I had the hardest time coming up with a D-food for slashfood’s D-Day. Weird. It’s like trying to think of something with a deadline and you can’t, when any other day, the words would just fly into your head.
See. All kinds of D’s. But honestly, I’m kind of glad that the first (and only) thing that popped into my head was duck. Because I’ve always wanted to try to roast a duck. I love getting duck at restaurants, so I was kind of excited to try and make one at home.
Step 1: Buy duck
So much harder than you would think. The original recipe I wanted to make (and I still want to try) was for duck breasts that are pounded and then stuffed with pistachios and parmesan cheese, rolled up, seared and roasted. Yeah, I know — it sounds amazing. I didn’t try Zupan’s but New Seasons only had whole, frozen ducks. Having a lazy nature I decided to maybe just do a whole duck since I was working with a deadline. Although, at some point I may call New Season’s or Zupan’s and see if I could order fresh duck breasts from them and bypass the whole, frozen duck thing.
Step Two: Thaw Duck and Figure Out How to Cook Duck
So, I arrived home with my duck. He spent a few hours in the sink, bathing in cold water and then he finished defrosting in the refrigerator. I spent the time to try and figure out how I was going to cook a whole duck. First, I checked out Foodnetwork.com. I saw a few recipes but nothing either jumped out at me like the pistachio-parmesan breasts or looked fool-proof (and I needed one or the other). Then, I remembered my Cook’s Illustrated Guide to Poultry (now called, The Complete Book of Chicken: Turkey, Game Hen, Duck, Goose, Quail, Squab, and Pheasant, which probably should have been my first stop.
Roasted Duck with Caramelized Apples and Onions
The original recipe called for pears and shallots but I had apples and onions. If you use shallots, just increase the shallots to 10
1 duck, about 4.5 pounds, thawed, rinsed and patted dry (giblets removed and reserved, extra skin/fat by neck removed)
Salt and pepper
4 apples, peeled, halved, cored and sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices
2 onions, peeled and sliced thin
4-6 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 tbsp brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prick the skin of the duck with the point of a paring knife, being careful to just pierce the fat layer and not the flesh.
Season the cavity and rub the skin generously with salt and pepper.
Place the duck breast side up on a roasting rack placed inside a roasting pan. Roast for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove from oven and drain off accumulated fat. When I did this, I lifted the rack out and onto a cookie sheet and then poured the fat carefully into an empty black bean can. I poured about 1/3 of the can’s height. Return duck to oven and roast 20 minutes longer.
Remove pan from oven and drain off fat again. Scatter the apples and onions on the bottom of the pan and return to the oven. If you are like me, you will also throw in a few peeled garlic cloves, because, really, how can you roast something without throwing in some garlic? Roast for 20 minutes. Then, sprinkle the apples and onions with the brown sugar. Turn to coat with any newly-rendered fat and roast another 20 minutes.
Increase heat to 500 and roast until the skin is crisp, about 10-15 minutes. Keep an eye on it, the apples and onions can burn. Another thing to keep in mind, is the weight of your duck. If it is under 4.5 pounds, you may want to decrease cooking time a bit. One nice thing though, is that since duck does have so much fat, it’s kind of hard to dry it out. You’d have to try really hard. Remove from oven and tent with foil. Let rest about 10-20 minutes and carve.
Although the apples and onions make a nice accompaniment, I also made a Port Sauce, which includes a duck stock reduction. It’s a good idea to start making the duck stock reduction right when you get the duck in the oven.
Duck Port Sauce
Neck and giblets from one duck
1/2 tsp salt
8 black peppercorns
2 cups port
salt & pepper
Combine giblets, neck, 1/2 teaspoon salt and peppercorns in a medium pot. Cover with water and bring to boil. Turn down the heat and keep at a bare simmer for 1 hour. Strain into a small saucepan and reduce over medium heat until 1/2 cup of your duck stock reduction remains (10-15 minutes).
Bring 1 1/2 cups of port to a boil. Reduce over high heat until 1/4 cup remains, about 15 minutes. Bring duck stock and remaining 1/2 port to a boil and reduce over medium-hight heat until 1/2 cup remain, about 10 minutes.
Stir the port/duck reduction into the syrupy, reduced port and cook 3-4 more minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with duck.
Last Step: Eat Duck
It was kind of like carving a chicken or turkey. I made the first pass, got the breast meat off and sliced it and then jwa swooped in and got a lot more meat off. Plated that up and drizzled the port sauce over it. We had this with a simple salad of mixed greens and the caramelized (okay, okay, a bit crunchy) onions and apples.
This was a lot of work — about three hours total! I did like it a lot though — the sauce was wonderful, the meat tasty and the skin…oh my god, the skin! So good. A little crackly, and nicely seasoned with just the salt and pepper. A 3.5 to 4 pound duck will probably feed about 2-3 people as, there’s not as much meat as on a chicken.