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?
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Take the legs out and skim as much of the accumulated fat off the sauce – a lot will have risen to the top!
- 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.
- Plate the duck with the sauce and a side of celeriac mash (if you wish).