Thursday, June 17, 2010

duck legs with spinach, carrots and mashed potatoes

So awhile ago Nathan and I went down to the Tompkin's Square Park Farmer's Market on a Sunday to "see what was fresh," as is so popular amongst the food blogging set. We picked up some beautiful duck legs, cute cipollini onions, some fresh spinach and little potatoes and made us some braised duck.

Now, duck is probably my favorite meat, and I know Nathan is pretty fond of it as well. We made an incredibly delicious roast duck for Christmas dinner at my parents' house this year, but this was our first attempt at an every day sort of duck dinner. Back in December, we made a typically complicated recipe from the epic Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook. This time around, we once again took a page out of Alice Waters' book, but we were less ambitious and looked to The Art of Simple Food and Chez Panisse Cookbook for our inspiration.

We trimmed the extra skin and fat off the legs, sliced it and fried that up first to render the fat. We tried eating the cracklings with salt and pepper, but they weren't as good as I thought they would be. Kind of burnt I guess. Meanwhile, we let the duck sit after we'd salted and peppered it. After an hour or so, we browned the legs in my big oven proof frying pan, pouring off the fat as it collected.

After the skin of the duck was a nice mahogany brown, we removed it from the pan and set the legs aside for a moment. We tossed a couple of diced food co-op carrots and some chopped celery into the pan and let that cook for awhile. Then we added the duck back in, skin side facing down, a bunch of the peeled cipollinis, and poured in some homemade chicken stock and a little white wine for the braising liquid. I am pretty sure we also added some lemon zest as per Alice's suggestion.

We put the pan in a 425° oven and covered it for a half hour. Then we flipped the duck and turned down the temperature to 325° for an hour to an hour and a half. At some point, and I don't remember when, we dumped off the braising liquid and let the fat rise to the top so we could skim it off. When the legs seemed thoroughly tender, I put the spinach and some parsley in the pan and let that wilt in the juices.

Unfortunately, I found that this dish, while flavorful and delicious, was just too greasy and oily. Even though we skimmed off as much duck fat as we could, it really clung to the whole dish. I was especially disappointed with how greasy the spinach got, even though we just added it the very end. Of course, it was duck with amazing onions and vegetables, so we didn't complain too much. I'm just not sure if braising is the best way to go with such a fatty animal.

not your typical meat and potatoes

More successful were Alice's easy mashed potatoes. We chopped them up into medium sized pieces and boiled them about 15 minutes. After draining them, (reserving some of the water), I put them back in the pot and turned the heat back on to dry them out for a few minutes. That's a trick Aunt Cathy taught me. Then we took them out of the pot and poured in a little milk and potato water, which we also heated. Then we added back the potatoes and some butter and whipped it all together with the electric mixer. Delicious! I ask you: how are mashed potatoes so good?

easy mashed potatoes

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