Pulled Duck with Quince and Figs, Celery Root-Parsnip Purée, Carrot Purée and Sautéed Greens
Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser
Prep Time: 45 minutes Cook Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Succulent braised duck doused with aromatic spices and cooked until it falls off the bone, with rich root vegetable purées, sautéed greens and a delectable quince-flavored wine sauce make for a super-elegant, super-delicious holiday meal. The secret ingredient in the purées—a bit of rendered duck fat—makes them that much more delicious. Allow 30 to 45 minutes for the duck to chill, uncovered, before you begin to cook.
Duck and Sauce:
6 large duck thighs and legs (see Kitchen Tips)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
7 to 8 dried whole bay leaves, divided
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
4 whole cardamom pods, white preferred
1 tablespoon olive oil or chicken or duck fat (see Kitchen Tips)
4 shallots, peeled and minced
1 cinnamon stick
2 cups chicken broth or Brown Duck Stock
½ cup quince jelly (see Kitchen Tip)
1 cup dried figs, stems removed and cut in half
1 cup fresh figs, for garnish (optional)
Roasted Celery Root and Parsnip Purée and Carrot Purée:
2 medium to large celery roots, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
2 large parsnips, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
2 tablespoons reserved duck fat
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
4 shallots, peeled and cut in half
8 large carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
¾ to 1¾ cups chicken broth, divided
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons reserved duck fat
6 cups shredded chard leaves, stems removed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
- Prepare the duck: Pat the duck dry and place on a rimmed baking sheet, skin side up, uncovered, and refrigerate for 30 to 45 minutes. If you have time, you can leave it in the fridge for up to 3 hours (see Kitchen Tips).
- Preheat the oven to 325°F. Remove the duck from the refrigerator and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Make a bouquet garni: cut a large piece of cheesecloth and place the bay leaves, peppercorns, and cardamom pods on it. Gather the edges together, wrap into a small bundle, tie with a long string of kitchen twine and set aside.
- Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil or chicken fat in an enamel-coated, cast-iron or heavy-bottomed Dutch oven set over very high heat until the oil shimmers or the fat is melted and very hot. Carefully place the duck pieces into the pan in a single layer, skin-side down, working in batches if necessary (do not crowd the pan). Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook undisturbed for 9 to 10 minutes, until the skin is a deep golden brown. With a spoon, transfer 4 tablespoons of the duck fat to a bowl and set aside. With tongs, remove the par-cooked legs to a rimmed platter. Remove the skin from the duck and set aside (it will be crisped up later).
- Add the minced shallots, cinnamon stick, and bouquet garni to the Dutch oven, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the shallots are translucent and have browned at the edges. Add the stock and the wine, bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until the liquid is reduced in volume by half. Add the quince jelly and dried figs and stir until the jelly dissolves. Return the duck to the pot, cover with foil, carefully place the pot into the oven, and braise for 1 hour to 1 hour and 45 minutes, or until the meat falls off the bone.
- While the duck is in the oven, make the purées: Preheat the oven to 375°F and spray 2 rimmed baking sheets with nonstick vegetable oil spray. Arrange the celery root and parsnips on one, dab on 1 tablespoon of the reserved duck fat, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil, sprinkle with the cardamom, cinnamon, and half the salt, and toss lightly to coat. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked through and a sharp knife slides in and out with ease.
- Place the carrots on the other prepared baking sheet, dab on the remaining 1 tablespoon duck fat, drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, sprinkle with the remaining salt, and toss gently to coat. Place in the oven with the other vegetables and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until cooked through.
- When the vegetables are done, remove both baking sheets from the oven. Transfer the celery root and parsnips to a blender or food processor along with ½ cup chicken broth, and scrape in any flavorful browned bits that are stuck to the pan. Process until smooth and creamy, adding more stock if needed, a little at a time, to achieve a nice, smooth consistency. Set aside.
- Wipe the blender or processor clean and transfer the carrots to it, again scraping in any juices and browned bits that are stuck to the pan, along with the ¼ cup stock, the honey, and the vinegar. Process until smooth and creamy, again adding more stock if needed, a little at a time, to achieve a nice, smooth consistency. Set aside.
- When the duck is done, remove the pot from the oven and transfer the duck to a clean platter. Remove the meat from the bones, and discard the bones and gristle. Cut or shred the meat into bite-sized pieces and set aside. There will be copious amounts of rendered duck fat—culinary gold (see Kitchen Tips for many uses for duck fat). Skim the fat (not the juices) from the Dutch oven. Discard the bouquet garni and cinnamon stick, and cook the contents of the pot over high heat, uncovered, for about 5 minutes, until the liquid has thickened, is reduced in volume and easily coats a spoon. Return the duck to the Dutch oven, and stir gently. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and set aside.
- Make the greens. Heat a sauté pan, and when hot, add the fat and heat through. Add the chard, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, until wilted. Transfer the greens to a container and wipe the skillet clean.
- Set the skillet over high heat until it is very very hot. Meanwhile, line a platter with paper towels and position it near the stove. Carefully place the reserved duck skin into the pan, fat-side down, and cook undisturbed until any residual fat has melted and the skin is beginning to crisp and fry. Turn over with tongs and do not worry if the pieces come apart a bit. When they are toasted to a deep brown (but not burned) remove from the pan with tongs and set aside on the prepared platter.
- To serve, divide the celery root and parsnip purée, the carrot purée, and the greens evenly between 6 dinner plates, swirling the purées attractively. Top with equal portions of duck meat and drizzle the sauce over each. Crumble or cut the crispy duck skin and scatter over each portion. Garnish with fresh figs and serve immediately.
- You can also make this meal with chicken legs. If you do, buy the plumpest you can find and use olive oil or chicken fat instead of duck fat (chicken legs don’t produce as much fat as duck legs, so be prepared to supplement what is rendered from the legs if you need to). You will also need to reduce the cooking time by about half.
- For crispy, delicious duck skin, chill the duck before you cook it, because the colder and drier the skin is, the better it will crisp.
- Duck fat is a highly prized commodity among savvy cooks, so if you prepare duck and wind up with an excess of fat, treat it carefully. What to do with it once you have it? Strain it through cheesecloth into a container, seal tightly, and it will keep in the fridge for 3 months. Try roasting potatoes with it, or sautéing vegetables in it or using it as the fat in a rice or grain pilaf…or cooking duck. It gives just about any food a wonderful, rich flavor.
- You can also use duck fat to brown the duck at the beginning of your prep if you have some on hand. If not, chicken fat or olive oil will work just as well.
- Quince jelly can be found at specialty stores, online, and at health food stores. You can use preserves or jam and you’ll end up with yummy chunks of sweet quince.