The original recipe from Alice Water's Chez Panisse cafe cookbook uses Zinfandel, making the wine-inspired dish a deep-flavored stew during the autumn and winter months. Because I didn't have red wine, I decided to lighten the dish with a spring twist, using leeks and white wine instead. For a red wine braise, substitute the white wine with a red wine, orange zest with the lemon, and omit leeks. I extended the braising time an hour longer than the instructed time, as the duck was hardly tender after only an hour of braising. My apologies for failing to take a final shot of the dish (I was starving).
4-6 duck legs,
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon rendered duck fat or olive oil
1 medium onion, cut into 1/2 inch dices
2 medium carrots, cut into 1/2 inch dices
1 leak, sliced thinly and chopped roughly
2 thyme branches
1 bay leaf
2 garlic cloves, sliced
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup Chardonnay or Sauvignon blanc
1 1/2 cups hot Chicken Stock
Trim duck legs of excess fat, season with salt and pepper. Cover, refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 450F. Put 1 tablespoon of duck fat or olive oil in pan, add diced onion, carrot and leaks and cook until lightly browned, 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another 2 minutes, then spread vegetables at the bottom of a deep earthenware baking dish. Add bay leaves, thyme, lemon zest and wine.
Arrange the duck legs on top in one layer, skin side down, add hot chicken stock to nearly cover and seal tightly with foil 2 times.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until stick begins to simmer gently. Turn the oven down to 350F and braise for another 1 1/2-2 hours, till duck meat is soft and falling off bone.
Remove foil, turn legs up and cook uncovered until skin is crisp and golden.
Remove legs from baking dish and pour braising juices into saucepan. Skim off fat, then over medium heat reduce and thicken sauce, seasoning to taste. Before serving, return duck to saucepan and reheat in sauce for 5 minutes.