Cranberry-Walnut Quick Bread
Roast Duck Legs with Caramelized Shallots and Garlic


I love duck -- roasted, braised, preserved or sauteed. I am in heaven if duck is on the menu. But cooking up whole ducks is a bit of a mess. I have tried many different methods to combat the greasy aftermath in my kitchen, with mixed results. Then a friend served duck legs at a holiday party, and swore there was almost no greasy clean-up. I had to try it.

My friend was right. And a bonus is that cooking duck legs is so much easier than roasting a whole duck, because you don't have to carve it. Look for duck legs at Chinese markets or at your poultry section at the market. You may have to order them in advance, so check with your butcher.

It just doesn't get much easier than this recipe. The caramelized sweet garlic and shallots are a perfect counterpoint to the crisp golden duck legs. Just make sure to drain the legs, because they do release a lot of fat. (And don't discard the fat; strain it and put it in a glass container and refrigerate. I use the duck fat to make amazing roast potatoes, as well as in my braised red cabbage.)

I usually serve the duck legs on a bed of warm polenta with winter squash, and chestnuts. You can also shred the meat and add it to your favorite winter chopped salad. For a holiday touch, serve the duck legs with fresh cranberry sauce.

To drink, try a Washington Willamette Valley Pinot Noir for a perfect pairing.

Roast Duck Legs with Caramelized Shallots and Garlic

Serves 8.

8 duck legs, about 3/4 to 1 pound each

Seasoning salt

Freshly ground black pepper

16 peeled large shallots

24 peeled large garlic cloves

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Place the duck legs on a large baking sheet and prick them with a fork to help release the duck fat during cooking. Season the duck legs evenly with salt and pepper. Scatter the shallots and garlic all around the pan.

2. Roast the duck legs about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, depending upon how large they are, and until all the fat has rendered and they are very crisp and cooked through. Toss the garlic and shallots with tongs occasionally to cook evenly. When the shallot and garlic are very brown and cooked through (about 1 1/4 hours) remove them and drain on paper towels. Watch carefully so they don't burn.

3. Remove the duck legs when cooked and drain them on paper towels to soak up any remaining fat. Place them on a serving platter along with the cooked garlic and shallots. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Polenta with Butternut Squash and Chestnuts

Serves 6 to 8.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 pound peeled, seeded butternut squash, cut into 1 inch cubes

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1 cup vacuum packed cooked chestnuts, halved

3/4 cup chicken stock

1 tablespoon balsamic syrup

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley


1/2 teaspoon salt

7 cups chicken stock

1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

2 cups instant polenta

1. In a large saute pan heat the oil on medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute for about 7 to 10 minutes or until nicely caramelized. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Add the squash and saute for about 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently, to nicely coat the cubes. Add the garlic and thyme and toss to coat, sauteing for a minute. Add the chestnuts and chicken stock, cover and cook for 5 to7 more minutes or until the squash is fork tender. Remove from the heat and add the balsamic. Return to the heat for 2 to 3 more minutes or until nicely glazed. Add salt, pepper and parsley, mixing to combine. Taste for seasoning. (Heat further if any excess moisture remains.) Reserve.

3. For the polenta, in a deep large saucepan over medium heat, add the salt and stock, and bring to a rolling boil. Add the corn. In a thin stream, very slowly add the polenta, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Lower the heat and continue cooking for about 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly to be sure it doesn't stick, until it is very smooth and stiff. Stir in the squash mixture and stir well to blend. Spoon into a serving bowl and serve immediately.

Advance Preparation: May be prepared up to 4 hours in advance through step 2, covered and kept at room temperature.


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Roast Duck Legs with Caramelized Shallots and Garlic

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