Holiday Not Just for Turkeys
When Thanksgiving rolls around, and people inevitably ask me for ideas or recipes, I love to steer them away from turkey. Frankly, in my opinion, it’s overrated and not my favorite thing to cook or to eat. With the resurgence of artisanal butchers and growing access to local farms, it’s now becoming a reality for home cooks to start exploring things like duck, or other game birds, without breaking the bank or going to extreme lengths to procure these products. The recipe I’m sharing is one of my favorite ways to cook a bird. Piecing out the bird and applying different cooking techniques allows you to treat each part of your bird specifically, gives you more control, and a far superior end product. I like to serve this rich dish with something light and acidic—a salad of turnips, radicchio, and apple, simply dressed with olive oil and champagne vinegar. The number of steps may look intimidating at first, but trust me, this is far easier than cooking a perfect turkey.
How to confit the legs
The confit can be done a day or two ahead of time, or earlier the day of. Place the legs and wings in a deep baking dish. Melt about 24 oz. of duck fat (or two of the jars you can get at the store or on Amazon). Pour the fat over your duck legs until covered, wrap the top with foil and bake at 300 degrees for 3–4 hours or until legs are tender. Remove from the oven and allow the duck to cool in the fat. Reserve.
Trim the breast, and score the skin at least three times. Place the breast between two pieces of plastic wrap, and using a meat mallet or a rolling pin gently but firmly pound the breast out until it is even and pretty thin. Try rolling it up and see if it will roll up on itself at least once. When your breast is pounded out, spoon a reasonable line of stuffing a little closer to you than to the center. Wrap tightly and place seam side down on the cutting board.Take a fresh piece of plastic wrap about 12 inches long and lay it flat on your board. Again place your roulade on the wrap a little closer to you than to the center of the wrap. Wrap tightly! If you mess up, unroll it and try again.When you’re satisfied with your roulade take the two ends of the wrap and twist one towards you and the other away from you. Your roulade should start to form a nice tight cylinder. Tie off each end.Bring a pot of water to a light simmer. Poach your roulades for 10 minutes. Remove from water and allow to cool in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before unwrapping and moving forward.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place your confit on a sheet pan, and roast until the skin is dark and crispy, about 10–15 minutes. While the legs are in the oven, heat a tablespoon of duck fat in a medium skillet over low heat. Place your roulade in the pan, skin side down, and began to render the fat from the skin, rolling it around as it becomes crispy and brown. this should take about the same time as your confit, so they should be ready to serve together.Let your roulade cool slightly, then slice it into reasonable pieces. Arrange on a plate with the confited legs, and whatever accoutrement suits your taste.
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ onion diced
1 cup squash, cut into quarter-inch cubes
6 oz. Italian sausage
1 apple, cut into quarter-inch cubes
2 tablespoons fresh sage, minced
¼ to ½ cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons butter
Lemon juice to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Melt butter in a medium saute pan. Add onion and garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook for about a minute. Add squash and continue to cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add sausage and apple. Break the sausage up really well with a spatula, and sauté the mixture until it starts to stick to the pan. Deglaze with a splash of chicken stock, and allow to reduce. Repeat the process until some of the squash starts to break down, coating and binding the mixture. Stir in sage and kill the heat. Season to your liking with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Transfer to a container and allow mixture to cool in the fridge.