I don’t know what surprised me more: learning that Mark Bittman will no longer be writing his Minimalist cooking column for The New York Times, or learning that he had written 700 columns over the course of thirteen years. He will continue with a recipe column in the Sunday magazine and will also write pieces on the politics of food and food production for the Opinion page, but his entertaining weekly recipes and videos have come to an end.
Until those recipes are compiled into a book (I would hope and assume), I’ll work on cooking some of his favorites. I decided to start with his Crisp-Braised Duck Legs. How could I resist this description?
If I were you and could get my hands on duck legs (my supermarket routinely sells them, but you might have to try a specialty store), I would make this dish as soon as I had the time – it’s that good. The vegetable flavor is intense, the textures are near-perfect and the technique is foolproof. It is a grand seasonal dish, the kind you would gladly eat at a neighborhood bistro, were you lucky enough to live near such a place.
I had four duck legs and two cups of duck stock in the Deep Storage Facility, so I thawed them out and got ready to make a simple but tasty weekend meal. In addition to the legs (trimmed of excess fat, which I later rendered and saved) and stock, I diced a half pound of carrots, three celery stalks, and one leek. I crushed and peeled six cloves of garlic and set aside six sprigs of fresh thyme.
I seasoned the legs with salt and pepper, then browned them in a skillet over medium heat.
I removed the legs from the pan, poured off (and saved) almost all of the rendered fat, and added all of the vegetables and thyme. I browned the aromatics over medium-high heat, adding a bit more salt and pepper.
I returned the legs to the pan and poured the stock around the edges. After spending al that time getting the skin crispy, I didn’t want to soak it with stock.
I placed the pan in a 400°F oven for half an hour, then lowered the heat to 350°F for another half hour or so, until the legs were tender.
I plated a leg with some of the vegetables and spooned some of the pan juices around it. If t wasn’t so late, and we weren’t starving, I would have strained off the liquid, defatted it, and reduced it slightly to make a more intense sauce. As it was, I had a pretty pltae:
The vegetables still had some bite and texture, with the leeks and garlic providing a bit of sweetness to offset the rich duck leg. The skin was perfectly crispy and the meat underneath was moist and tender. This was one of the better duck dishes I have eaten. I plan on keeping a supply of duck legs in the Deep Storage Facility just so I can make this when the whim strikes.
And the other item on the plate? It’s apple cheddar risotto, the subject of my next post.
Duck legs: La Belle Farm
Duck stock: Belm Utility Research Kitchen Deep Storage Facility