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Braised Duck Legs with Figs, Star Anise, and Winter Squash

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Serves 6

  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 109

Koren Grieveson’s use of duck legs in this hearty one-pot is inspired—they make the dish special without being difficult to prepare. Plus, the duck becomes meltingly tender as it braises, soaking up all of the rich flavors of the sauce.

  • 6 (12- to 16-oz.) fresh duck legs, trimmed of excess fat
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs. canola oil
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 medium celery stalks, cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces
  • 6 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. dried figs, stemmed and thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1 (2-1/2- to 3-lb.) winter squash (such as red kuri, buttercup, or kabocha), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-1/2-inch cubes
  • 6 to 8 cups lower-salt chicken broth
  • 1 Tbs. Champagne vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Tip:
Save any leftover duck fat to make roasted potatoes or French fries.

Season the duck legs with 1 Tbs. salt and 1-1/2 tsp. pepper. Heat the oil in an 8-quart Dutch oven or other heavy-duty pot over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Working in 2 batches, put the duck legs in the pot skin-side down and cook until the skin is very well browned and crisp, about 10 minutes (reduce the heat to medium if they brown too fast). Use tongs to transfer them to a large plate. Drain off all but 2 Tbs. of the fat from the pot (save the fat for another use).

Add the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic to the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the garlic is just starting to turn golden-brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the figs, thyme, and star anise, and then stir in the squash. Arrange the duck legs skin side up on top of the vegetables and add enough chicken broth to cover the duck by about 1/2 inch, up to 8 cups—it’s fine if a few of the legs on top aren’t completely submerged. Increase the heat to high and bring the liquid to a boil. Add 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and cook until fork tender, 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Turn off the heat and let the duck rest in the juice for 15 to 30 minutes; then skim off and discard the fat from the surface of the sauce.

With a slotted spoon, distribute the vegetables among 6 plates or mound them on a platter. Top with the duck legs. Stir the vinegar into the sauce in the pot, and then drizzle the sauce over each serving, or serve the sauce on the side (you won’t need it all). Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

Serving Suggestions

Steamed brown jasmine rice is the perfect accompaniment.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 660; Fat (g): fat g 21; Fat Calories (kcal): 190; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 5; Protein (g): protein g 48; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 10; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 75; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 4; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 1030; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 165; Fiber (g): fiber g 12;

Photo: Scott Phillips

Absolutely a delicious preparation for duck legs - company worthy. But I question adding the squash when the recipe directed. My squash came out way overcooked. Next time I will add the squash later or perhaps roast it basting it with some of the pan juices.

Rendering the duck fat from the legs results in a lot of fat, mess and smell before guests arrive. I found this dish just okay -- the spices a little underwhelming, too many figs. Typically, most Fine Cooking recipes are pretty close to flawless. The guests enjoyed it and some had seconds but I found it to be lackluster.

The dinner table review was, "The best duck I have ever had." A couple of suggestions: Don't cook the duck legs too quickly. Cooking them slowly will render the fat from the skin more thoroughly. Be sure to cook on both sides. Layer vegetables and figs and place duck legs evenly on top. Do not cover duck with broth, there is too much broth in the recipe. Place in 325 degree oven with the lid cracked slightly so that some of the broth can evaporate. Bake for an hour and test vegetables and duck for doneness. Done this way, the duck will be crispy an the vegetables not over cooked. This is wonderful.

This is a wonderful recipe, easy to make and full of flavour. I followed the recipe and found the vegetables to be overcooked for my liking. I will definately make this again but I will try adding the vegetables after the Duck and onions have cooked for about about 45mins. Otherwise we loved it.

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