In all my years, tamarindo was not part of my Mexican food culture, though I did have a great mezcal-tamarindo cocktail. This will change.
Although tamarind doesn’t originate in Mexico, the Mexican cuisine and culture has adapted it in candy, drinks, desserts and meal preparation. The tamarind tree produces pod-like fruit and is also a legume. In Mexico, It grows on large tropical trees mostly in the tropical Pacific coast. Tamarind originates in tropical Africa and found in other continents. It’s flavor is slightly-sweet and sour and in this recipe I combine it with Mexican flavors of cilantro and chile. Let’s get started
12 oz Tamarind Pods
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
3 cloves of garlic
optional 1 or more chile árbol, deseeded depending on your taste
4 duck legs trimmed of excess fat
1 cup stock
1 cup water
Salt and pepper
1 ½ lbs of butternut squash
12 stems of cilantro for garnish
Remove the tamarind pod shells and rinse the insides. In 2 cups of water simmer the pods for 10 minutes or until soft. Cool and de-seed (this is labor intensive); discard seeds. In a food processor add the cilantro,garlic, chile and ¼ cup water. Pulse the processor for 1 minute or enough to finely chop the ingredients. Add the tamarind pulp to the food processor and pulse the processor to break up the tamarind. Press the ingredients through a sieve. Discard solids. Salt to taste. Thin the sauce to a thickness that just runs off a spoon.
Cut the ends of the squash, cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. Slice each half into 1 inch slices. Steam for 10 to 15 minutes or until the squash is cooked. Cool and set aside. Remove skin and create thinner slices from each 1 inch slice.
Put duck legs, skin side down, in a skillet large enough to accommodate all ingredients comfortably; turn heat to medium. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Brown duck legs carefully and evenly, sprinkling them with salt and pepper as they cook.
When legs are nicely browned, turn them over and sear for just a minute or two. and add stock; it should come about halfway up duck legs but should not cover them. Turn heat to high, bring to a boil, and transfer to oven.
Cook for 30 minutes, then lower heat to 350 degrees. Continue to cook, undisturbed, until duck is tender and liquid reduced, at least another 30 minutes or until the temperature reaches 165 F. Alternatively ,the duck is done when a thin-bladed knife pierces the meat with little resistance. When done, duck will hold nicely in a warm oven for another hour. Serve hot.
Pour several teaspoons of sauce on a dinner plate. Place the duck and slices of squash over the sauce. Drizzle more sauce over the duck and garnish with sprigs of cilantro.
Making salsa from scratch using pods is labor intensive. You may be able to purchase it deseeded in block or paste form.
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