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Southwestern duck rillettes

2 lbs. duck legs and thighs
1/2 onion, minced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 Tb. pasilla chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. dried oregano, crumbled
1/2 tsp. dried sage, crumbled
1/3 cup dried cherries, finely chopped
2 Tb. fresh parsley, chopped
2 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped fine
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 day (or more) before serving:

Place duck legs in a crockpot and cover completely with water. Cook several hours on “LOW” setting until meat falls off the bones. Remove legs to a large bowl using a slotted spoon. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled; this makes the meat much easier to handle. Meanwhile, pour duck broth into a large container, cover and chill for several hours. Carefully skim off all the firm white fat and set aside in a separate sealed container. Reserve (or freeze) broth for another purpose.

Early in day of serving:

Remove all the meat from the duck legs, discarding skin, surface fat, gristle, etc. Now process the meat in a food processor until evenly chopped; divide the meat into smaller amounts for better processing control. Place all but 2 Tb. of the reserved duck fat in a large non-stick skillet. Melt fat over medium heat and add the chopped meat. As the duck heats up it will begin to brown; stir occasionally so meat develops a nice browned color overall; this takes 30 to 45 minutes. Remove meat to a mixing bowl and cool to room temperature.

While meat browns, sauté onion in reserved duck fat. When onion has started to brown add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano and sage. Sauté one minute and remove from heat. Cool slightly, then add to cooled duck mixture. Next, add dried cherries, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper to taste, mixing completely. Firmly pack the rillettes into a serving bowl, cover with plastic and refrigerate. Serve lightly chilled with crackers or homemade croutons. Makes approximately 3 cups rillettes, or enough for 12 to 15 people to have 2 or 3 appetizers each. Tasty when paired with Schug Heritage Reserve Pinot Noir! Extra rillettes freeze beautifully.

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