Braised Duck Legs with Figs, Star Anise, and Winter Squash
Yield: Serves 6
Koren Grieveson’s use of duck legs in this hearty one-pot is inspired-they make the dish special without being difficult to prepare. Plus, the duck becomes meltingly tender as it braises, soaking up all of the rich flavors of the sauce.
6 (12- to 16-oz.) fresh duck legs, trimmed of excess fat
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs. canola oil
4 medium carrots, cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces
2 medium celery stalks, cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces
6 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. dried figs, stemmed and thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 whole star anise
1 (2-1/2- to 3-lb.) winter squash (such as red kuri, buttercup, or kabocha), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-1/2-inch cubes
6 to 8 cups lower-salt chicken broth
1 Tbs. Champagne vinegar
2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Season the duck legs with 1 Tbs. salt and 1-1/2 tsp. pepper. Heat the oil in an 8-quart Dutch oven or other heavy-duty pot over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Working in 2 batches, put the duck legs in the pot skin-side down and cook until the skin is very well browned and crisp, about 10 minutes (reduce the heat to medium if they brown too fast). Use tongs to transfer them to a large plate. Drain off all but 2 Tbs. of the fat from the pot (save the fat for another use). Add the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic to the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the garlic is just starting to turn golden-brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the figs, thyme, and star anise, and then stir in the squash. Arrange the duck legs skin side up on top of the vegetables and add enough chicken broth to cover the duck by about 1/2 inch, up to 8 cups-it’s fine if a few of the legs on top aren’t completely submerged. Increase the heat to high and bring the liquid to a boil. Add 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and cook until fork tender, 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Turn off the heat and let the duck rest in the juice for 15 to 30 minutes; then skim off and discard the fat from the surface of the sauce. With a slotted spoon, distribute the vegetables among 6 plates or mound them on a platter. Top with the duck legs. Stir the vinegar into the sauce in the pot, and then drizzle the sauce over each serving, or serve the sauce on the side (you won’t need it all). Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.
Tip: Save any leftover duck fat to make roasted potatoes or French fries.
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