I’ve recently gotten into the habit of buying ducks at the local Asian market. They’re super cheap and, although it takes a little bit of butchering, I end up with plenty of meat and a big pot of stock all for around $10. Compare that to the $6 per tiny confit leg that the regular grocery store charges, and you’ll see that it’s a pretty good bargain! I was cleaning out the freezer the other day when I found a few legs that I had forgotten about. This recipe, inspired by Fine Cooking and by the apple cider vinegar braised chicken thighs that I’ve made before, was the perfect way to use them up.

While the duck with perfectly crisp skin is amazing, the real star  of this dish is the butternut squash. It’s buttery soft and the subtle flavor of the star anise contrasts really nicely against the squash’s sweetness. It was some of the best squash I’ve eaten; I wouldn’t hesitate to make a double portion of this recipe, without the duck, to serve as a side dish or simple meatless meal.


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Crispy Duck Legs with Star Anise and Squash

Serves 4.
Prep Time: 15 minutes ; Total Time: 2 Hours

Star anise is a pod from a small evergreen tree native to China. It has a slightly bitter, liquorish-like flavor, but it earthier than fennel. Look for it in the Latin section of your supermarket – I found a huge canister of Badia brand star anise for less than $3. In a pinch, you can substitute 1/2 teaspoon of 5-spice powder.

Adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine.

Ingredients

  • 4 Fresh Duck Legs, trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 Tbs Olive Oil
  • 2 Carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 stalk Celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small Onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves Garlic, smashed
  • 1 whole Star Anise
  • 1 Butternut Squash (about 2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cups Water
  • 2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Butter
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped Parsley
  • Cooked Brown Rice, for serving

Preparation

  1. Season the duck with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a heavy, oven safe pot or dutch oven set over medium heat. Place the duck legs in the pot, skin-side down, and cook until the skin is brown and crisp – about 10 minutes. Remove the duck legs and discard all but 1 tablespoon of the rendered fat.
  2. Add the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic to the pot. Cook until just softened – about 5 minutes. Stir in the star anise and squash and pour in the vinegar and enough water to just cover the vegetables. Place the duck, skin-side up, on top of the vegetables. Cook until the liquid boils.
  3. Cover and transfer to the oven. Bake for 1-1/2 hours, or until the duck and vegetables are both very tender. Remove from oven and heat broiler to high. Remove duck legs from the pot and transfer them to a broiler pan. Broil the duck legs, skin-side up, until the skin is very crispy – 5 to 7 minutes. Stir the butter into the vegetables until it melts into the sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Serve the crispy duck legs with the braised vegetables over brown rice. Drizzle with the pan sauce. Garnish with chopped parsley.

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Speaking of things found in the depths of my freezer, I recently unearthed a bag of Yoplait’s Chocolate Banana Smoothie that I had forgotten about. I started buying the berry flavored smoothies over the summer, and was excited to hear about the new chocolate banana flavor.

Yeah, I know smoothies are crazy easy to make and you might not “need” a kit for it. But these are so easy, and I love that the fruit and yogurt is portioned out. All you need to do is milk and a blender to have a milkshake-like treat. No thought required! The berry flavors tend to be a little icy (I liked the cool iciness in the summer), but the banana based one was super smooth and creamy – just take a look at it in the photo below!

Want to win a coupon to try the new flavor for yourself? Leave a comment on this post and let me know – I’ll pick a winner on Monday,  November 28. (Open to readers with US addresses only). You can also click here to download a printable coupon for $1.00 off. Note: Contest is closed. Congratulations, Ami!

In addition to the coupon you’ll receive a few treats to pamper yourself this holiday season, including a really nice neck pillow (perfect for any holiday traveling you might do) and a lavender-scented eye mask.

The Yoplait® VIP Coupon, information, and giveaway have been provided by Yoplait through MyBlogSpark. I received the same giveaway items, but did not receive any additional compensation for this post. All opinions are my own.