When I was growing up, there was a fig tree straddling my parents' and my neighbor's fence. On prolific years, we couldn't eat enough of the fruit. We ate the fruit straight off the tree for snacks, turned it into jam, and skewered it on the grill alongside lamb or chicken. But I'd never thought to pair the fruit with duck legs before reading Nigel Slater's Ripe.
His Duck with Figs and Barolo is an exercise in restraint. Two legs are seasoned and roasted in a hot oven before being finished in a quick red wine and fig sauce. The wine melds beautifully with the rendered fat, and the sliced figs suck up the sauce becoming at once sweet, rich, and pleasantly tannic.
Why I picked this recipe: The simplicity called out to me. Duck, wine, figs, and little else make for a rustic, easy meal.
What worked: Gently sweet figs were a delightful foil to the gamy duck and robust wine.
What didn't: I found the quick-roasted legs a bit tough; a longer, slower cook-time would have capitalized on their connective tissue and made for a more tender outcome.
Suggested tweaks: The wine and fig sauce would taste fantastic drizzled over duck confit.
Reprinted with permission from Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard by Nigel Slater. Copyright 2010, 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press. Available wherever books are sold. All rights reserved.
- 2 duck legs
- A few sprigs of thyme
- 4 figs
- A wineglass of red wine, such as Barolo
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Season the duck legs with salt and black pepper, tuck in the thyme sprigs, then roast in the oven until golden and crisp-skinned—a matter of 25 to 30 minutes or so.
Holding the duck in place with a spatula, pour off the fat and reserve for another day. It will be wonderful for potatoes. Cut the figs in half and tuck them, cut side down, around the duck. Pour in the red wine and place over medium heat until the wine has evaporated by half and the figs have softened, scraping any crusty bits from the pan into the wine.