Monday, 12 December 2011

Roast duck leg with fennel and baby roasties

I love duck. I'd probably rank roast chicken as one of my favourite meals but finding chicken that hasn't come from a factory farm is not always easy and in the absence of good quality chicken I will always opt for duck. It's very versatile and works well in both east Asian and Western dishes.

Duck breasts are quite expensive, unsurprisingly as they are the best part of the bird. But the legs are much cheaper and just as tasty, maybe even more so as the flavour can be much deeper. They need much more cooking, though. Roasting them in the oven for an hour or more will render them tender but still juicy. I'm greedy at the table so will gnaw the meat off the bone so as not waste any of it (I do the same with chops).

What you need: 
1 duck leg
2 small or 1 large fennel bulb
4-5 small new potatoes
A couple of cloves of garlic
olive oil

What to do:
Trim any excess skin off the duck leg and then stab the leg all over with a fork. Pop it in a roasting tin skin side down and season with some sea salt and a little black pepper. Put it in a hot oven - 180C - for an hour, turning it after about 15 minutes to skin side up so it can brown and crisp. 

Halve the potatoes, put them in an ovenproof dish and drizzle a little olive oil over them. Shake the dish so they get thoroughly coated in the oil and grind a little sea salt over them. Tuck in the garlic cloves. Put in the oven next to the duck.

Trim the fennel - cut off the stems at the top, remove any fronds or tough outer leaves, trim the root and quarter it. Peel, trim and quarter the onion. Heat a little olive oil in a heavy sauteuse and lightly brown the fennel quarters, turning them to cook on each side. Add a glass of vermouth or white wine, and the onion quarters, then turn down the heat to a low simmer and put a lid on. The fennel needs 20-30 minutes, depending on size and freshness.

Sprinkle with roughly chopped flatleaf parsley to serve.

Cook's tips:
The duck leg will render a lot of fat. This is why stabbing the skin is important - it enables the fat to run off, to produce a tasty and lean piece of meat. Don't waste the fat - drain it from the roasting tin into a jar and store it in the fridge. It keeps indefinitely. Duck fat makes great roast potatoes and can be used for lots of other dishes too. It's not cheap to buy, so don't waste it but save it.

Roasting the leg this way is a poor man's version of duck confit (I'll post my recipe for this soon), but almost as good. With the oven at the right temperature, the skin should be wonderfully crisp but the meat should fall off the bone.

Both duck breasts and legs are usually sold in pairs, unless you have a good butcher who will sell you just the one. Freeze the one you don't need until another time. A pair of legs usually costs around £3, so it's good value for money.