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I’m cooking Country style braised duck with leeks and carrots and potatoes – in other words, un ragoût de canard au vin blanc – the way my Grandmère prepared it using vegetables from the garden.
When she brought out her battered fait tout from the pantry shelf we knew a scrumptious dinner was in the making.
Guinea hens, capons, quails and pheasant were reserved for Christmas or holiday means but duck was almost as special – a real treat for Sundays dinners.
I can’t believe this! I see fresh duck leg quarters all the time during my shopping expeditions.
But, when it came to preparing this recipe, I could not find ducks pieces in any local market. I could not even find a fresh whole duck so I settled for the only kind I found – a frozen Pekin duck.
The irony of it did not dawn on me until I actually removed the duck from the wrapper. I was about to prepare a French country style ragout with a Pennsylvania Dutch duckling!
We love duck! As confit, roasted and braised as well. Interested in more braised duck recipes? Here is my recipe for braised duck leg quarters with olives.
Here’s the problem. Ragoût or stew does not usually involve the entire bird.
So I set about cutting the duck it into pieces.
To make it easier, I cut out the backbone with my best kitchen shears. Nothing fancy – just kitchen scissors.
Then, I removed the breast bone and finally cut each half into a breast quarter and a leg quarter. Only four large pieces.
After this experience, let me be the first one to say that not all kitchen shears are created equal.
In my case, they are not designed to comfortably fit in my hand so that I can apply the most pressure for the least amount of work.
I even compared notes with my sister (we often compare notes on recipes, appliances and kitchen gadgets).
She immediately thought of her most recent experience – trying to remove a single vertebra from their Thanksgiving turkey so it would fit in the oven.
Her kitchen shears are designed to come apart for easy cleaning. Great idea but instead they came apart during the “operation”. So #1 son took over and even he found it difficult to apply pressure.
These would fit comfortably in my hand and prevent hand strain! The shears pictured above would be even more comfortable. The shears pictured below look downright dangerous.
This recipe requires a little bit more prep time than most one pot meals.
Leeks are notorious for hanging on to soil and sand. They require lots of soaking and rinsing to make sure you remove every gritty bit. Unless of course you live near a Wegmans© market where you can buy a pack of recipe-ready cut and cleaned leeks. A real time saver.
Browning the pieces of meat is the next most time consuming aspect of this recipe. Duck is very fatty. You will notice that I slashed the skin on all pieces. This allows the fat to melt off more quickly as it browns. Don’t be surprised to collect more than a cup of fat during this process.
Transfer the hot fat from the Dutch oven/fait tout into another container once the meat is browned. I literally empty the pan of all fat and wash it before continuing the recipe.
You can also sauté the duck into a deep frying pan and continue the recipe in a Dutch oven.
Instead of reserving a couple tablespoons of the melted fat to sauté the vegetables, I remove all of it and replace it with a couple tablespoons of this rendered duck fat. It’s better than butter!
A hearty country style braised duck meal. Fresh leeks, shallots, garlic, carrots and red potatoes round out this white wine infused one pot meal. Fresh duck sautéed to a golden brown make this a dish fit for Sunday dinners with Mom.
Placed the lid on the Dutch oven and simmer on low for about 45 to an 1 hour or until the duck is fall apart tender.
You can remove some of the braising liquid half way through the cooking process and thicken it with cornstarch or Wondra®.
Add the potatoes and the diluted/well combined mixture back to the cooking liquid about 15 minutes before the duck is ready to serve.
By cooking the potatoes ahead of time and placing them in the dish during the last few minutes of cooking, you know that they are fully cooked and will not absorb a large quantity of the liquid in the braise. You want some gravy!
Whether you call it a Dutch oven or a “Fait tout”, every kitchen needs one of these all purpose pans. It is usually a heavy bottom cast iron pan designed to be as versatile as possible in depth and overall size.
Grandmère did not have a whole battery of pans and the fait tout (literally translated as cook everything) was just that – a pan in which she cooked a variety of meals.
Don’t let the fatty aspect of duck scare you away from adding it to your diet.
Yes, it is higher in saturated fat than chicken but all things considered, it is just as good for you as chicken.
Still don’t want to buy duck?
You can prepare this dish using the same ingredients – just replace the duck with a roasting chicken and use rich, all-purpose bouillon flavoring.
A plump roaster will also render almost as much fat so the cooking process for this recipe is nearly identical to using duck.
The only aspect of the recipe that will suffer is the flavor.
Duck has a rich and unique flavor that is only enhanced when slow cooked this way.
To put it more simply, chicken will never be duck. Regardless of the manner in which it is prepared 😉
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