Braised Duck Legs For Idiots

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The dish you see above is a dish from a four-star chef and yet it’s among the easiest you will ever prepare. It comes from Jean-George’s “Cooking at Home with a Four-Star Chef” which was co-written by Mark Bittman. As many of you know, Mr. Bittman is The Minimalist and it might seem strange, at first, that a man who prides himself on simplicity would co-author a book with a chef renowned for his complexity, innovation and flair. But this recipe proves that two opposing forces, working together, can generate electricity: it’s astonishingly good and amazingly easy. Click ahead and behold the splendor of Jean-George’s Braised Duck and Vegetables with Asian Spices.

This recipe is so simple, I don’t even need to reference the book. Watch:

1. Cut up a carrot, a stalk of celery, an onion and a knob of peeled ginger into tiny pieces and place in a saute pan: [the recipe also calls for chopped lemongrass here, but I couldn’t find it–if you have it, use half a stalk, peel it and finely mince];

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2. Don’t mock my dirty stovetop;

3. Drizzle the vegetables with some canola oil (or vegetable oil or any other oil without a strong flavor);

4. Place four duck legs on top;

5. Oh ya, have your oven preheated to 350;

6. Sprinkle the duck legs with kosher salt and then a heavy coat of 5-spice powder;

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7. Pop in the oven and walk away for TWO HOURS;

8. Two hours later take it out and it looks like this:

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9. Let it cool until it’s cool enough to handle;

10. Pull the skin off the duck legs (nibble on it, it’s delicious) and then tear up the meat into small pieces;

11. Pour off the excess fat in the pan and then toss the torn-up duck meat back in with the vegetables;

12. Add chopped scallion, some more fresh chopped ginger and soy sauce. Stir it around and taste it: does it need more salt? More soy sauce? Mine needed a hit of acid, so I used some rice wine vinegar.

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But that’s it! You serve it on top of rice and you won’t believe how good it tastes after such a small amount of work. I still can’t believe it. This is one of those recipes you keep up your sleeve for a cold winter’s night when you have work to do but you want to make something delicious. And you’ve just killed the family duck.

It’s a keeper.

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