This braise is deep, dark and packs a ton of flavor that will leave your taste buds wanting more. The plums and red wine add some sweetness and acidity to the already rich sauce which is just amazing.
When it comes to picking out the duck legs, go for the smaller ones known as Pekin or Long Island duck legs that weigh around 8 ounces each. They tend to cook faster and are much more tender compared to the larger Muscovy duck legs often found in butcher shops. But if you can’t find them, don’t worry, chicken legs can easily be used as a substitute.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, why not just brown the legs in the Dutch oven itself? However, trust me on this one, using a roomy skillet (preferably cast iron) works much better and saves time in the long run. You can brown more legs at once and get the job done quicker too. So, what are you waiting for? Get cooking!
- 8duck legs, about 4 pounds
- 2tablespoons kosher salt
- ½teaspoon black pepper
- ¼teaspoon ground clove
- ¼teaspoon ground allspice
- Pinch of cayenne
- 2cups diced red onion
- 1tablespoon tomato paste
- 1cup dry red wine
- 4cups chicken broth
- 1(1-inch) piece of cinnamon stick
- 2pieces star anise
- 1bay leaf
- 2pounds small purple free-stone plums, halved, pits removed
- 1tablespoon butter
- ½cup chopped parsley
- 3tablespoons finely sliced chives
- ¼cup roughly chopped pistachios
- 1teaspoon grated lemon zest
Lay the duck legs on a baking sheet in one layer. In a small bowl, mix together salt, pepper, clove, allspice and cayenne. Sprinkle salt mixture evenly over duck legs on both sides. Set aside for 20 minutes. (Alternatively, wrap and refrigerate seasoned legs for several hours or overnight.)
Put a wide, heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add duck legs skin side down. Legs will begin to exude fat and sizzle. Let them cook, without moving them, until nicely browned, about 10 minutes. Turn legs and cook on other side for 10 minutes more.
Remove browned legs from pan and set aside. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons duck fat (save remaining fat for future use). Add diced onion to pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add tomato paste, stirring to incorporate, then add wine and broth and bring to a simmer. Add cinnamon stick, star anise and bay leaf. Chop half the plums into ½-inch pieces and add to the simmering broth.
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Transfer duck legs to a Dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed pot. Pour the hot broth mixture over legs, then cover and bake for 20 minutes. Lower heat to 350 degrees and bake for 30 to 40 minutes more, until legs are quite tender when pierced with a skewer. Remove pot from oven and skim fat from surface. (You may prepare the dish to this point 1 to 2 days in advance, if desired.)
Heat butter in a wide skillet over medium-high heat. Add reserved plums cut side down and sauté for a minute or so, until lightly browned, then turn and cook on skin side for a minute more.
Transfer duck legs to a warm platter and spoon the hot sauce over them. Garnish with sautéed plums. Mix together parsley, chives, pistachios and lemon zest. Sprinkle parsley mixture over the top and serve.