Monday, February 24, 2014

Duck legs with green olives (and exciting news)

This winter has been extremely mild here in The Hague and in the Netherlands in general. We haven’t seen a single flake of snow, the rain hasn’t been falling as heavily as in previous years, and it hasn’t been very cold at all, at least for Dutch standards.

I have two duvets, one light and one heavy, and this is the first time in more than six years that I have been living here, that I have not switched to the heavy one for the winter. It is unbelievable and I’m saying this in a good way.

I love this weather. We’ve had a lot of sunny days and not those gloomy never-ending ones, and there have been some days that I have actually felt like I was back in Greece.

Spring has not yet arrived though, it is still winter, and throughout the season, I have been making all types of stews and slow-cooked, meat and poultry dishes. This one I made the other day when I was looking to cook something different than the traditional Greek meat stews and braises I usually make.

S and I love duck and even though we mostly opt for the quick-cooking duck breast, this time we chose duck legs. I thought about making duck confit at first, but then the idea of oven-braising the legs popped into my mind.

This is a duck-leg braise with Mediterranean flavors, one cooked very much the French/Italian way, with Greek green olives, bacon, celery, onion and carrot, ground aniseed and tomatoes. The duck legs are first baked in the oven over high heat in order for the fat to render and crisp up and then they are braised in the oven over a low heat along with all the vegetables, olives and bacon.

This dish is exceptional; highly flavorful and aromatic, deeply satisfying and quite unique. Briny olives with succulent, honeyed sweet duck meat, all dark and juicy, with crispy rendered skin; salty bacon adding extra flavor and aniseeds giving a spicy aromatic quality; tender vegetables; earthy sauce perfect for dipping, not too fatty but not for the faint-hearted either; acidity and freshness from the grated orange zest and chopped parsley, balancing the sweetness, brininess and earthiness of the dish. Paired with a creamy homemade potato purée it is perfection on a plate.

Now on other super exciting news, I am a finalist on theKitchn’s The Homies Awards, for the category “Best Blog from Abroad”. Yay! You can’t imagine how thrilled I was when I found out about it yesterday. I’m so honored to be among food bloggers whose work I admire immensely.
Of course I am the underdog and I know I’m not going to win, but it's always nice to be hopeful and it would make me so happy if you voted for me. Please click on this link to do so (until February 27th, 6:00 a.m. Central European Time). You have to be registered with theKicthn to vote, so if you are not yet registered click here first (you can sign in with facebook or twitter too).
I appreciate your support!!

Oven-Braised Duck Legs with Green Olives
Adapted from Bill Granger

I used large duck legs (from male ducks) but you can also use smaller ones (from female ducks). Get a couple more though if you want to feed six people.

I opted to serve the duck legs with potato purée but you can also serve them with fried potatoes.

Yield: 4-6 main-course servings

4 large duck legs with thighs attached (350 g each)
1 Tbsp olive oil
100 g bacon slices, chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, sliced
1 carrot, diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thinly
¼ tsp heaped aniseed powder
1 dried bay leaf
150 ml dry white wine
400 g canned chopped tomatoes
250 ml chicken stock
100 g pitted green olives (about 30)
Freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped, for serving
2 tsp orange zest, finely grated, for serving

Special equipment: Dutch oven or other large pan with lid that can go from stovetop to the oven, rasp grater

Take the duck legs out of the refrigerator at least half an hour before you cook them so they come to room temperature. Rinse them under cold running water and pat them dry with paper towels.

Preheat your oven to 220 degrees Celsius.

Place duck legs on a large baking tray and season well with salt and pepper on all sides. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for about 30 minutes, until the legs are golden brown and a lot of the fat has rendered.
Remove the baking tray from the oven and lower temperature to 160 degrees Celsius.

In a Dutch oven (or other large pan with lid that can go from stovetop to the oven), add the olive oil and heat over medium heat. Once it starts to shimmer, add the chopped bacon and cook, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes or until it has crisped up.

Add the chopped onion, celery and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 6 minutes, until the vegetables have softened. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often.
Pour the wine into the pan and simmer for 3 minutes until it has reduced by half, then add the ground aniseed and bay leaf and stir well.
Add the canned chopped tomatoes, the chicken stock and the olives and stir well.

Add the browned duck legs to the pan over the vegetables, in one layer, fatty side up (just like in the photos). They need not be immersed in the liquid in order for the skin to stay crispy, besides there’s not enough liquid for this to happen anyway.

Note: Empty the baking tray from the rendered fat and pour it into a bowl. Once it cools, you can keep it in the fridge, covered tightly and use it to cook potatoes or eggs.

Bring to the boil over medium-high heat and immediately put the lid on the pan. Transfer pan to the oven and cook for 1½-1¾ hours, or until the meat is very tender.

Remove from the oven and serve topped with grated orange zest and chopped parsley. Serve with potato purée or fried potatoes.

The next day, the duck legs will be as delicious, if not more.


  1. Μολις σε ψηφησα. Το ξερω οτι εισαι 'αντερντογκ' αλλα σου ευχομαι παρ'ολα αυτα να κερδισεις, γιατι το μπλογκ σου ειναι καλυτερο ακομα κι απο αλλα, επαγγελματικα. Καλη τυχη!

  2. Voting-Done! congratulations--being a finalist is a real honor!
    stunning, sumptuous duck, too.

  3. Congrats on your nomination! That is wonderful and you have my vote! The duck legs look great and Mark and I plan to try them very soon. I just saw duck legs at the butcher's - and will probably only make two! Perfect for us! Καλὴ τύχη!

  4. I keep wanting to cook duck and now will see if I can find legs - this looks so good - thank you!

    Also, I signed up at TheKitchn and voted. Congratulations!!! AND a big thank you for the intro to TheKitchn - what a fun site.

  5. Those legs look yummy!!! :p
    Been looking for a great sunday roast recipe and I guess this is it.
    Congrats on the nomination, you already have my vote.

  6. you have my vote! I love the images and recipe and will try it with the next duck I am gonna get!

  7. My vote is here too)) Magda, you're always THE BEST for me)


  8. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your kind words and your support. You make me really happy!!

  9. Congratulations on the nomination! I'm enjoying your blog and have cast my vote for you. My little blog (The Stout Sprout) is a finalist in the family-friendly category, and, like you, is an underdog. But it sure if fun to dream! Keep those recipes coming and best of luck.

  10. Thanks Madga, I'm actually cooking this tonight! Thank you for sharing the recipe, it smells devine.
    It's got an hour in the oven so I thought I would quickly pop online and share with everyone.

    1. Hi George. Thanks for trying it! I hope you enjoyed it :)