Zarela Martinez's Chicken with Orange Juice and Vanilla
Gusto's Pasta con le Sarde

Sara Levine's Duck Rillettes

Duck1

Our next recipe reviewer, Lynn at Spoon & Fork, sacrificed herself for the sake of the duck rillettes from the chef at Vertical Wine Bistro in LA. And I, for one, am quite glad she did.

"So my fiance and I are plopped on the couch in a duck fat-induced food coma.

Wow.

The duck rillettes were pretty fabulous. We ate them on top of toasted baguette slices, along with a salade nicoise. The spread turned out really creamy and delicious. The flavor was terrific, although we were just the tiniest bit bummed that the Dijon mustard flavor was so strong, because we felt like we didn't taste as much of the duck as we'd like. Next time I might tone that down a bit.

And there definitely will be a next time: our food-loving and Francophile friends would love these as a pre-dinner snack with a glass of wine or Champagne. It's a lovely dish for entertaining. A little decadent for a regular Sunday dinner, but hey, this was an assignment! The recipe was easy to follow.

Finding duck legs that weren't confit, on the other hand, was a little tougher. After a, uh, wild duck chase (ha) I eventually found them at Todaro's on 2nd Avenue and 30th Street. They were from Long Island. Meanwhile, the man at the meat counter at Garden of Eden on 23rd Street went in the back of the store and filled up a container of duck fat for me.

 The procedure was simple. You rub the duck with herbs and spices (the recipe was a little unclear about some things; for instance should the parsley be chopped or left in whole leaves? I left it whole. Is the mint dried? I figured yes). You refrigerate it, loosely covered, overnight. Some fat drains out during that time. You sear the duck in a dutch oven, add veggies, then wine, and let it reduce. It goes into a very low oven with chicken stock for about 3 hours, and then you set to work emulsifying the meat with melted duck fat and mustard. At that point, though, the consistency isn't quite right for spreading on bread--too gooey. I put the rillettes in three small custard cups, and after about 20 minutes in the refrigerator they were ready. 

I definitely recommend this for a dinner party. You'll get about 45 servings from the whole recipe. I'm freezing one cup--will let you know how that turns out."

Okay, duck rillettes are all fine and well, but what's this about the butcher at Garden of Eden filling up containers with duck fat? Somehow I'm stuck on that alluring detail.

Oh, also, Lynn - what did you do with that miraculous-sounding braising liquid (Step 3)? I'm having visions of some kind of stewy soup of rice and asparagus built off that base of braising liquid and let me tell you: the meal of roasted asparagus and scrambled eggs with ramps that I've been looking forward to all day suddenly seems a whole lot less interesting now.

Duck Rillettes
Makes about 2 cups

2 duck legs
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 small bay leaf, broken
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped thyme
1/4 cup parsley leaves
1/4 teaspoon peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon mint
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 white onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 cups white wine
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup duck fat
1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1. Place the duck legs on a rack on a baking sheet and rub them with the salt, bay leaf, thyme, parsley, peppercorns, coriander, mint and sugar. Cover loosely with a sheet of parchment paper and allow to cure for 24 hours in the refrigerator.

2. Heat the oven to 250 degrees. In a large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, sear the duck legs in one tablespoon of canola oil over medium-high heat until you get a bit of color, about 2 minutes. Add the onion and carrot and sauté until softened, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the white wine and reduce by half, about half an hour.

3. Add the chicken stock and braise the duck legs in the oven, covered, until the meat is tender and falling off the bone, about 3 1/2 to 4 hours. (If it begins to bubble, turn down the heat.) Allow the meat to cool, then remove from the braising liquid; the braising liquid can be reserved for another use such as for a soup base.

4. Remove the meat from the bone and place it in a bowl. Place the bowl of duck meat on top of a bowl of ice.

5. In a small pan, heat the duck fat over medium-low heat until it's melted. Slowly pour the duck fat over the duck meat, using a fork to emulsify the duck meat with the duck fat until fluffy and smooth. Add the Dijon mustard and adjust seasoning to taste. Transfer to a serving dish or container; the restaurant serves rillettes in a French canning jar.

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