Duck leg is rich and full of flavour, so today's back to basics guide takes a look at this gorgeous meat in all its glory.
As part of our Back to Basics series, we’re looking at some common ingredients to help make sure our readers are making the most of the great produce that we have access to here in Ireland. Previously we looked at scallops, housekeeper’s cut of beef and chicken thighs; today we're looking at duck leg.
Duck is one of our favourite meats as it's so flavoursome and lends itself well to a variety of different dishes. Duck breast is quite nutritious as it has quite high levels of protein, B vitamins, zinc, potassium, magnesium and iron. However, it does have quite a fat content in the skin, but if you want to reduce that, simply remove the skin and the layer of fat below it before cooking.
READ MORE: Gary O'Hanlon's duck with pancakes recipe
What Is Duck?
Duck is a type of a species within the waterfowl family that also includes swan and geese. Farmed duck is most commonly available (Skeaghanore Duck is one of our favourites), but wild duck is also available throughout October to December.
All ducks, except for the South American Muscovy duck, are thought to be descended from mallard duck. Nobody is really certain about when ducks were first domesticated, but it is thought that ancient Egyptians used ducks for sacrifices, as well as consumption, around 3,500 thousand years ago. Around 2,000 years ago, Southeast Asian people and ancient Romans started to breed ducks for consumption. Since then, the popularity of duck has spread throughout the world, with both its meat and eggs eaten widely.
Duck is often particularly associated with China, due to the popular Peking duck dish that comes from Beijing. This dish is made from specially bred Peking ducks, which are slaughtered after 65 days, then seasoned and roasted. However, duck leg is well known for its use in duck confit, which involves slowly cooking the duck leg in fat. It is a classic French dish and is an important element in cassoulet.
READ MORE: Thai duck salad recipe
Purchasing And Storing Duck
As always, we recommend that you purchase your duck breast from a reputable craft butcher. A whole duck can be a little tricky to prepare, so your butcher should be able to sell you duck leg by itself or help break down the whole duck for you. They will also be able to give you some cooking tips, storage ideas and more.
When buying duck leg, make sure that the skin is clear and soft, without any bruising or tears. The fatty skin should be a creamy colour and the flesh should have a deep reddish-pink colour.
When you get home from your butcher, make sure to place duck straight in the fridge on a covered plate or in a bowl. As with all meat, make sure to keep the duck leg separate from other foods so that it doesn't contaminate any ready-to-eat or cooked food. Raw duck leg should keep in the fridge for about two days
READ MORE: Sandy and John Wyer's duck with kohlrabi
Cooking Duck Leg
Duck leg confit is a classic dish and, to be honest, is often our favourite way to prepare and eat duck legs. For an easy-to-follow, tasty recipe, you can't go wrong with this Hugo Arnold recipe.
We also love this recipe from Brian Walsh of The Pigeon House as the combination of orange, quinoa and duck leg is hard-to-beat.