Once I’d wrestled the Saga of the Gibson Girl Plates to a close, I began planning the menu at which they would have their debut.
We started with Cucumber Rounds with Hummus and Yoghurt and Wild Mushroom Toasts, both recipes from Fine Cooking. I confess to buying the hummus rather than making it as prescribed in the recipe. Mea culpa…We then had Fennel Slaw with Grapefruit, Cracked Pepper and Pistachios. That one I pretty much followed to the letter.
Our main course was Red Wine Braised Duck Legs with mashed potatoes, and green beans. I modified the recipe for the duck legs and have included that below.
- 8 whole duck legs, about 8 oz. each, trimmed of excess fat
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 c dry red wine
- 2 c chopped mixed dried fruit (I used dried cherries, apricots and currants in equal proportions)
- 2 heads garlic, cloves separated, smashed gently with the side of a knife, and peeled
- 2 tsp. dried thyme
- 8 c chicken stock
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
- Preheat the oven to 325°F convection roast or 350°F without convection.
- Season the duck legs all over with kosher salt and ground pepper
- Heat the oil in two deep skillets (I used a 15" and an 8"), preferably cast iron, over medium heat. Add the duck legs, skin side down, and cook until the skin is golden brown and crisp, 9 to 12 minutes. Flip and cook until browned on the other side, about 5 minutes more. Remove the legs from the pan and pour off the fat.
- Return the skillet to the stove, add the wine, and scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Boil until reduced by half, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of the dried fruit, the garlic and thyme. Return the legs to the skillet skin side up and transfer to the oven. Before closing the oven door, carefully pour enough broth around the legs to come about 2/3 of the way up the sides. Braise, adding more broth if necessary to maintain the level, until the meat is fork tender, about 2 hours. You may need to cover the skillets with foil partway through the braising to prevent them from becoming overly brown.
- Transfer the duck legs to a platter, loosely cover with foil, and keep warm.
- Pour the liquid from the skillet through a sieve into a large pan. Let stand until the fat separates from the liquid. Ladle off the fat. If you have sufficient time, put the juices in the fridge and skim off the remaining hardened fat (see note below)
- Boil until reduced to about 1 1/2 cups, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the remaining 1 cup dried fruit. Simmer the sauce until the fruit softens, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and a splash of lemon juice. Serve the duck with the sauce.
- In preparing this dish, try to allow sufficient time for the duck legs to rest and the fat from the juices to separate. I left about an hour, put the juices in the refrigerator and skimmed off the hardened fat. I gently reheated the duck legs in the oven at 300°F before serving.
It was a wonderful dinner party with very good friends and much laughter. The best kind!