Funny how I’m on a “yearly” schedule with my choice of cooking duck: a more extravagant meat for my family. One year ago, I successfully made “Spice-Rubbed Duck Breasts with Roasted Grapes and Cavolo Nero.” This time, I tried the “Braised Duck Legs with Figs, Star Anise, and Winter Squash,” from the December 2010 issue of Fine Cooking, although I did not use duck legs. Again, I cooked the breast meat, which benefits from a rarely cooked treatment, remember. My meal, here, was rich, yet tame.

I reduced the quantities of this recipe to make 4 servings. I used two split duck breasts, which were four pieces with their skin. These produced a lot of nice duck fat in the Dutch oven. After adding my vegetables, figs, herbs, spices, and 5 1/3 cups vegetable-bouillon broth (instead of chicken broth), I simmered the stew for 1 hour 20 minutes. The warm scent of the star anise and figs reminded me of mulled wine: soothing. My chosen winter squash was a nice kabocha.

Once the stew was cooked, it was time to make the sweet and silky sauce. I used white-wine vinegar instead of champagne vinegar, and added a bit of salt to the sauce. I did strain it. As suggested, I served this stew atop rice.

The lasting impression of this meal, I admit, was the figs! I loved how they softened and offered a bite of sweetness. This recipe did indeed require duck legs, in order to cook for so long. The breasts were a bit tired out after all that cooking. And after all that, they might as well have been chicken! Try this recipe with duck legs, and tell me what happens.

Duck Breasts (1.89 lbs.) = $21.51
Carrots (~3) = .77¢
Dried California Black Mission Figs (10.67 oz.) = $2.77
Kabocha Squash (2 lbs.) = $2.36

RECIPE: try a fragrant duck stew, and slowly enjoy the richness of this meat
set aside more than two hours for prep and cooking
TASTE: star anise, dried figs, and winter squash warmly combine into a rich perfume, bolstered by the benefits of duck fat

Next time, I want to cook the “Salmon, Fennel, Parsnip, and Coconut Stew,” as inspired by See my version when you come back to my site on Thursday, March 3.