Saturday, January 12, 2013

How to Roast a Duck

A quick search of the internet convinced me I needed to do this post. Sure, there are a number of ways to roast a duck, depending what sort of skin you like, dressing, etc. Still, what I found lacking was a straightforward explanation of the basics. I did run across an absurd post suggesting turning the duck every half hour or so. Don't do that. Really, just don't do that-duck doesn't need a rotisserie, and no matter how good your tongs are, you'll only succeed in mangling the skin, and probably the flesh as well. Don't flip your duck. Really, you don't need to do that.

What you do need is a good roasting pan-the heavier the better. You can use a foil pan, but then you can't deglaze it at the end, denying yourself all the good stuff stuck at the bottom for a sauce.

Next, you'll need a rack-possibly two or more. I find it much easier to drain off the fat if the duck is raised well off the pan. Sometimes I use two racks-last time I used three. If you don't have one (or three) crumple up some foil and place the duck atop it. That'll work, but it may stick a bit at the end.

Fine, now you have a duck. Most likely, if you're buying it from a grocer in the United States, you have a duckling, about six pounds at the most. If you're lucky, it will have a generous flap of extra fatty skin over the neck cavity. Trim this away and save it. DO NOT THROW THIS OUT. You'll render it later, and get a good 1/3 cup of duck fat from it. You will also have extra fat from the bottom of the roasting pan after the first hour, so designate a jar ahead of time, and just keep adding your duck fat to it. The six pound duck I roasted last evening yielded 1/2 pint of duck fat-that's a whole lot of roast potatoes. The fat will last almost forever in the fridge, so really, why wouldn't you save it?

After you've trimmed the fat from the neck, you need to come to terms with the offal truth. If you have plans to make stock, save the neck, heart, etc. The liver can be pan fried, and if you have a dog at home, it will love you forever if you place it as a surprise in the dog dish. That's what we used to do because Mr. ETB is terrified of liver. Me? I'd eat it if I could, vegetarian or not because hey, duck liver is wonderful-but I can't. I have it sitting in a dish in the fridge. I am going cook it, and set it out where I see the farm cats. Someone ought to enjoy it.

The skin should be pricked all over, really well with a skewer or toothpick. Don't neglect the legs and thighs. This helps the fat to drain, which also helps the skin to crisp. I am assuming you want a crisp skin, because what sort of freak doesn't want crisp skin on a roast duck? If you choose to use the sauce packet (or any sauce) it will reduce the crispness of the duck, but you can counter that by serving it on the side, or on the slices of duck, replacing the skin back over it at serving. Another technique is to add it in the last ten minutes, then blast the heat-but that still does away with the crispness a bit. After you prick the skin, score it again lightly with a sharp knife. Then, rub in a generous amount of coarse salt-about 1/8 cup. Don't butter or oil the surface of the duck-enough will come to the surface through the skin. Salt the cavity as well.

Don't baste! You don't need to baste a duck-there's so much fat in it there's virtually no chance of drying it out (unless you cook it for 8 hours or something).

Set your oven to 400 degrees F.  Place the duck in the pan on a rack(s). Place in the oven and leave it alone for 1 hour. After an hour, it should give up enough fat to drain off (a baster works well for this-just don't baste the duck). You can tilt the pan carefully if needed. It may splatter a bit, so wear oven mits, and stand a bit back. Return the duck to the oven and continue roasting another 1-2 hours. A 6 lb. duck takes about 3 hours.

When the duck is just about done, Remove it to a baking sheet carefully.  Remove the rack. At this point, deglaze the pan with wine (I used ruby port). Place the roasting pan directly over high heat on the burner and scrape with a spoon to loosen the stuff on the bottom. Pour this off into a saucepan. Add something for flavour (I had plum conserve and a handful of sour cherries, but red currant jelly works fine as well-or even orange marmalade if you prefer). Reduce to a sauce. Serve this alongside the duck, or over noodles if you've made them-you have made noodles, haven't you?Meanwhile, return the duck on the baking sheet to the oven and blast the heat to 475 degrees F. for about 5 minutes to crisp the skin further.

That's it. Let the duck stand about ten minutes before carving. Remove the legs first, and everything will carve neater.

Congratulations, you've roasted a duck.

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