Duck legs are one of those things we just end up having an abundance of. I think for most of us our natural choice is to bake, roast or smoke the entire bird. For the more adventurous we tend to focus all of our efforts on the breast, and rightly so. Duck breast if properly rendered and seared is arguably one of the most decadent foods you can eat. I love to elevate hidden gems and when talking about duck, it is leg quarters. They are fatty rich pieces of gold that are often overlooked. I think many duck legs are left in the freezer and only find their way out during annual cleanings.
For these tacos I am poaching my leg quarters in duck fat in advance this can be done several days ahead. The method in classic French cooking is called Confit but don’t let that intimidate you, it’s simple. After you cook this, not only will you be considered the best cook of duck to anyone you know, but you will also have the best taco in town.
Recipe by Lance Lewis
Cure for Duck:
- 16oz rendered Duck Fat (See instructions at bottom of page)
- ¼ Cup Kosher Salt
- 3 Tbsp red chili powder
- 1 Tbsp cumin
- 1 Tbsp Mexican Oregano
- 1 Tbsp Granulated Onion
- 1 Tbsp Granulated Garlic
Tacos and Topping
- One bunch Cilantro
- One small White onion fine dice
- One Jalapeno fine dice (note: if you want heat keep seeds and membrane attached)
- One pack corn tortilla
- Queso Fresco
Poached Duck Cure
- Dry duck legs with paper towel
- Combine the remaining dry ingredients for duck and make sure they are well blended to make cure
- Pour dry ingredients over duck legs. Make sure to really pack salt and spices around the leg quarters
- Once encrusted in the spice blend tightly wrap in plastic wrap and allow to cure for 24 hours
- After curing time brush loose salt and spices and rinse under cool water and dry after with paper towel
- In a single layer place leg quarters in deep dish. Cover with rendered duck fat
- Place in oven at 225 for at least 4 hours, or until tender and you see the skin starts to pull away from the bone. The key to this step is low and slow, if you go to hot you will quickly find you are frying not poaching.
- Allow to rest and cool. Once cool, debone and shred (optional: while deboning the Duck save the skin trying to keep it intact as much as possible. Place on sheet pan in oven or pan on stove and allow to crisp over Med/low heat until crisp. This makes a Duck Skin Crackling that is great on the taco)
- Take fine diced white onion and jalapeno and combine with chopped cilantro
- Warm tortillas on dry pan until they began to puff. Repeat until your desired number of tortillas are warmed
- On warmed tortilla add shredded duck top cilantro blend and crumbled queso fresco
Rendering Duck Fat
Duck is notoriously fatty, and that is a good thing. Once you have rendered the solids from the fat the remaining lard is packed with flavor and now has a pretty high smoke point. This is a great way to use even more of your duck than you ever thought you could.
To render fat simply remove as much of the fat and skin that you can and place in a large high sided pan or pot. Over low heat, allow to slowly cook and stirring occasionally until you are left with only pieces of skin floating on the top the rendered fat. Next remove large solid pieces and pour remaining liquid through strainer with a couple of layers of cheese cloth. Store in jar and place in refrigerator once cool. Will be good for at least a month in the fridge of freeze for up to two years.