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Easy Crispy Duck Legs

December 27, 2013 Print this page

Want duck confit but don’t have the time (or the fat)? No worries–these crispy duck legs are super easy and take only a little over an hour to put together!

Ingredients

Prep Time 5 min
Cooking Time 1 hr 30 min
Total Time 1 hr 35 min
Yield 4 servings

4 duck legs

Salt

Pepper

1/2 of an onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

3 stalks of celery, chopped

1/2 large apple, chopped

1 1/2 – 2 cups of chicken stock

Directions

First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and stick a cast iron skillet in there to get nice and hot. With a small, sharp knife, score the duck legs and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

Remove the hot skillet from the oven and place on the stove top over medium-high heat. Add 2 of the duck breasts, skin side down, and cook until brown and crispy, about 6 to 8 minutes. Every 2 minutes or so, rotate the legs about 90 degrees so you’ll get even coverage.

Flip the duck legs over, cook for an additional 2 minutes, then remove to a cutting board. Follow the same procedure with the other 2 duck legs. Your goal is not to cook the duck legs through, but to crispify the outside.

Pour off almost all of the accumulated duck fat, reserving 1 to 2 tablespoons in the skillet to saute the veggies. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and apple. Sprinkle with just a pinch of salt and cook until soft and golden, about 12 minutes.

Return all 4 duck legs to the pan and pour in between 1 1/2 and 2 cups of stock. The liquid should cover the veggies but not submerge the legs.

Slide the skillet into the oven, and cook at 400 for 30 minutes. Then, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and continue cooking until the duck legs reach at least 175 degrees, about 30 minutes longer.

Broil on low for an additional 3 minutes to get extra crispy skin.


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The Legs Make the Bird (Easy Weeknight Dinners)

May 4, 2013 Leave your thoughts Print this page

I’ll admit it—I was once a chicken breast fanatic. I ate several ounces of that dry, tasteless white meat daily…and even with the amount of seasonings I’d put on it, boy, was it bland.

Since going Paleo, I almost always opt for the dark meat, which has more fat as well as vitamins and minerals. I love the juicy meat and crispy skin, then gnawing on the bones when I’m done.

Legs—both those of chickens and ducks—are also pretty easy to cook. All you need are some basic ingredients and a cast iron skillet! Although these dishes are a little time-consuming, most of the process is hands-off, so you can feel free to do other things while dinner cooks.

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For this first dish, Cinnamon Chicken with Cauliflower Couscous, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a large baking sheet and set aside.

Put your chicken legs in a large plastic bag and add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger, and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon. Seal the bag and shake to distribute the spices.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of duck fat or refined coconut oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the chicken skin-side down and cook until brown and crispy, about 8 to 10 minutes. If your pan is smaller, brown the chicken in two batches to prevent over-crowding. Place the chicken on the prepared baking sheet, skin-side up, and bake until just cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes longer.

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While the chicken cooks, add 1 large onion, chopped, to the remaining chicken fat in the cast iron skillet. Cook over medium heat until softening and light brown, about 6 to 7 minutes, then add 2/3 cup of chopped dried fruit. I used a combination of apricots, prunes, and dates, but you can also try figs, raisins, or even cranberries.

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Cook for another 2 or 3 minutes, then add about 4 cups of riced cauliflower. (To make cauliflower with a couscous-like texture, process on high with about 1 teaspoon of water for approximately 15 to 20 seconds.)

Sprinkle the mixture with another 1/2 tablespoon of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of ginger, 1 teaspoon of paprika, and 1 teaspoon of garlic powder. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then cook over medium-low heat for another 5 to 7 minutes.

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This next recipe, Crispy Duck Legs, is a great dish for those just beginning to cook with my favorite water fowl. Just be prepared for the amount of fat you’ll render: I got almost 2 cups out of 4 legs!

First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and stick a cast iron skillet in there to get nice and hot. With a small, sharp knife, score the duck legs and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

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Remove the hot skillet from the oven and place on the stove top over medium-high heat. Add 2 of the duck breasts, skin side down, and cook until brown and crispy, about 6 to 8 minutes. Every 2 minutes or so, rotate the legs about 90 degrees so you’ll get even coverage.

Flip the duck legs over, cook for an additional 2 minutes, then remove to a cutting board. Follow the same procedure with the other 2 duck legs. Your goal is not to cook the duck legs through, but to crispify the outside.

