Sweet + Savory + Crispy Skin = Braised Duck Legs in Pear, Craisin and Balsamic Sauce

Duck Leg with Pear, Currant and Balsamic Sauce
Ever have one of those weekend nights that you just cannot figure out what to eat? It’s not because you’re not hungry or that you don’t really feel like cooking, but more because you’ve been lucky to have eaten so many diverse flavors throughout the week and just can’t get your tastebuds to want anything? Ok, maybe you haven’t, but last weekend we felt very disconnected to cooking and just couldn’t agree on what flavors we were desiring. We had eaten Indian, Japanese, Italian, Mexican and a steak that week. Anything with a soy, tomato, coriander or cumin-base was out. And then it hit us, we needed something savory and sweet and we needed some crispy-a$$ skin. Duck. Yes. We want duck. Pears, got some pears. Let’s do it. And so we came up with this fabulous meal. It was the type of meal that, while eating it, you just smiled and knew this was the only thing that would satisfy those discerning tastebuds.

This meal was fabulous and so easy to make. It could wow dinner guests and, if you can find some cheap legs, will cost next to nothing per plate.  Crispy skin, sweet sauce, creamy side dish – what else could you ask for?

Duck Leg with Pear, Craisin and Balsamic Sauce

  • 2 juicy, deliciously plump duck legs
  • 3/4 cup, white wine
  • **2 cups stock (chicken or veggie)
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 whole stems of thyme
  • 3 shallots, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup dried craisins/dried cranberries (currants would work too)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
  • 2 pears, peeled and chopped into squares

**RE: Amount of Chicken Stock: You may need more or a little less stock depending on the size of your dutch oven/pot.  The key to keeping the skin of the duck legs crispy is to not allow the level of braising liquid to go over the skin.***

What to do:

  1. Trim some of the excess fat off the leg. Score the fat on the duck legs to create “diamonds” (meaning, cut 3 lines one way and 3 intersecting lines the other way – but do not cut deeply into the meat, only score the fat).  Rub salt  and pepper all over the legs.
  2. In a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, cook the duck legs, skin/fat side down until lightly browned, about 3 or 4 minutes.  Turn over and brown on the other side for one minute.  Remove legs and allow to rest on a plate for a few moments.
  3. Add garlic and shallots along with a bit of olive oil (if not enough fat rendered out of the duck legs) and allow to cook for one minute. Deglaze the pot with the wine and add the balsamic. Scrape up the bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon and allow the wine to reduce for a minute or two.
  4. Add the thyme, pears and craisins and stir.  Put the legs back, skin side up, into the pan along with any accumulated juices. Add the stock, but do not allow the liquid level to go above the duck leg skin. You don’t want to lose the crispy skin. Bring to a boil and then lower to a gentle simmer. Cook at a low simmer for 1 1/2 hours, uncovered.
  5. Take the legs out and skim as much of the accumulated fat off the sauce – a lot will have risen to the top!
  6. Run the sauce through a sieve and smush down all the good bits (cooked pear, garlic, shallots) to get as much of the flavor out as possible.  Return the sauce to the pot, add the sugar (leave out if you feel it is sweet enough!) and boil sauce for 3 minutes to thicken it.
  7. Plate the duck with the sauce and a side of celeriac mash (if you wish).

34 thoughts on “Sweet + Savory + Crispy Skin = Braised Duck Legs in Pear, Craisin and Balsamic Sauce

  1. yes, claudia… i hate the word “craisins” too. very cheesy. i guess we could call them dried cranberries, right? maybe i’ll update the recipe and title…ha ha ah.

  2. I know the feeling…sometimes it’s hard to choose after successive meals of big and bold flavors but it looks like you made the right choice. And the duck leg looks cooked to perfection.

  3. Ducks legs go for about $1.50 per at the Chinese grocery. Love it.

    You know, I’m totally with you on the palate fatigue for ethnic flavors lately. Gimme some regular cookin’ and I’m happy. Spaghetti and marinara with garlic bread is right up my alley right now, but I certainly wouldn’t kick your duck and mash outta bed. 🙂

  4. Oh my, sounds quite delicious, I love this kind of combination of flavours and textures. , the pear is inspired and the duck looks incredible.
    I went sweet and sour this week (in more ways than one) maybe it’s because we can sniff the change of seasons.
    I have got some killer lardo di colonnata at present, thought of you both when I bought it (really) – highly flavoured fat, love it.

  5. oh my god…that looks AMAZING….I MEAN AMAZING!!!! I feel like Duck is always satisfying when you don’t know what you want to have for dinner, no?? xoxo

  6. Nice save…we all get fickle…lots of bookmarked recipes, tons of blogs to visit and we still get stumped for dinner ideas!

    Love the scoring on the duck, surely flaky and the pear on the side makes this “special”!

  7. I think I know what you mean about the varied meals you ate. I experience it too because at the end of the week I don’t feel wanting for anything at all! (Because I’ve basically eaten everything. :-P) Would love to get my duck skin as crispy as yours!

  8. I’m a little confused, is the duck cooked on the stove? If so, do you put the legs under the broiler at the end to crisp the skin?

    It really looks delicious and I’m very curious to hear how you got the skin evenly crisp.

  9. EGGGGcelent question, mr. marc. and i’m glad you asked. in fact, if anyone would ask that astute question, it would be you. bravo.

    the liquid only went up to the already super-seared skin (say that 3 times fast) of the legs. so they were super crispy to begin with and we made sure the level of the braising liquid never went above the skin. it did cook on the stovetop, uncovered, so the skin was never able to “decrisp” if that makes sense.

    thank you for this observation b/c i can see how this could be confusing. i’m going to change a few things in the recipe right now. in fact, the amount of liquid may be different depending on the shape and size of your cooking vessel. i used my dutch oven that is oval in shape.

    now i’m all sorts of confused! but that you for pointing this out. changing recipe now!

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