We aren’t big meat eaters. But we do eat meat occasionally, on special occasions or when we have a craving. Since my family celebrates Easter together on Good Friday, and we weren’t making the trek out to Toronto this year, Dave and I found ourselves with a free evening. So we got our minds thinking and came up with a special dinner: duck!
I had never cooked duck before. And I couldn’t remember if I had ever had it before either! I’m sure I had. And the fact that I remembered was probably a good thing (I definitely would have remembered a bad experience). Duck is also somewhat local (depending on what your definition of local is), with duck being raised in Brome Lake. Many a time we had passed the Canard Libéré store on St Laurent, and they even sell it at our local big chain grocery (Provigo). I was hoping to find something all ready to go, just heat and serve, but when I saw the price difference between cooked and uncooked duck legs (~$8 vs ~$4) and the instructions on the uncooked legs (essentially roast and serve), I figured I could at least try it out.
So rather than just go with “roast and serve”, I turned to my good friend Mark Bittman, or more accurately, his “how to cook everything app” on my ipod touch for general instructions. And here’s what I came up with: I began by browning the duck legs, skin side down, in a skillet over medium heat. It got quite messy, with grease flying all over, so I used some tinfoil to shield myself and the rest of the stovetop from splatters. In the meanwhile I scrubbed some carrots (organic, no need to peel), trimmed the ends and set them aside, and tossed some prewashed baby potatoes into a pot of water and boiled them up on the stove. When the duck legs were nice and brown, I flipped them over and browned the undersides, which took a lot less time. Then I took the legs out and put them on a plate, poured most of the grease into a little bowl, and threw in the carrots into the skillet and let them brown a bit, tossing in some chopped garlic, sage, rosemary, basil, thyme and salt and pepper (the herbs I had handy). When the carrots were looking a bit brown, I nestled the duck legs back in, poured in some chicken broth (to about half way up the duck legs) and covered the whole skillet with tinfoil and stuck it in a preheated oven (400F). In the meanwhile, when the potatoes had boiled for about 10 minutes, I drained them, tossed them with a bit of the duck grease, some chopped garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper, and put them in a small pan with a smidge of broth. Then I stuck the whole thing in the oven. After about 30 minutes I turned the heat down to 350F. Then 15 minutes or so later I took the foil off the top of the skillet to let the skin crisp up. 15 minutes later, showtime! I plated up the duck legs, carrots and potatoes, and stuck the skillet back on the stove top. I let the juices boil, then mixed a little pan juice with cornstarch and poured the cornstarch mixture back in, then served the gravy alongside the meal.
The wine we had with our dinner was a 2009 Chianti by Fontella. It happened to be onsale this week at the SAQ, and when we visited they were doing tastings. It was robust, but light at the same time, without too much tannin, and we bought two bottles: one for dinner, and one to save for later. The SAQ puts it in the “fruité et généreux” category. I would tend to agree. It wasn’t the absolute best pairing, but it did the job and was definitely one of those wines that get better as you drink it.