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Duck Legs braised in Port-Soaked Cherries October 17, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Braising, Duck, Entree, Recipe.
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6 large duck legs, including thighs
1 tbsp. coriander seeds, lightly toasted
1-1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
1 tsp. allspice berries
1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 tsp. fleur de sel (or coarse salt)
1 cup tawny port
1/2 cup dried cherries, unsweetened
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
2 cups chicken stock

Time to prepare: 3 hours + overnight prep.

Difficulty: 6/10

Serves: 6

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There are five general steps to preparing this dish:

1. Prep – Duck is coated in a dried spice mix and refrigerated overnight. (Overnight)
2. Sear – Duck is browned in a hot pan. (30 minutes)
3. Prepare Braising Liquid. (10 minutes)
4. Braise – Duck is cooked in braising liquid, covered, for two hours. (2 hours)
5. Finish – Duck is dry-cooked, and sauce is made from braising liquid. (20 minutes)

Step One – Prep

Duck legs: Without cutting into skin, trim off excess fat. Place legs in a shallow bowl or sealable plastic bag. In a spice grinder or a mortar, combine coriander, peppercorns and allspice, and grind until coarse. Mix in thyme and coarse salt. Rub mixture evenly over duck legs. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Cherries: Soak cherries in port, covered, for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Step Two – Searing

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Heat a shallow braising pan or skillet to medium-hot. (I have made this dish using only a single shallow braising pan or bistro pan for steps 2 through 4. Some people prefer to use a separate skillet and braising pan, for the searing and the braising, respectively.) Sear 3 duck legs, skin side down for 8 minutes. Leave them undisturbed, checking only to ensure that they are not aticking and burning onto the pan. There is no need to add oil or butter to the pan before searing — enough fat from the duck will coat the pan suitably within seconds. Turn legs over and sear for 4 minutes. Remove duck legs and drain excess fat from pan. Repeat process for the other 3 duck legs. Reserve one tbsp. of duck fat after searing.

Step Three – Braising Liquid

Return searing pan to medium heat with 1 tbsp. duck fat. Add sliced shallots and cook for 2 minutes. Add cherries and port-soak to pan and reduce by half. Add stock and bay leaves and simmer until reduced by half.

Step Four – Braising

Arrange duck legs flat in the bottom of a shallow braising pan or bistro pan. Pour braising liquid over duck. Cover pan with parchment paper and close lid. Cook in the oven for 1 hour. Turn duck legs over and cook for 1 more hour. Reduce heat to 275 or 300 if liquid appears to be evaporating rapidly.

Step Five – Finishing

Remove braise from the oven. Turn on broiler. Remove duck legs from liquid and transfer to a baking sheet, skin side up. Broil duck legs on middle rack for 8 to 10 minutes, or until skin is crisp. Remove duck legs from broiler, cover, and keep warm until served (holding warm duck no longer than 15 minutes.)

While duck is broiling, prepare a sauce from braising liquid. Using a gravy separator or a large flat spoon, remove as much fat and oil from liquid as possible. “Hammer” braising liquid in a sauce pot at highest possible heat until thick and saucy, adding salt and pepper to taste if needed. (Do not over-reduce sauce or it will burn.)

Serve duck leg, accompanied by sauce.

If holding for one or two days, store duck legs and sauce separately in refrigerator. Skim fat from sauce before reheating. Gently re-heat duck legs in sauce, adding 1 or 2 tbsp. of water if needed. Finish duck legs under broiler, as above, and serve immediately.

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