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Pour off almost all of the accumulated duck fat, reserving 1 to 2 tablespoons in the skillet to saute the veggies. Add 1/2 of a chopped red onion, 1 chopped carrot, 3 stalks of chopped celery, and 1/2 of a chopped apple. Sprinkle with just a pinch of salt and cook until soft and golden, about 12 minutes.

Return all 4 duck legs to the pan and pour in between 1 1/2 and 2 cups of stock (I used my homemade duck stock). The liquid should cover the veggies but not submerge the legs.

Slide the skillet into the oven, and cook at 400 for 30 minutes. Then, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and continue cooking until the duck legs reach at least 175 degrees, about 30 minutes longer.

Broil on low for an additional 3 minutes to get extra crispy skin.

I served up the duck legs alongside some roasted golden beets and a wild mushroom medley. To add simple bursts of flavor, try a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice or a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. If you have the time, a fruit-based sauce (like my cherry sauce) is excellent on top.

Have any suggestions for what I should cook next? Leave me a comment on Facebook and let me know!


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Crispy Roasted Duck with Cherry Sauce

April 23, 2013 Leave your thoughts Print this page

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After eyeing the whole ducks at our local butcher for months, I finally decided to give cooking one a try. Sure, I’ve heard horror stories, but I was up for a challenge.

Thankfully, I achieved exactly what I wanted: crispy skin and succulent gamy flavor. I think I could’ve eaten the whole bird!

Give yourself plenty of time to roast the duck. I served dinner a little after 6:30 and popped it into the oven a little after 1:30 just to be safe.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and allow your bird to come to room temperature for 1/2 an hour. Rinse off in cold water and pat dry with paper towels, then remove the neck and/or gizzards if present. Cut off the excess fat, particularly around the neck and posterior regions, before seasoning liberally with salt and pepper.

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Yes, you are now looking into the butt of a duck carcass. Lovely, eh?

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With the neck, I highly recommend making some stock. I threw it in a big pot along with some kaffir lime leaves, a few stalks of lemongrass, and a couple pieces of galanagal (a spice similar to ginger), then simmered in water all day. You can find all three of these spices near the coconut milk at Whole Foods or at a local Asian market.

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Back to roasting duck: with a small, sharp knife, make diagonal cuts both ways through the skin without slicing the flesh itself. Proceed to poke the skin dozens of times with the tip of the knife. This may seem a little odd, but it helps to release the massive stores of fat and makes the skin nice and crispy.

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To cook, place the duck breast-side up on a rack in a large roasting pan, then cook for one hour.

At this point, remove from the oven, poke all over with the tip of the knife again, and flip over. Roast for another hour, then repeat the same process. Keep going until the legs register at 175 degrees and the breast registers at 160, about 4-4 1/2 hours depending on the size of your duck.

If you feel that too much fat is accumulating in the pan, transfer the rack with the duck to a cutting board and pour the fat into a measuring cup. This stuff is great for cooking with, so don’t throw it out!

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When the duck is cooked through, increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees and roast until the skin cooks to your desired crispiness, about 7 to 9 minutes. Take it out of the oven, tent with tinfoil, and let sit for at least a half an hour before carving.

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I love duck paired with fruit, so I made a cherry sauce inspired by Ted Allen.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of ghee, then saute 1/2 of an onion until soft, about 7 minutes. Add 3 cloves of minced garlic, 1/2 cup of stock (I used the duck neck liquid I made earlier), 1 cup of frozen cherries, 2 tablespoons of all-fruit cherry preserves, 2 teaspoons of raw honey, and 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let thicken, about 10 to 12 minutes. When you’re ready to eat, stir in 1 tablespoon of grass-fed butter and a squeeze of lemon juice.

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As for side dishes, I made balsamic roasted radicchio and a sweet sunchoke puree.

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The radicchio is perfect to make while the duck rests. Cut each head into fourths or sixths (depending on how big they are), sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Roast at 400 degrees until brown around the edges, about 15 to 17 minutes.

For the puree, chop up a pound of sunchokes into 1/2-inch cubes. In case you’re unfamiliar with these little knobs of flavor, a sunchoke is a funny looking root that resembles a large fingerling potato. They have a sweet, nutty taste and can be found by the root vegetables at Whole Foods.

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In a large, deep pot, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the reserved duck fat (the stuff in the measuring cup) over medium heat. (If the idea totally grosses you out, substitute the same amount of ghee or coconut oil.) Dump in sunchokes, and saute until beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. These stick, so make sure you stir constantly.

