Lucky enough to honeymoon at a friend’s farmhouse in the Gascony region of France, I was inspired to try cooking duck for the first time. Choosing a young and very tender duckling found at the local market, and olives (plentiful in the region), I contrived this simple stew (civit) to warm the late October evening. I originally made it with wild mushrooms, but for fun and to enter this week's contests I substituted figs and loved it. Chicken, which although less flavorful, works as well. Serve with a green salad and crusty bread. —oldgreenfarm
Rub duck skin completely with thyme, 1 tsp. sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Sprinkle the wine vinegar over the duck pieces.
Heat heavy large pot over medium-high heat until hot, about 3 minutes. Add duck to pot, skin side down, and sear until golden brown, about 8 minutes per side. Using tongs, transfer duck to warm plate.
Add flour to drippings in pot; stir with whisk to blend well. Reduce heat to medium and stir constantly until chocolate-brown color. Add figs (or mushrooms), onion, shallots garlic and half the olives and cook until soft, stirring frequently, about 4 minutes.
Pour in wine, deglazing the pan and scraping up the crispy bits. Add bay leaves, thyme, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt; stir to blend well.
Return duck pieces to pot, making sure it is covered by white wine (add some chicken stock or water if needed). Increase heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer uncovered until duck is tender, skimming foam from surface and stirring occasionally, about 1 – 1- 1/2 hours. Do not let mixture boil.
Using tongs, transfer duck to warmed plate; cool until easy to handle, about 20 minutes. Remove meat from bones; discard bones and skin. Cut or shred meat into 1-inch pieces.
Spoon any fat off top of stew. Return meat to stew; season to taste with salt and pepper. Add remaining olives.
Garnish with thyme branches, grated lemon zest and serve with a green salad and crusty bread.