Trim excess fat and salt the duck legs. Place them in a bowl with a very generous amount of fresh thyme and the unpeeled garlic cloves, seal the bowl with saran or other cover to allow the salted legs to absorb the thyme and garlic flavors for at least 2 hours at room temperature.
Pepper the legs lightly and spread them, skin side up, in one fairly tight layer in a ceramic baking dish.
Reserve the thyme and garlic cloves. Place the dish in a preheated 400 degree oven and bake for 1 hour. Remove the legs to a bowl and pour off the abundant fat that the legs rendered but try to reserve any duck juices that remain under the fat in the dish. Do not wash the baking dish. (All of this can be done up to 2 hours before the next step.)
Spread the the reserved thyme over the bottom of the baking dish. Return the garlic cloves, bay leaves and the legs – again skin side up – to the pan. This is the time to add other items such as small potatoes, small turnips, carrots. What you add should be of size and tenderness so that the item will cook in about an hour. Your pan should be very crowded at this point but everything should still be in a single layer, which may limit how many other vegetables you can add. Pour in twice the amount of red wine as stock so that the liquid comes half way up the duck legs. If your prunes still have their pits or if the prunes are very dry, tuck them in at this time; softer pitted prunes should be added to the dish after one half hour of braising.
Start your braise at 400 degrees, but reduce the temperature to 350 after 15 minutes. Add soft prunes after 30 minutes. The dish is done after an hour or a bit more – it’s very forgiving at this point. There are two ways to serve the dish. Remove the legs and other elements to a platter. The braising liquid is your sauce. It can be reduced and the seasoning adjusted at this point. But if the sauce tastes delicious right from the braising dish then the whole thing can be brought to the table to allow your guests to serve themselves family style.
One large duck leg will probably satisfy one person, but these are so good leftovers that I try to cook extra every time. But usually those disappear too.