At this point, pour in 1 1/2 cups of stock (I used the duck liquid I made), reduce the heat slightly, and bring to a boil. Let bubble until the sunchokes are softened and most of the liquid is gone, about another 10 minutes more.

Finally, put the sunchokes in the bowl of a food processor with 1/2 a banana (yes, a banana), 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 2 teaspoons of garlic powder, 1 teaspoon of paprika, 1 teaspoon of chipotle chile pepper, and a good crack of black pepper, then blend until completely smooth, about 3 minutes. For some extra creaminess, add in 2 tablespoons of grass-fed butter and process for 2 minutes longer. Your puree may not look too appetizing, but I promise, it’ll taste great! If only there was such a thing as cooking glitter…

It was a labor of love, but I did it! Thank goodness I didn’t set the house on fire in the process.

What meat or poultry should I try cooking next? Leave me a comment on Facebook and let me know!


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The Perfect Duck Breast

April 14, 2013 Leave your thoughts Print this page

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I love duck in pretty much every form, from smoked duck to foie gras to everything in between. A lot of people are intimidated to make it because they claim it’s too time consuming or fatty, but this duck breast is both fast and pretty lean once you sear it. Push your worries aside and give it a try!

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and stick a dry cast iron skillet in there while the oven heats up. This will insure that the pan is hot enough when you’re ready to cook the duck, creating a crispy exterior.

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Before you do anything else, create a rub for the skin. You won’t taste much of it, but the flavor will still be noticeable. Today, I used 1/2 tablespoon of decaf coffee grounds, 1/2 tablespoon of cumin, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon of raw cacao powder, and a good pinch of salt. Whisk in a small bowl to combine and set aside.

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Now, prepare the duck breasts by making diagonal cuts through the fatty outer layer without piercing the meat itself. Do not skip this step, or else the fat won’t render properly. Then pour half of the rub on each side of the breast and massage it with your hands to evenly cover.

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With oven mitts (unless you want to burn yourself), remove the cast iron from the oven and put on high heat on the stove top. Do not turn off the oven. Let the skillet adjust to the stove top for a minute or two, then add the duck breast skin-side down. Sear for six minutes.

When dark brown on the other side, remove the duck breasts from the pan and pour off most of the accumulated fat. I usually save this stuff to add flavor to roasted vegetables, but if the idea totally grosses you out, pour it into a cup and let cool prior to tossing it out.

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Return the duck breasts to the pan and cook on the other side for another six minutes. Then, place in the oven and let cook until the internal temperature is between 125 and 130 degrees. This time varies—for me, it usually takes an additional 7 to 10 minutes, but it could take more or less depending on the thickness of your duck and how long your oven’s been heated.

When cooked to your liking, let cool on a cutting board tented with tinfoil for 5 to 10 minutes, then slice and serve. Squeeze with a little bit of lime juice for some extra zing.

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Alongside the duck, I took two seemingly boring root vegetables, carrots and parsnips, and elevated them to a new level in Roasted Parsnip Mash and Sweet and Spicy Baby Carrots.

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To prepare the parsnips, heat the oven to 425 degrees and grease a baking sheet with coconut oil. Cut a pound of parsnips into thin coins, about 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch thick. You can peel the parsnips if you want, but I just left the skins on.

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Place the parsnips on the prepared sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil, a good pinch of salt, and some black pepper. Bake until golden brown and soft in the center, about 35 minutes, giving a stir every ten minutes or so.

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Transfer the parsnips to a blender or food processor. Pulse until chunky, about two minutes, then add 2 tablespoons of grass-fed butter and 1/4 cup of water or chicken broth and process until thick and beginning to smooth out, about 3 minutes.

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If necessary, pour in additional water or chicken broth to achieve your desired consistency. Finally, add in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of paprika (depending on how spicy you want it), a good pinch of salt, and a crack of black pepper. Blend for another two minutes and serve warm.

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To make the carrots, heat the oven to 425 degrees and grease a large baking sheet with coconut oil.

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Place the baby carrots on the prepared baking sheet and drizzle with 1 1/2 tablespoons of melted lard or ghee. Top with 1 teaspoon of turmeric,  1 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of paprika, and a good pinch of salt. Toss together to fully distribute the spices.

Bake until beginning to brown and soft, but not mushy in the center, about 30 minutes.

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Simple ingredients, easy preparation, elegant results. Yum!

What’s your favorite root vegetable? Leave me a comment on Facebook and let me know!


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