Duck Legs

My reaction, on tasting duck for the first time, was to wonder why we hadn’t hunted it to extinction. A damned tasty animal, be it roasted, fried, stewed, or, quiver, in confit. (More about that another time.)

Duck breasts – maigret de canard – are now fashionable and expensive. By comparison, duck legs are cheap. (And there is normally a spectacular glut of them at the start of Autumn, so keep your eyes peeled.)

Anyway, I used:

  • two duck legs (about 400g)
  • three King Edward potatoes (about 500g) but any kind of spud is fine
  • one large onion
  • half a bunch of thyme

Get the oven going at 180ºC. (I’m using a fan forced, so your mileage will vary.)

Find a small roasting tin you can put on the hob without it buckling, get it hot, and put the duck legs in, skin side down. No oil required. Turn the heat down to the lowish side of medium, so they’re gently sizzling, and starting to ooze fat.

Meanwhile, scrub the potatoes – no need to peel – and cut them into small pieces, about 2cm thick. If you just chop each potato into 2cm slices, and then divide those as you see fit, you’ll be fine. By the time you’ve cut up the potatoes, the duck will have oozed a layer of fat onto the bottom of the roasting tin. A good ten minutes or so: do check after about five that the skin isn’t going brown, as we’re just after a light gold colour.

Put the potatoes in and gently toss them in the hot fat. You may need to remove the duck for a moment in order to do this. Yeah. Hot fat. Be careful. Gluttony is transient, third degree burns aren’t.

Return the duck to the tin (skin side up, with the thyme spread out underneath it) and even out the potato into a single layer. Salt and pepper, and then into the oven. Check from time to time, and move the spuds around so they don’t stick. Inevitably some of them will. If everything seems to be crisping too fast, maybe turn the oven down a whisker.

After forty-five minutes, slice the onion lengthwise into eight segments – more if it’s huge – and peel. Pop these segments into the roasting tin, and roll them around in the fat. (If we put the onion in at the beginning it would burn.)

It should be done after another forty-five minutes, so ninety minutes in total. It’s difficult to overcook duck legs, but if they’re not in long enough, the meat will be cooked, but the connective tissue won’t have broken down, and they’ll be tough as boot leather. If the pieces of potato are too small, they may start to burn before the duck is done.

Once done (you can double-check by piercing the thickest part of the duck leg with a metal skewer and confirming the juices run clear) remove everything from the roasting tin onto plates, and deglaze the roasting tin with a splash of red wine or dry vermouth, to produce a tiny amount of sharp tasty sauce. Pour over and tuck in.

Note. The eating of duck legs is not a dignified process. Suggest you not serve these if the bishop is coming to tea.


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