This recipe is from The Duck Cookbook by James Peterson (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 2003). Slow-cooked stews are perfect for duck legs, says Peterson; if you buy whole duckling, cut it up and cook the duck breast alone. He recommends saving the legs in your freezer until you have enough for a stew such as this. He adds that when he wrote the book, Mullard duck thighs weren't available. The author likes them better than the Pekin duck, but recommends trimming the fat—not removing it completely, but cutting it so that it's a thinner layer. Mullard thighs also take longer to cook.
Wine recommendation: A Côte de Nuits, or another earthy, spicy Pinot Noir.
12 duck legs, including both thighs and drumsticks
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped coarsely
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
2 cups red wine
1 bouquet garni (3 sprigs fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried, 1 imported bay leaf, and 1 bunch parsley or parsley stems, tied together with kitchen twine or wrapped in cheesecloth)
Salt and pepper, to taste
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups duck or chicken stock
1-½ pounds assorted wild or cultivated mushrooms such as chanterelles, morels, porcini and hedgehog, rinsed and patted dry
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
Put the duck legs into a large nonreactive bowl and add the garlic, onions, carrot, red wine and bouquet garni. Let the duck marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
Strain the duck legs and reserve the liquid and the vegetables separately. Reserve the bouquet garni, too. Pat the legs dry—wipe off any clinging vegetables that would burn—and season them on both sides with salt and pepper.
In one or two skillets over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter and brown the legs on both sides, 6 to 8 minutes on each side. (The duck legs should fit into the pan in a single layer; work in batches if you only have one small pan.) Transfer the legs to a platter, pour the cooked butter out of the skillet, and add 2 more tablespoons of the butter and the vegetables from the marinade. Stir the vegetables over medium heat until they smell fragrant and the onions turn translucent, about 12 minutes. Put the legs back in the skillet (at this point the legs don't have to stay in a single layer), pour the marinade liquid and the broth or water over all, and nestle in the reserved bouquet garni. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover the skillet and cook over low heat (or in a 325°F oven), for 2 hours (if you are using mallard thighs, cook for 3 hours). After 1 hour of cooking, gently shift the legs that were in the bottom of the skillet to the top.
Gently remove the duck legs from the skillet with a skimmer or slotted spoon and transfer them to a plate. Cover the legs with aluminum foil to keep them from darkening. Strain the braising liquid into a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer, discarding the vegetables. Put the pan slightly off center on the heat source so it only bubbles up on one side, and use a spoon or small ladle to scoop off any fat or scum that floats to the surface on the other side. Wash the skillet used to braise the legs and put the legs back in.
When the braising liquid has cooked down to half, pour it over the duck legs, cover, and reheat the legs over low heat for 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Shortly before you're read to serve, sauté the wild mushrooms in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter over high heat for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and reserve.
Serve each person one or two duck legs in a heated soup plate with the braising liquid spooned over the mushrooms and parsley on top.