hands on; thank you Chicken Farmers of Ontario. There's plenty of bland and woolly factory-farmed chicken out there, but it's not worth eating on several different fronts, not least the blandness and woollyness. Duck and other forms of poultry, however, are becoming more readily available and I'm starting to investigate them more and more as an alternative.

The first time I had duck was back in the mid to late '70's, when my mother decided to get a couple for Christmas instead of the usual turkey. For some reason it was a one time thing - actually I'm pretty sure they were not cheap and that Mum found the quantity of fat that they exuded disconcerting. Mum was a fat-conscious cook long before it became a general cultural obsession. Now, we all know that duck fat is not only delicious and versatile, but better for you by far than the margarines and shortenings that prevailed at the time, but at the time we just regarded it as a shocking amount of grease. When you get some, put it in a jar in the fridge and save it to roast potatoes in. It's good stuff; people rave about it.

However, that was the first and only time I was involved in cooking duck until I decided to try making Duck Schnitzel just a little while ago, and discovered that duck could be lean and easy to cook.

Not only is duck less expensive (relatively speaking) and easier to find than it was back in the '70's, you also no longer have to buy a whole duck if you don't want to. It's common to see breast pieces, with or without the skin and bones, and legs being sold separately. They are a good place to start experimenting with duck. Well, I say common. You are going to have to find a butcher who deals with duck; they don't have it at the corner store by any means. Yet! Maybe the day will come.

2 servings
3 1/2 hours - 1/2 hour prep time

Braised Duck Legs with Rutabaga Leek and Celeriac
2 cups peeled, diced rutabaga
2 cups peeled, diced celeriac
1 medium leek
2 medium duck legs (500 grams, 1 pound)
1/4 teapsoon black peppercorns, crushed
1/2 teaspoon juniper berries, lightly crushed
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups duck or chicken stock*, or stock and white wine combined

Peel and dice the rutabaga and celeriac. Trim the roots and any dark, tough leaves from the leek, and cut it in half-inch slices. Rinse and drain it well. Set the vegetables aside.

Cut any large, loose bits of fat from the duck legs, and render them slowly in a heavy skillet, with a little water if necessary. Once you have a good amount of fat cooked out (and no more water, so don't add much) and coating the bottom of the pan, add the 2 duck legs, and brown them well on both sides.

Preheat the oven to 250°F.

Remove the duck legs to a shallow roasting pan, placing them with the best browned skin sides up. Drain most of the fat from the skillet and reserve it for some other use. Leave about a tablespoon of it in the skillet though, and use it to slowly cook the vegetables. Turn them regularly, until they are softened and slightly browned in spots.

Sprinkle the seasonings, except the bay leaves, over the vegetables, and mix them in well. Remove the vegetables to the roasting pan, arranging them around the duck legs. Tuck in the bay leaves.

Deglaze the skillet with the stock or stock and wine mixture (use about 1/2 cup wine, if you have it.) Add any juices that were in the packet of duck legs. Pour the stock carefully around the duck legs, without wetting the tops of them if you can help it.

Braise the duck legs for 2 1/2 hours at 250°F, then turn up the heat to 375°F for another 30 minutes. Serve with mashed potatoes, rice or noodles.

*Or even water will work okay, although stock is better if it can be arranged.


Joanne said...

Duck is an ingredient that I really haven't worked with it all but it looks excellent here! Especially with these seasonal root veggies.

Cory said...

ahh, I am definitely bookmarking and hoping to cook this soon

Ferdzy said...

Cory, I'd like to hear what you think, if you do.