Tonight could be the last in the series between Flames and Ducks in the Stanley Cup finals - Calgarians are biting their nails over game 5 of the second round, hoping we'll make it through to the next round, and there has been much talk about cooked duck, flaming duck - and since the Alberta election that brought in a new NDP government, duck a l'orange.
It all reminded me of a little treat we got in our loot bags after a night at Azuridge, an exquisite boutique hotel about 20 minutes outside Calgary in the rolling foothills between Bragg Creek and Priddis. It's a stunning place - it was once a private residence, transformed in 2011 into the perfect weekend retreat; 27,000 square feet on 13 acres, with indigenous Rundle rock, timber and sweeping glass architecture inspired by the Canadian Pacific Railway’s rocky mountain train stations.
There are luxuriously deep tubs, divine bedding, fireplaces, flat-screen TVs, private patios overlooking the mountains, and onsite butlers who will even draw your bath from a library of bath salts you can make your selection from. They'll wake you up with coffee, freshly squeezed OJ and pastries at your door, which you can nibble in your robes in your cozy living room, in bed, or out on the patio. And of course the dining room is exceptional - with wall-to-ceiling windows and an enormous open fireplace. We were sent home with a duck confit from the chefs, and when I asked, they were more than happy to share the recipe.
Duck confit is essentially a duck leg slowly poached in its own fat; the process perserves it, so that you can store the duck in the fat in your fridge for up to a month. The meat is meltingly tender, so you can pull it off with a fork to make a sandwich, pile it on crostini, or crisp up the whole leg in a hot pan and serve it with a green salad for dinner. The process is low and slow, but requires little in the way of prep work - and the reward is some fancy fast food you can have stashed in your fridge for dinnertime - or hockey play off - emergencies.
Duck Confit with Orange and Grand Marnier
6 duck legs
2 L duck fat (or canola oil)
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, rosemary and thyme
zest and juice of 2 oranges
1/4 cup Grand Marnier
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Lay the duck legs flat in a baking dish that will accommodate them. Combine the marinade ingredients, sprinkle over the duck, cover and refrigerate for 12 hours.
Pour off any excess liquid from the bottom of the bowl. Warm the duck fat or canola oil and pour over the legs, making sure they are completely covered. Cover with foil and bake at 280F for 3 hours, until very tender.
Cool and refrigerate; confit will keep in the fridge for up to a month. If you like, decorate the tops with thin orange slices.
To serve, brown in a hot skillet in a bit of duck fat; serve with a green salad, or pull apart to top a crostini. Serves 6 or more.