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.

Yields 4

Crispy Duck with Star Anise and Squash

Star anise is a pod from a small evergreen tree native to China. It has a slightly bitter, licorice-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.

15 minPrep Time

2 hrCook Time

2 hr, 15 Total Time

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  • 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


  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.