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Oven-Braised Duck Legs with Five-Spice Powder

braised duck legs with five-spice powder1

Most cookbooks I own have the same format: a list of recipes organized by protein, starch, or vegetable. Sometimes there might be a section dedicated to breakfast or dessert, but by and large it’s very straightforward. The one cookbook I own that doesn’t follow this format, however, is A Platter of Figs by David Tanis. This cookbook laughs in the face of such organization and instead groups the recipes first by season, then as a collection of menus. Thankfully, the index is as it should be, but organizing the book in this fashion had the effect of a food diary, where previously I had treated my cookbooks as recipe encyclopedias.

His recipe for Five-Spice Duck Legs is one of my favorites. And though it’s listed as part of a Spring menu, I think the heartiness (read: fattiness) of duck makes it appropriate for cold weather as well. While the duck did turn out as well as I expected, what took me by surprise the first time I made this were the onions. Oh, the onions. Meltingly tender and laced with the duck fat, they are ridiculously addictive.

When I made this the other night, I tweaked the recipe a bit since I have some kind of weird aversion to following recipes to the letter. For a faithful representation of the original recipe, look here. Served with bacony brussel sprouts and a crusty baguette, I started thinking how great this would be as a panini. Spread a layer of the onions on a roll, top with shredded duck meat and a final layer of the brussel sprouts. Drizzle with jus and maybe a splash of balsamic vinegar or some orange zest to brighten it up. I suppose you could add shredded gruyere but it would certainly be rich enough as is.

Hmmm…maybe I should double the recipe next time to have leftovers.

Oven-Braised Duck Legs with Five-Spice Powder
Adapted from A Platter of Figs by David Tanis
- serves 2 -

2 duck legs
2 medium onions, sliced into 1/4″ rounds
1 teaspoon minced ginger
4 garlic cloves, smashed
2-3 cups chicken stock
1-2 teaspoons five-spice powder
sugar
salt and pepper

1. Trim the duck legs of excess fat and season the duck with salt and pepper. Sprinkle generously with five-spice powder and massage the seasoning into the mix. Cover and refrigerate the seasoned duck legs overnight.

2. Heat a dry frying pan over medium heat and when the pan is warm, place the duck legs skin side down. When the skin is browned (about 8-10 min), remove the legs and set aside.

3. Adjust your oven rack to a lower middle position and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

4. Add the onions to the pan. Cook for about a minute and season with salt and a pinch of sugar. Continue cooking onions until translucent and starting to turn golden, then add the ginger, garlic, and some salt and pepper. Cook for an additional minute until the garlic and ginger are fragrant.

5. Put the onions in a casserole or other roasting pan that will snugly hold the legs. Lay the duck legs skin side up over the onions in a single layer. Put the casserole, uncovered, in the oven and roast for 10 minutes.

6. While the legs are roasting, heat the chicken stock to a simmer.

7. Add the stock to the casserole, until the stock is about half way up the sides of the legs, taking care to leave the top skin exposed. Continue cooking until the stock comes back to a full simmer (a few minutes).

8. Cover the casserole, and reduce the heat to 375 degrees F. Cook for 40 minutes.

9. Uncover the casserole and spoon away some of the liquid if it’s covering too much of the skin. Continue cooking for an additional 20 minutes to let the skin crisp up a little. Note that I wouldn’t call the skin crisp, but uncovering the casserole prevents the skin from being soggy.┬áThe next time around I may experiment with cooking the duck uncovered the entire time. The duck is ready when the legs are tender when prodded with a paring knife.

10. Remove duck legs from the casserole and cover loosely to keep warm. Strain the onions and the liquid (jus) in the casserole with a mesh strainer over a bowl. Let the jus stand for a minute or so and then skim off the fat.

11. To serve, place a duck leg over half the onions and spoon some of the jus over.

    One Comment

    1. salaid nasar says:

      very good idea

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