When cooked properly, duck legs are so much tastier than the breast meat. Early in the season when the birds have yet to bulk up, however, some hunters think it’s not worth keeping the legs. Are they ever missing out! You just need to keep in mind that duck legs are highly exercised muscles, so they must be cooked slowly, usually in moist conditions. The first few steps of this recipe are similar to preparing a confit, or preserving, although I sometimes prefer to cook duck legs in a flavoured stock with citrus and herb elements, making for a lighter finished product. Serves 4.
4 duck legs, excess fat removed
¼ cup olive oil
½ yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Pinch each salt and black pepper
3 tbsp chopped parsley
4 parsnips, peeled and sliced thin
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 cup chicken stock
1 oz Pernod
1 cup mango juice
¼ cup honey
Salt and black pepper, to taste
2 sprigs thyme, chopped
Place legs in a glass container and sprinkle with oil, onions, garlic, salt, pepper and parsley. Rub ingredients into legs and place in fridge to marinate overnight.
The next day, remove legs from marinade; scrape off excess ingredients, place on paper towel and set aside.
Heat a non-reactive pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic from marinade, along with parsnips and fennel, and lightly sauté for 2 minutes. Add chicken stock, Pernod, mango juice and honey, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer.
Add legs and thyme, and gently cook, uncovered, for 1½ to 2 hours; when done, meat should be very tender but not falling off the bone. Strain out and set aside vegetables, then reduce remaining liquid by half and reserve for basting.
The duck legs can be quickly crisped up on the barbecue or in the oven, basting a couple of times with the reserved liquid. Serve with reserved cooked vegetables and creamy polenta.
For the Glass
With its cherry and cranberry characteristics and hint of vanilla, this Pinot Noir from the Niagara Peninsula’s EastDell Estates has an earthy palate with notes of mushroom and raspberry. It pairs exceptionally well with wild duck.