Braised Duck Legs with Spaetzle and Mushroom Ragout
Inspired by German celebratory harvest meals from centuries past, this comforting braised dish trades the traditional goose leg quarters for easier-to-source duck, served on a bed of buttery-crisp spaetzle and saucy mushrooms. A beurre manié—a quick mash of softened butter and flour—is the key to thickening the delicious sauce in this braise. The duck will continue to cook while standing in the braising liquid for an hour, so only cook it until tender beforehand.
Spiced Duck Breasts with Mandarin Oranges and Dates
I’ll never forget the lecture and meticulous demonstration our instructor gave on the “proper” way to cook a duck breast during the last week of culinary labs before my fellow classmates and I were turned loose to operate our school’s restaurant. With all the pomp and circumstance afforded a chef in a 2-foot-high toque, he went through a completely overwhelming tutorial devised to scare us into thinking duck breast is too challenging for the average human to cook.While the method I learned in culinary school did deliver a beautiful medium-rare breast with a crisp, golden brown crust, achieving that same outcome doesn’t have to be so complicated or intimidating. Pan-searing duck breast, it turns out, is actually a relatively simple process, as long as you follow a few key steps.It’s important to score the skin and fat with a sharp knife before cooking the duck breast. Scoring provides more surface area for the fat to render so the skin crisps and develops a gorgeous deep golden color and crisp texture. It’s also key to let the breast come to room temperature and to start cooking the breast skin side down in a cold pan, both of which help the fat render at just the right pace.Once the fat is mostly rendered and that enviable crust forms, I flip the breast to finish cooking the meat to medium-rare briefly on the other side. What’s left in the pan after the meat is set aside is liquid gold—in the form of duck fat. In this recipe, you’ll use that liquid gold to finish fluffy couscous that’s steamed with orange juice and turmeric, then tossed with dates, almonds and fresh herbs. Consider this a Moroccan twist on duck a l’orange. The duck is seasoned with ras el hanout, a bold spice blend that complements the full-flavored meat. Duck breast may not be your typical weeknight fare, but with this recipe it can be.I often think of a bold yet refined Bordeaux for pairing with duck, but here the Moroccan spices seem to lean toward a more rustic, wild red. I poured an aged Tempranillo from Spain’s Ribera del Duero region—understudy to the more celebrated Rioja—and found the concentrated red-fruit notes balanced by the decent acidity of wines from this region partner nicely.
Quail with Sherry-Mushroom Gravy
Smothering is an old-school stewing technique that keeps pork roasts, game, and chicken extra juicy. This version has a light roux, resulting in a gravy that’s a got some backbone but doesn’t overwhelm the quail.
Jerk-Smoked Duck with Peach Barbecue Sauce
2019 Best New Chef Bryan Furman’s method of smoking the duck over a drip pan is quick and efficient, infusing the duck with intense smoky flavor in only 30 minutes without toughening the meat. The combination of jerk seasoning and peach-sweetened barbecue sauce is also a great match for grilled chicken halves.
Smoked Duck with Potatoes and Frisée
It’s not the sort of meal you make and serve with a casual shrug: Preparing a whole duck for dinner is an occasion—and a gesture of generosity and serious sentiment. Duck is my dad’s favorite thing to eat and something he rarely splurges on when dining out, so every summer I smoke one for him as his Father’s Day gift (and round out the evening with a couple of great bottles of Pinot Noir).Before I started relying on my trusty PK Grill to fire up dinner multiple times a week, preparing duck at home was a daunting process. I fretted about splattering fat and overcooking and drying out the meat. When I made gumbo, I relied on my local Asian grocery for a roasted duck (something I still recommend in a pinch).But grill-roasting a duck is as easy as a chicken (particularly when you use an instant-read thermometer to gauge doneness), and the deeply flavored results are as satisfying as anything you can get in a restaurant. Because the smoke provides its own seasoning, you don’t need to add much more to the equation. I usually season the bird with a warm, peppery mix of pink and black peppercorns and salt. Before trussing, I insert a shallot and fresh herbs in the cavity (feel free to add garlic or a quartered satsuma to the mix) to perfume the meat, and I coat the skin with a splash of Maggi Seasoning sauce (a trick to enhance the umami flavors).Part of duck’s appeal, of course, is its flavorful fat. So, when I smoke duck over indirect heat I capture the rewards of that slow roast by cooking something else underneath. In this case, a cast-iron skillet of potatoes crisp and become tender under a steady baste of rendering duck fat. Afterwards, I balance the hearty meat-and-potatoes mix with a pile of peppery greens like frisée that have been lightly dressed with red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, and olive oil. The combination is both rustic and refined, and surprisingly time-efficient—a griller’s version of a one-dish wonder.By the time I carve the gorgeously bronzed bird, my dad and I have certainly enjoyed a glass or two of that Pinot and a couple of hours together on lawn chairs in the driveway, trading memories and favorite stories from my childhood. In that way, my gesture is actually a gift to myself, because smoking a duck provides a hall pass to be still, to appreciate the pleasures of the moment, and to enjoy the wafting aromas of the meal to come.
Goose Stuffed with Apples and Armagnac-Soaked Prunes
Nadine Levy Redzepi soaks prunes in Armagnac until they’re superboozy and plump, then combines them with apples and garlic to create an elegant stuffing for roast goose. If boozy flavors aren’t your thing, you can soak the prunes for as little as 2 hours. Slideshow: More Goose Dinner Recipes