Banyuls, called for in this duck recipe, adapted from one in Suzanne Goin's book, is a fortified wine from France's Roussillon region.
** **6 large duck legs, 8—10 oz. each
1 tbsp. thyme leaves, plus 6
whole sprigs thyme
Zest of 1 orange
1 tbsp. freshly cracked black pepper
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
11/2 cups diced onion
1/2 cup diced fennel
1/2 cup diced carrot
1 bay leaf, preferably fresh
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 cups banyuls
3 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
1. Trim the excess fat from the duck legs. Season them with 1 tbsp. thyme, orange zest, and the cracked black pepper. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
2. Take the duck out of the refrigerator 45 minutes before cooking. After 15 minutes, season the legs on all sides with 1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. salt. Heat a large saute pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Swirl in the olive oil and wait 1 minute. Place the duck legs in the pan, skin side down, and cook for 8—10 minutes, until the skin is deep golden brown and crisp. (If your pan is too small to fi t all the legs, brown them in batches so that you don't crowd them.) Turn the duck legs over, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 2 minutes on the other side. Move the duck, skin side up, to a braising pan. (The duck legs should just fit in the pan.) Preheat the oven to 325°.
3. Discard half the fat and return the pan to the stove over medium heat. Add the onion, fennel, carrot, thyme sprigs, bay leaf, and a pinch of pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often with a wooden spoon to scrape up all the crusty bits. When the vegetables are nicely browned and caramelized, add the balsamic vinegar and banyuls. Turn the heat up to high, bring the liquid to a boil, and cook for 6—8 minutes, until it has reduced by half. Add 3 cups stock and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Pour the broth and vegetables over the duck, then scrape the vegetables that have fallen on top of the duck back into the broth. The liquid should not quite cover the duck. Cover the pan very tightly with plastic wrap (yes, it can go in the oven) and then aluminum foil. Braise in the oven for about 21/2 hours, until the duck is very tender. To check for doneness, carefully remove the plastic and foil and pierce a piece of the duck with a paring knife. If the meat is done, it will yield easily and be tender but not quite falling off the bone.
5. Turn the oven up to 400°. Carefully transfer the duck to a baking sheet and return it to the oven to brown for 10—15 minutes. Strain the broth into a saucepan, pressing down on the vegetables with a ladle to extract all the juices. Skim the top layer of fat from the sauce. Reduce the broth over medium-high heat, about 5 minutes, to thicken it slightly. Taste the juices for seasoning. Transfer duck legs to 6 wide bowls. Spoon the juices over the duck and scatter the parsley leaves over the top.