Grilled Duck Legs With Hazelnut Crust and Red Wine Sauce
Nov 12, 2018, Updated Jan 21, 2024
Grilled Duck Legs is decadent with a hazelnut crust, and then topped with an elegant and light red wine sauce. It’s the perfect pairing for a Chinon (Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley of France) and a cozy fall evening.
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Here in Portland we often go from sunny summer weather to winter. And for us winter pretty much encompasses the other three seasons, including fall. This means the rains have started, the temperatures have dropped, and we’re hibernating indoors for the most part.
We’re still grilling for our meals of course, because, well, we grill and smoke food year-round. Come rain, come hail, sleet, or snow, wood-fire is how our food gets cooked! Well except for morning cereal, but that’s another story.
Fall also means harvest season here in Oregon. And for us, living on a 5-acre hazelnut farm, means we’re surrounded by the official state nut of Oregon.
And if you haven’t cooked with hazelnuts you’re missing out. They may be known as the main ingredient in Nutella, but they’re also great for savory dishes. In this case were using them to bread (or crust) our grilled duck, and then pairing it with one of my favorite versatile red wines – Chinon.
What is Chinon Wine
Chinon is a region located in the Loire Valley, one of France’s most exciting and most versatile wine growing regions. Located west of Paris, the Loire Valley runs east to west, spanning 5 major regions, and producing everything from whites, rosé’s, and reds to incredible sparkling wines (known there as Crémant de Loire).
One of my favorite regions in the world for red wines is located right in the heart of the Loire Valley, in Chinon. This region is known almost exclusively for Cabernet Franc red wines (with Chenin Blanc grown for their white wines). The Cabernet Francs from this region are simply beautiful. They’re light, elegant, fruity, and incredibly suited to a wide variety of foods to pair. And they’re absolutely perfect for the fall season.
What Does Chinon Wine Taste Like?
They’re not too weighty and rich, like you may want for a cold winter’s eve. Nor are they so light that you’d only feel right sipping on them during a 100 degree day (though I’m hard pressed to find any red wines I’d want to drink when it’s that hot out, but you know what I mean!).
Pretty much these are wines Goldilocks would love (if she were of drinking age of course!). They’re right there in the middle in terms of body and weight and fruit balance. And they’re 100% delicious!
You can sip them alone while enjoying your cozy fall fire, eat them with a cheese and charcuterie plate (I highly recommend trying it with some of the goat’s cheeses that are prevalent in the Loire), to hearty meat dishes to soothe your loving soul.
We decided to go with something we don’t cook as often as we should, grilled duck.
Duck has a bit of a stronger flavor than other poultry, like chicken or turkey, and can have a richer and more flavorful taste. There’s even a slight sweetness to it. If you can’t find duck you can easily substitute chicken for this same recipe and process. But since we have a relatively easy time finding duck we wanted to go big to celebrate the season, and coat ours with crushed hazelnuts, grill for extra flavor, then finish with a simple, yet elegant, red wine sauce that brings it all together.
How to Prepare Duck – Which cut of Duck to Use
Duck will likely be in the frozen section of your better grocery stores. It will either be a whole duck, or parted out as breasts or legs. There are many breeds of duck, we love Muscovy duck for grilling.
It has flavor profiles similar to that of a steak, nice and rich. If you find the whole duck you would part it out like a chicken, cooking the pieces on the grill separately.
For grilled duck breast, score the skin side with cross hatches to allow more of the fat to render out while grilling.
Chef Tip: Save the duck fat from a whole duck to render out and make your own duck fat!!!
For additional flavor, we are really trying to focus on adding texture to the crust and the nutty and earthy flavor from the hazelnuts. We add a little panko to the hazelnuts for the crunch (or you can use breadcrumbs) and then salt and pepper. You can buy hazelnuts in your bulk aisle, just throw them in a food processor to grind them down.
How to Grill Duck Legs
For grilling, we will go hot and fast to get that nice sear on the outside, typically setting up the grill with direct/indirect cooking. And being mindful not to use too many coals close to the grill great, so we don’t char the meat.
- Start with the duck over direct heat and grill for 6 – 8 minutes per side.
- Move grilled duck to the indirect side and continue to cook until the desired internal temperature.
- Let the duck rest for 15 minutes while making the red wine sauce.
- Slice and Serve.
Be sure to pay attention to the flame and heat so as to not burn the duck. Instead if you see the skin render and sear, move away from direct heat to indirect so it can continue to cook, and flip and repeat.
When is Grilled Duck Done
Like anything on the grill, cook to temperature and not time. We treat duck like steak. USDA will say to take duck to 170 degrees for internal temperature. But we like our duck medium rare and cooked to 145. Cook to what you prefer.
How to Make a Red Wine Sauce
To bring the flavor home, we made a very simple red wine reduction sauce with the Chinon. We simply reduced the wine with shallots, added butter, and aged balsamic to sweeten it out and put a small amount on the duck. Mmmmm so good!
The only thing you need to do next is decide on what to binge watch while enjoying this simple, yet decadent meal, and your cozy warm fire. And I can’t help you there! We are a divided family in our household and it always comes down to a coin toss 😉
Pair this duck with our perfect roasted potatoes!
Cheers to those cozy fall nights!
Mary (a certified sommelier and recipe developer) and Sean (backyard pitmaster) are co-authors of the critically acclaimed cookbook, Fire + Wine, and have been creating content for the IACP nominated website Vindulge since 2009. They live in Oregon on a farm just outside Portland.
Grilled Duck Legs Recipe With Hazelnut Crust and Red Wine Sauce
- 2 Duck legs, or breasts
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
For the Hazelnut Crust
- ½ cup Crushed hazelnuts
- ¼ cup Panko breadcrumbs
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon Coarse ground pepper
For the Red Wine Sauce
- ½ cup Red wine
- 1 tablespoon Shallots
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon balsamic
- Kosher salt to taste
- Prep Grill: Preheat grill for direct/indirect cooking. Target 450 – 500 degrees Fahrenheit in the cooking chamber.
- Combine: Mix hazelnuts, panko, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and then pour into a plate.
- Season: Apply olive oil to duck and liberally apply your hazelnut mix to the duck. Because it is on the plate you can simply lay the duck out, and then cover the other side using your hands. Press hard to coat the entire duck leg.
- Grill: Place the duck over direct heat, avoid flame ups by keeping lid covered while searing. Or if you need to, move the duck when seared to indirect heat and cover, flip after 6 – 8 minutes and repeat on the other side. Move the duck back and forth from direct to indirect if the flames get too big.
- Rest: Remove duck when it reaches internal temperature of 135 degrees and let it rest for 15 minutes.
- Make Sauce: For the sauce, over medium high heat, add the shallots and the red wine. Bring to a simmer. Add the butter and the balsamic and let reduce by half. This will take about 8 – 10 minutes (or longer if your flame is lower). Remove from heat and salt to taste. This is good to do just after duck comes off the flame and is resting.
- Serve: Serve with your favorite side. We love parsnip puree!
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.