I don’t know about you, but for myself, I’m a thighs girl. Thighs are meaty and moist. Breasts are lean and dry. At least as far as my fave poultry birds (viz chicken, duck and guinea fowl) are concerned. And it’s not just the succulent-ness of thighs, it’s their alluring price.
Recently I flew into my local Lidl. Full disclosure: I’m fast becoming a convert to these aptly named “box-stores”. It’s not just the surprising quality of their produce – even the fresh stuff – but also the fact that they’re quite small and the boxy layout is precisely the same wherever you are (judging by recent experiences in Germany, France, the UK and Spain), so you know just what’s where and can get the whole grisly business over in about 12 minutes flat.
In the chill cabinet, some rippling guinea fowl thighs (cuisses de pintade) were on special at some ridiculous price. Into the basket they went, and thence to the freezer awaiting their moment. More recently, in Casino, I spotted some impressive (and likewise absurdly cheap) duck thighs (cuisses de canard). They too waddled into my trolley.
Last week, anticipating my upcoming Raid the Pantry workshop, I figured I’d better get into training and follow my own counsel to use up what’s already lurking in the store cupboard/fridge/freezer. Out came the guinea fowl thighs from the freezer. I decided on the low-temperature method, for which the oven’s so cool (80 degrees C) you can heat the plates at the same time. Or make meringues.). I tossed my thighs in hot butter (love, love butter), baked them for about an hour in aforesaid oven and served them with a baroque confection of sweet and purple potatoes and courgettes, lavishly sprinkled with flatleaf parsley [pic above]. Oh my, were they ever good.
The duck thighs came in for slightly different treatment, more along the lines of a daube. I browned them in a heavy pan without extra fat (they have enough of their own), then softened some root vegetables, added herbs and a serious glug of red wine and then put them in the oven at 160 degrees C for at least 2 hours and went out for a walk. Talk about succulent…they fairly fell off the bone. With them I did a pantry-raid polenta (2 cups milk + 2 cups water + s & p + 1 cup quick-cook polenta) which made a perfect, comforting, sunflower-yellow carb foil for the brown/red duck and mopped up the winey sauce most expediently. Great winter nosh. Try it.
DUCK THIGHS IN RED WINE SAUCE
2 duck thighs
salt and pepper
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 leek, sliced
a chunk of celeriac, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2 bay leaves
a good pinch of thyme and sage
1/2 bottle red wine
- Heat the oven to 150 C
- Season the duck thighs and place skin side down in a heavy ovenproof pan with lid
- Cook over moderate heat until the fat runs and the skin is golden
- Turn the thighs and cook the second side in the same way
- Lift thighs out onto a plate and tip or spoon away most of the fat
- In the same pan soften the carrots, leek, celeriac and garlic gently without allowing them to colour
- Sprinkle on thyme, sage and bay leaaves, pour on the wine, return the duck to the pan, cover with foil and a lid and bring to a simmer
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 2 hours or until meltingly tender
- Serve with polenta and/or roasted mixed vegetables (which you can roast in the rendered duck fat)