Duck with spiced pears

A nice change from the usual chicken and spuds. Chopped dried figs can also be used in place of the raisins.

Serves 4
4 duck breast or leg pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
½ cup sweet marsala or dry white wine
1 medium onion, sliced into thin rounds
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cups rich, flavorful duck or chicken stock
2 firm ripe pears, halved, peeled, and cored, stems intact if possible
Brown sugar
Pinch of ground cloves
1 slice stale white bread, crust removed
1 garlic clove, sliced thin
3 tablespoons ground almonds, toasted
1 sprig fresh parsley
2 tablespoons sultana or golden raisins
Chopped parsley to garnish

1. Heat a bit of olive oil in a medium saute pan. Season duck portions with salt and pepper and fry, skin side down, for several minutes until browned and fat runs out. Flip and quickly fry the other side to seal in juices. Add the marsala and allow to evaporate. Transfer to a covered baking dish and set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 350°F. In the same pan used to cook the duck, gently cook onions until lightly caramelized. Add the cinnamon stick, thyme, bay leaf, and 1 3/4 cups of the stock. Bring to a boil and pour this over the duck. Cover and bake for about 1½ hours.

3. Lightly sprinkle the cut side of the pears with sugar and cook briefly in a small amount of butter and a pinch of clove spice until light golden brown. Whiz the bread, garlic, almonds, and parsley with the remaining 1/4 cup broth to make a smooth paste. Stir this paste into the duck and add the pears and raisins. Continue baking for another 15-20 minutes until pears are tender.

4. Garnish with parsley. Serve with mashed potatoes or wild rice pilaf.

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