I dearly love a bit of duck and I succumbed to its siren call when I was shopping. I bought legs, which are cheaper but tougher than the breasts (all that paddling). To make them really succulent they benefit from long, slow cooking, but at the same time it’s nice to have a crispy skin and I think this recipe hits the spot.
The legs are cooked with sweet root vegetables and finished with a gremolata, an Italian garnish of what’s usually finely chopped lemon zest, parsley and garlic, sprinkled on a dish as a finishing touch. It perks up slow-braised dishes no end.
I used the zest of a Seville orange as I wanted orange juice in the sauce, too, and I still have some Sevilles lurking in the freezer. But a sweet orange or in season, a blood orange, would work just as well. I also used a dry Marsala in the sauce as that’s what I had to hand but an Oloroso sherry would be equally good.
We ate the duck with a herby, citrusy couscous and bulgur wheat pilaf. It’s very good with a creamy potato purée and peas too.
Braised Duck Legs with an Orange Gremolata
2 duck legs, trimmed of excess fat and seasoned with salt and pepper
2 large onions, peeled and diced
2-3 medium carrots, peeled and diced, about a double handful
1-2 parsnips, peeled and diced, about a double handful
2 sticks of celery, trimmed and diced
1/2 tspn ground coriander
1/2 cinnamon stick
The juice of 1 orange
1 wine glass of dry Marsala
About 350 ml chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the gremolata:
The zest of 1 small orange
1/2 garlic clove, very finely chopped
1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6.
Prick the skin on the duck legs with a fork and season with salt and pepper. Take a pan large enough to hold all the ingredients. Put the duck, skin-side down, into the cold pan and place it on a medium-high heat. There’s no need to add any oil. Cook until the skin has browned, then turn the legs over and quickly sear the other side.
Remove the duck and pour off all but a tablespoon or two of fat (save any left over for roasting potatoes). Cook the vegetables in the fat in the pan until they’re browning nicely. Stir in the ground coriander and let it cook briefly.
Add the Marsala and let it sizzle up, scraping any brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Put the duck legs back in, skin-side up and add the cinnamon stick, orange juice and enough chicken stock to come halfway up the duck.
Bring to a boil, place in the oven and cook uncovered for 30 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Check the liquid level and add more stock or water if it looks as though it’s drying out too much, but avoid pouring it onto the duck or the skin won’t stay crisp.
Cook for another 30-40 minutes or until the duck is tender to the point of a knife and the sauce has reduced. Check the seasoning in the vegetables/sauce and mix the gremolata ingredients together.
Serve the duck on a mound of couscous, if using, with the vegetable mixture spooned round. Finish by sprinkling the duck with a little of the gremolata.