There's more to Duck Legs than merely confit - which I love, but from time to time a change is welcome, and as an alternative this dish is excellent. Adapted from a recipe by Paula Wolfert - a food writer worthy of great respect, but who seems to have dropped from view these days - this is a dish which will have nostrils twitching as it cooks, and is every bit as delicious on the plate as those aromas promise in advance.
Since it seems almost impossible to find boiling fowl these days - in London, at least - then this is effectively a contemporary version of Coq au Vin, where the duck meat is sufficiently robust that it doesn't fall to pieces in the course of cooking - which is what inevitably happens when following a traditional Coq au Vin recipe, but having to use a roasting chicken instead.
Ingredients: 2 Duck Legs; 125g Lardons; 2 tbs Duck Fat; 2 cloves Garlic, minced; Salt & Pepper; 1 tsp dried Thyme; 1 medium Onion; 1 tbs Red Wine Vinegar; 1 tbs Dijon Mustard; 3 fl oz Red Wine (Merlot or something similarly four square); 5 fl oz Duck Stock; 2 medium Carrots.
1. Heat the Duck Fat in a small frying pan; sauté Lardons for five minutes or so, until slightly crisp, then transfer them, using a slotted spoon, to a casserole that can be used both on the hob and subsequently in the oven.
2. In the same frying pan, brown the Duck Legs in the fat, about four minutes on each side, until well-coloured all over. Transfer these also to the casserole, and sprinkle them with Garlic and Thyme; season generously.
3. Thinly slice the Onion, and cook in the frying pan for several minutes until it has visibly wilted, then add to the Duck Legs and Lardons.
4. Deglaze the frying pan with the Vinegar, then stir in Mustard, add the Red wine and boil down to reduce by half. Add this to the casserole, along with the Duck Stock.
5. Place the casserole over a low flame, bring to the boil and then reduce heat to simmer for about five minutes. Meanwhile peel and quarter Carrots, and add these to the casserole at the end of the simmering period. Put the lid on the casserole, then transfer the whole thing to the oven, pre-heated to 150 degrees C. Cook for one and a half hours.
6. Remove the Duck Legs from the casserole and keep warm; try and retrieve the Lardons, as well, and put these with the Duck Legs. Strain the other ingredients, pressing down in the sieve to extract all the good flavours, then discard the Onion and Carrots and use a fat strainer to remove the fat from the liquid. Reduce the remaining sauce for several minutes over medium heat until it is a good coating consistency.
7. Serve, with a spoonful of sauce over each Duck Leg.