Braised duck complements rustic noir

A well-made pinot noir is a thing of beauty, and that includes our wine of the week, Goldeneye, 2017 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir ($58). It is elegant and gracious, with just a bit of wildness around the edges.

The wine starts out as earthy, with flourishes of black top soil, wild mushrooms and fresh tobacco. Rising above this foundation are bright flavors of cranberry, pomegranate, wild strawberries and hints of mangosteen. Tannins are rich and supple, but not harsh.

The wine is both nuanced and rustic, with a depth that could have derailed it were it not for a rather dazzling acidity that stops it from going down the over-extracted rabbit hole. It is a pinot noir that will delight lovers of the varietal and those who prefer bigger, bolder reds.

Pinot noir is among the most food-friendly red wines. You can enjoy this one with roasted vegetables, creamy polenta, risotto, pasta with rich sauce, rare lamb, rare beef, braised beef, pork shoulder braised with dried plums and cherries and grilled chicken thighs with a soy sauce glaze. But for the very best pairings, the kind that make the wine soar, look to mushrooms and to duck.

Mushroom risotto is a fabulous match, as is seared duck breast with potato purée and wilted spinach. The wine is also extraordinary with duck braised with mushrooms and red wine stock. You’ll want a flavorful starch as a bed for the duck and to help soak up the delicious sauce. I recommend creamy polenta, farro or a sauté of potatoes and sweet potatoes, cut into ⅓-inch cubes and fried in a mix of butter and bacon fat.

Braised Duck Legs with Mushrooms and Red Wine Stock

Makes 4 servings

For the stock:

8 to 10 ounces specialty mushrooms, preferably maitake

2 cups dry red wine

2 cups duck stock or chicken stock, preferably homemade

½ star anise

1 bay leaf

2 Italian parsley sprigs

For the duck:

Kosher salt

4 whole duck legs, preferably from Liberty Duck

White pepper

1 large or 2 small shallots, minced

Black pepper in a mill

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves or snipped chives

For the stock: At least an hour before preparing the duck and as long as the day before, make the stock. To do so, separate the fronds of the maitakes from the central core and set the petals aside. Coarsely chop the cores and put them into a medium saucepan. Add the wine, stock, anise, bay leaf and parsley sprigs. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to very low, carefully taste, correct for salt as needed and simmer very gently for about an hour. Cool, strain and discard the solids. Set aside or refrigerate if using the next day.

For the duck: Set the duck legs on a clean work surface and season all over with salt and white pepper.

Set a heavy pan — cast iron is ideal — over high heat. When it is hot, add the duck, skin side down. Cook for several minutes without turning, unless the skin is browned and no longer sticks to the pan. Turn and cook for several more minutes, skin side up. Transfer the duck to a platter or plate, add the shallots to the pan, season with a little salt and sauté until they soften, about 7 minutes. Add the reserved mushroom fronds and continue to cook until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes more.

Return the duck to the pan, skin side down. Add the stock, reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and simmer gently for 45 minutes. Uncover the pan, turn over the duck, cover the pan and cook until the meat is very tender at the thickest part of the thigh, about 45 minutes more.

Transfer the duck legs to a platter, cover and keep hot.

Turn the heat to high and reduce the cooking liquid by about two-thirds. Taste, correct for salt if needed, season with several turns of black pepper, reduce the heat to low and add the butter. Swirl the pan until the butter is just melted.

To serve, add accompaniments to individual plates, set a duck leg alongside and spoon sauce and mushrooms over it. Sprinkle with parsley or chives and enjoy right away.

Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date, including “The New Cook’s Tour of Sonoma.” Email her at

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