Braised Duck Legs with Apples and Sauerkraut
Adapted from Recipes 1-2-3 (Penguin, 1996)
Although Rozanne Gold writes that this recipe is “duck soup,” she nonetheless provides important lessons in cooking duck. Gold suggests a Gewürztraminer to bring out the Alsatian tartness of the apple and the sauerkraut.
- 1 duckling, about 5 pounds (neck and gizzards included)
- 1 1/3 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 pound sauerkraut, packed in a plastic bag
- 2 large Granny Smith apples, unpeeled
Cut the duck into 2 breast halves (bones removed) and 2 legs (with thighs included). Set the pieces aside.
Use the neck, back, wings, and gizzards (do not use the liver) to make a stock. Put these pieces into a medium-sized (2-quart) heavy pot with about 4 cups of cold water, or enough water to cover. Add the teaspoon of whole black peppercorns. Simmer the stock for 2 hours with the cover askew, and then strain through a chinois or fine sieve. Return the stock to the pot and reduce it slowly, uncovered, to 2 cups in order to concentrate the flavor. Reserve the stock for use in both duck preparations.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, place an 8- or 10-inch non-stick pan over medium-low heat. When the pan is hot, add the legs and cook them slowly, turning several times for 10 minutes. Slowly render the duck fat from the legs, being careful not to burn them. Pour off the fat and reserve it. The duck skin should be browned.
Next, drain the sauerkraut in a colander or sieve. Meanwhile, dice one apple into 1/4-inch cubes, removing the seeds. Mix the apple with the drained sauerkraut and put in the bottom of a shallow, medium-sized casserole dish. Mix 1/3 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, and 1/2 cup duck stock together in a bowl. Pour the mixture over the sauerkraut and apples. Place the duck legs on top of the sauerkraut mixture and bake for 45 minutes. Pour 3 tablespoons of the duck fat over the duck and sauerkraut mixture to moisten it while it cooks. Bake the duck 15 minutes longer.
For a garnish, cut the remaining apple into 10 to 12 wedges, removing the seeds. Heat 1 tablespoon duck fat in a small nonstick skillet. When it is hot, sauté the apples over high heat until browned and soft. Remove the casserole from the oven. Put the sauerkraut and the duck legs on a platter and top with the sautéed apple slices.