Friday, May 12, 2006

Succulent Duck Legs

Adapted from The New York Times

• Braise (for the most succulent meat). Season with salt and pepper, put the legs, skin side down, in a pan; cover, and turn the heat to medium. When the skin has browned and much fat is rendered, turn the heat to low and cook 90 minutes, turning occasionally, until legs are very tender. Braised legs go especially well with sauerkraut.

• Slow roast (for the crispiest skin). This is about as easy as it gets. Place legs, skin side up, in a roasting pan and put the pan in a 300-degree oven. Roast 90 minutes or until fat has rendered and skin is crisp. You'll end up with leaner, somewhat drier meat, good for using in a hash for breakfast.

In either case, you may serve the duck legs whole or pick the meat off (if you like chicken salad, consider duck salad). Braising, roasting, sauerkraut, it all sounds so . . . European. But duck legs are equally at home elsewhere in the world. Thai green curry is perfect with duck. Duck meat makes superb enchiladas. And those crisp-roasted duck legs can be treated like a country cousin of Peking Duck: Roll the meat and skin up in a mandarin pancake with hoisin sauce and scallions.

Now, what to serve with your duck legs? In my experience, cabbage, green beans and potatoes go better with duck than any other vegetables. No matter how you cook your legs, you'll render some duck fat, a golden liquid that sends the typical chef into fits of glee. This is the cooking fat for your vegetables. Sauté some onion or shallots in it, add some cabbage or green beans and cook until beginning to brown, add some water or stock, cover and cook until tender. Go ahead and throw the duck legs in with the vegetables if you like.

If you have potatoes, especially good potatoes like fingerlings from a farmer's market, cut them into one-inch chunks, toss with duck fat, salt, pepper and thyme. Roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.

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