Just Ducky V: Braised Legs and (Optional) Backs, with Plum

This one owes a lot to the Zenbelly Cookbook, by Simone Miller .  It’s highly recommended (the book, not necessarily my adaptation of one recipe, although I seriously did enjoy this…).  I like her approach to wholesome food and a good variety of flavor.  She’s worked as a professional chef, and has a catering company named Zenbelly.  All her recipes are gluten-free.  The book is available both in paperback and on e-readers.    I’m looking forward to trying many of her vegetarian dishes as well as her seafood delectables.

Duck leg, Recipe, Plums, Duck

Duck Leg on Pan Drippings, Accompanied by Plums

My duck came out of the freezer with legs attached to the back.  You can separate them or leave them together, just smash them down so you can brown up the skin.  Or you can save up the backs (and/or necks) for future stock.  At any rate, I was surprised I hadn’t posted any leg recipes in my Just Ducky series!  I mean, I’d been getting the entire birds!  My last delivery (Marwin Farm) was a year ago, and these guys were lurking in the depths of the upright stand-alone, and it was time for them to see the light of the cooking pot.

Duck legs, Recipe, Onions, Duck

Onions ready to go!

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes to sear each load of duck, if you have more than fits to sear in one pot.  15 -20 minutes for onion (5 for shallot).  2 hours to braise in oven.  15-20 minutes with plums and crisping.  
Rest Time: 15 minutes.
Serves:  3-4.

Duck legs, Duck, Recipe

Duck after searing, before braising, and ready for the oven

Duck, four legs, optional two backs, optional necks.
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 really large onion, sliced (shallots are in the book, but I wasn’t going to dash out for two missing ingredients), or a couple small ones.
Ground pepper to taste
A few sprigs of fresh thyme (if you have — that was the other ingredient I didn’t dash out for, but thyme makes everything savory taste better…)
3/4 cup dry red wine
1 cup chicken broth/stock   (the total volume of these liquids may depend on the size of your braising dish. I eyeball and don’t measure this.)  Go for low sodium whether homemade or store-bought.  Or add less salt in yourself during the earlier stages.
About a pound of plums.  This is about 4 large ones, or maybe ten-twelve small ones (considering the latter have proportionally greater pits to flesh ratio).
About a tablespoon additional of that duck fat, for the plum stage.

Pre-heat your oven to 300 F.


Heat your oven-safe tall-sided Dutch oven or other appropriate large pot to medium high.  You can use a regular skillet but it’s nice not to have to dirty up additional pans.

Quickly salt your duck with just a little of the salt, both sides.

Add in duck, skin side down, it will generate its own cooking fat.  If the legs are connected by the back, smush it down so all the skin on that side has contact with the heat.  You may have to cut into it a bit so this works, but it should.

Sear about 7 minutes, not burning but browning.  Flip and sear another five minutes on the flesh side.

Remove duck and set aside.

Drain off all but one tablespoon of duck fat (reserve for duck fat purposes)!

Cook the onions or shallots in the same pan.  Shallots are ready by five minutes, for onions I often like to carmelize them lightly — so say 20 minutes in the skillet, turning often.  Add the rest of the salt, and some ground pepper.

Leaving the allium family members in the pot, introduce the liquids (wine and broth), and raise the heat to a boil, meanwhile deglazing the pan by using a spatula to scrape up any adhered bits in the pan.  Let this boil one minute.

Add the duck, skin side up.  The skin parts should be more or less above liquid level.

One interesting contribution from the Zenbelly Cookbook is the addition of parchment paper.  Cut or tear off enough to cover your legs and all, wrap directly over the top of the meat — she uses the word, “snug” — then cover the pot with a lid.

Oven Braising:

Braise in the oven for 2 hours.  If some of the duck has to overlap other pieces of duck, so be it.  It will still cook through in the same amount of time.

Remove from oven.  Do be careful removing the parchment — I’d recommend tongs and stepping back, as this will release steam.

15-Minute Roasted Plums

15-Minute Roasted Plums

Plum Wonderful:

At this point, one can either proceed ahead, or put the duck (once sufficiently cooled) into the fridge for the final stage at a later date.  I opted for the later, for two reasons.

1) I like to remove excess fat when something like this is cooked — reserved, in this case, since it will be nutritionally healthy duck fat from a local farm.  Once this dish is cold, scraping off the fat is child’s play.

2) Well, I also didn’t have the plums, but I just saw wonderful ones at my Whole Foods, better than I’d ever seen at any area supermarket, and this will give me the chance to go back and get some.  (And the duck had to be cooked when I cooked it, as I’d thawed it a couple days ago, so it was just like Floating Holidays at work: use ’em or lose ’em…)

In the immediate gratification case:  

If going to this next step immediately, I’d follow the Zenbelly advice and:

Pre-heat your oven to a toasty 450 F.

Put the duck into a separate pan, a wide cookie sheet is advisable so that everything can fit.

Rinse the plums and slice into quarters, removing the pits.  Use about 1 tablespoon duck fat to coat your plums, and place in the oven, in the pan with the duck, for 15 minutes, or until the skin crisps up.

Remove from oven and allow to rest, about 10-15 minutes.

In the original pot, your juices are still here.  Pour any plum drippings in, and bring to a boil.  Allow to thicken, 2-5 minutes.

Plate, either individual plates or the entire platter:  the juices / sauce first, the duck served skin side up on top of the sauce, and the plums arranged around the bird.

In the delayed gratification case:

The day you want to make the final meal, please pre-heat oven to 475 F.

Bring the duck out of the fridge and allow 25-30 minutes for it to come close to room temp.  Meanwhile, while it is still cold, scrape off and reserve any fat.  Fat without underlying stuff can last close to six weeks in your fridge.  Any underlying stuff will vastly decrease the shelf life to, oh, a week.

I think the duck needs more time to crisp up (20 minutes) in this scenario, while the plums will be cooking at the same time as in the immediate gratification method (15 minutes).  Besides, my wide cookie pan is hidden away somewhere (this is a disfunctionally-small kitchen, and so I store seldom-used things elsewhere).

In whatever pan you do use, cook the duck for about 20 minutes, or until the skin crisps up.  Remove, and cook the plums, coated with the aforementioned tablespoon of duck fat, for 15.

In the original pot, your juices are still here.  Pour any plum drippings in, and bring to a boil.  Allow to thicken, 2-5 minutes.

Plate, either individual plates or the entire platter:  the juices / sauce first, the duck served skin side up on top of the sauce, and the plums arranged around the bird.

This is GOOD!

Duck Legs, Duck, Recipe

Duck, after roasting, before crisping.

Don’t forget to reserve the bones for your next stock.

Duck Legs, Duck, Duck Fat

A little jar of nutritious duck fat.





About goatsandgreens

The foodie me: Low/no gluten, low sugars, lots of ethnic variety of foods. Seafood, offal, veggies. Farmers' markets. Cooking from scratch, and largely local. The "future" me: I've now moved to my new home in rural western Massachusetts. I am raising chickens (for meat and for eggs) and planning for guinea fowl, Shetland sheep, and probably goats and/or alpaca. Possibly feeder pigs. Raising veggies and going solar.
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