Whenever I prepare duck meat, I try to add a lot of spices to attenuate the strong gamey flavor. The spice mixture I used in this recipe is a combination of dried red chilies, fresh oregano, cumin seeds, a cinnamon stick, star anise and fried onion paste. A little red wine vinegar brings these flavors together and also helps to tenderize the meat.
I seared the duck legs and then braised them in a red wine reduction and chicken stock liquid. The duck cooked slowly for a couple of hours until it almost fell off the bone. Don't be intimated by the amount of chiles in the recipe because once cooked, the meat is going to be extra flavorful and not overly spicy.
Stay tuned tomorrow to see what I did with the leftover duck meat and the spicy gravy.
Servings: 6 servings
6 whole duck legs
2 teaspoons cayenne powder
3 dried red chiles, stems
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons duck fat or vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly toasted
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns, coarsely crushed
1 cup Cabernet Sauvignon (or any red wine)
1 quart homemade chicken stock (or 2 16-ounce cans), warm
2 carrots, trimmed, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
3 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped
Trim the excess fat around the duck legs. Pat dry and sprinkle with cayenne pepper, a bit of black pepper and salt.
In a bowl, soak the chiles with 2 cups boiling water for 1 hour. Filter the water and reserve ½ cup of liquid.
In a large heavy-bottom pan or Dutch oven, melt the duck fat. Add the onions. Cook on high heat until slightly golden. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook until soft and tender, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a blender. Add the soaked red chiles, red wine vinegar, the reserved liquid, cumin seeds and fresh oregano. Pulse for 2 minutes until the mixture becomes a paste.
In the same pan, pan-sear the duck legs, skin side down for 8-10 minutes until nicely browned. Flip the duck legs and sear the other side for 2 minutes to create a crust and trap the juices. Turn the duck legs one more time so they're skin side down. Pour in the wine, add the cinnamon stick and the star anise. Scrape the caramelized bits from the bottom of the pan using a wooden spoon (called deglazing). Bring to a boil, then reduce the wine until syrupy. Once the red wine is concentrated, cover the meat with the spicy paste and add the chicken stock around the meat; it shouldn't completely cover the meat (about half way through). Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer. Braise until the duck meat is very tender and almost fall off the bone for 2 hours. Season with salt. Check seasoning. Add more salt and pepper if necessary. Cover one more time and extend the cooking time to 30 minutes.
Let cool to room temperature. Skim off as much fat as possible that rised to the top. When ready to serve, remove the duck legs from the braising gravy. Bring the gravy to boil and let reduce by about one third. Adjust seasoning, if necessary. Return the duck legs add fresh coriander and lower the heat until heated through.
Remove and discard the cinnamon and star ainse.
Note: The braised meat tastes even better the following day.
I used Cabernet Sauvignon. You could also only use chicken stock instead.
The meat tenderizer is red wine vinegar in this dish.
I buy duck legs at my favorite local market, the Milk Pail in Mountain View.
Duck fat is easily available in France; you can find it in specialty shops over here. You can also find duck fat online.