Friday, June 10, 2011

Roast Duck Leg with Brandied Cherry Sauce

Duck is a very special treat at our house, because I don’t prepare it often. It tends to be expensive - I’ve seen it priced as much as $25 for a single duck leg and thigh! - so when I spied two duck legs and thighs at just over $8 in a major Chinese grocery chain, I put a feather in my cap, paid the bill, and told Ron: “This is going on the web!” Bad, weak joke. So here’s what I like to do with duck! Always a fan of Duck à l’Orange, I’m fond of duck with fresh cherries, too. A small piece of duck releases more fat than I do on my best day at the gym. Whenever I roast duck, I place it on an elevated rack with a drip pan underneath. Never allow it to sit in its own fat or you’ll have a greasy mess.
Roast Duck Leg with Brandied Cherry Sauce:

2 duck legs with attached thighs, about 1-⅓ lb. (625 g)
Sea salt and coarsely ground pepper, to taste
¼ tsp. leaf thyme
¼ tsp. garlic powder

3 tbsp. drippings reserved from duck fat

3 tbsp. finely chopped onion
½ c. fresh cherries (see Note)
1 tsp. granulated sugar
3 tbsp. brandy
1 tbsp. cornstarch or tapioca starch

Preheat oven to 325 deg. F. Prick duck randomly on both sides with a sharp paring knife. Rub all over with a combined mixture of sea salt, coarsely ground pepper, leaf thyme, and garlic powder. Roast skin-side up on a rack for 1-½ hr. with a drip pan underneath. Partway through roasting, remove from oven to drain off 3 tbsp. of drippings. (Freeze balance of drippings for later packaging as solid waste. Do not pour down sink or toilet! You’d never do that, would you, Dollinks?) Immediately return duck to oven to resume roasting.
To prepare Brandied Cherry Sauce, heat reserved measured drippings and finely chopped onion in medium skillet over low heat.  Stir until onions are translucent, about 2 min. Pit and halve cherries, leaving 7 or 8 whole. Add pitted cherries to drippings, sprinkling with sugar. Simmer 5 min. or until cherries soften and juices flow freely. Remove from heat to cool slightly. Combine 1 tbsp. of liquid from cherries with 1 tbsp. of cornstarch or tapioca starch, blending until smooth. Return starch solution to cherries and liquid in skillet. Simmer 1 min. over low heat. Stir in brandy just to combine, pouring simmered cherries over duck legs on serving platter. Serves 2.
Note: If fresh cherries aren’t in season, use canned cherry pie filling, omitting the starch and sugar. Duck breasts are even better with this recipe; unfortunately, I couldn't find any the day I shopped.

To start: Duck legs, fresh cherries, seasonings, brandy

Prick the duck well, allowing the fat to drain

Partway through roasting, drain off fat for later use

Pit and slice cherries for sauce, leaving some whole

Ladle duck with simmered cherries before serving

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