Braised Duck Legs

Ever get a craving for duck confit?

Duck confit takes an absurd 5 hours to cook, but that’s not the problem (at least not the problem that I have a solution to). The problem is that the duck is slowly poached in a vat of its own fat, and the duck is expensive enough as is; who wants to go out and buy an additional vat of duck fat?

Turns out that there’s a way to braise the duck legs to get the same flavor, and instead of buying duck fat, you’re producing duck fat.

You will need:

duck thighs

onion

carrot

garlic

red, white, or cooking wine

broth/stock/water

some herbs…whatever you want. I had some parsley and bay leaves and some generic seasoning in my cupboard so I used that.

salt and pepper

FIVE long hours. This is a fun activity if you plan on having a TV marathon.

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The ingredients: I found moulard thighs, which are bigger than Peking duck thighs (lol), and takes an extra hour to cook. Peking duck thighs would have taken 4 hours, like that really makes a difference. I like mushrooms, so I got some mushrooms. I also like shallots, so I added those as well. All these recipes are pretty flexible as long as you stick to the idea… you can add celery or some tomatoes if you like (in which case you want to decrease the wine because tomatoes are pretty acidic), but don’t add broccoli, things with leaves, or fruit.

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Wash your veggies. Last I checked the piles of dirt on the mushrooms carry nutrients more suited for worms than people.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

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Trim your duck. Even if you plan on keeping the duck fat, you want to do this because when you eat the duck, you don’t want a big ole’ fatty skin attached to it. You’ll see what I mean. All these pieces of blubber was just hanging off the duck with no meat nearby.

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The chopped veggies along with a couple of crushed garlic cloves go at the bottom of the pan. As the fat from the duck melts, it will slowly cook the veggies and the flavors will mix and soak everywhere. Yum.

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Place the duck skin side up on top of the veggies. Try not to overlap the duck, but keep it tightly packed so you don’t lose all your precious duck juice.

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Season generously with salt and pepper. DO NO use any other flavoring right now, because it will burn to a crisp on top of your duck.

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Bake for 2 hours for moulard thighs, 1.5 hours for peking thighs. It will turn a nice deep brown. This just looks reddish because of the light. No need to check this. Enjoy House of Cards, but set an alarm.

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When it’s done, pretty much all the liquid you see is oil. Put the duck, oil, and everything including the crackly black bits at the bottom into a stock pot.

I needed to cook a second batch. If you didn’t overspend and buy too many thighs, please skip past the next photo and paragraph.

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Here is my second batch. There are no veggies on the bottom because it will braise with the veggies later. I put the extra fat in here that will turn into cracklins. I might even eat them if I feel like I worked out really hard one day, and my blood cholesterol is too low.

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Once the second batch is baked, add everything to the stock pot. The oil actually comes up 2/3 to 3/4 of the way to the top. I wouldn’t have needed much more oil for confit, but I’d still rather braise this. Add white wine and water in equal portions repeatedly while keeping the fire on medium. You don’t want everything to boil just yet. You want it to be warm enough so the oil floats cleanly to the top. You can use chicken or vegetable stock here instead of water. I spent two hours making everything taste like duck, and I’ll be darned if my sauce ends up tasting like chicken!

Do not go gently into the oil. It’s A LOT of oil. You can ladle like no tomorrow until you see a layer of seasoning floating between the fat and the brown broth.

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POUR THE OIL THROUGH A STRAINER.

Do not cook with dirty oil.

I yielded three jars of clean golden duck oil. I put 2 jars in the freezer and 1 in the fridge. To the left, you see the cracklins that I fished out of the oil in the oven (from the second batch). You want to fish them out crisp and hot straight from the oil and put them on a paper towel to dry. You can season them with salt and pepper and eat to your hearts delight and possible stoppage. If you plan on eating fried animal skin regularly, keep your phone nearby at all times.

The bowl on the bottom right is the messy oil and stock at the end that I ladled out. it has too much seasoning and stock and random other things to strain, so I’m just going to let it congeal and throw it out. Don’t pour oil directly into your drain. It will make this meal even more costly when you have to call the handyman. Always let the oil set (in the fridge if you have to) and throw it away as a solid.

Let the stock pot come to a boil and then cap the pot and turn the fire down to low. Simmer for 90 minutes for moulard and 60 minutes for pekin thighs.

**this is where you adjust the flavoring of the broth. Add any additional herbs, more garlic, whatever… here!***

You know it’s done when you stick a fork in, and it glides out. The thigh shouldn’t budge when you pull the fork out.

When you’re ready to eat….

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

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Place the duck thighs like so in a baking pan all cosy and friendly.

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Strain out the stock from the vegetables.

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Pour the stock into a pot and reduce it by about half. Then pour the stock over the duck legs.

Put the duck legs in the oven, and baste every 10 minutes until your arms get tired, you burn your hands, or the stock turns into a syrupy glaze. After 30 minutes my duck skin was crisp again and I got hungry, so I stopped. Everything is cooked at this point anyway. I put the stock back over the stove and reduced it into glaze.

*** taste and adjust the glaze! Mine was a little too sour, so I let it cool down a little and sprinkled in *tiny tiny* amounts of baking soda at a time, always tasting and stirring. Don’t go crazy on the baking soda even if you’re in love with the coco because you’re going to make a volcano. remember school? ***

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And here it is. Voila. It tastes just like duck confit.

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We threw it in some pasta, and it’s a meal! Actually we had this for dinner, and then I had duck different ways for lunch for three days. I think I’m ducked out!

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