Thursday, 16 February 2012

Basic Roast Duck

Around Christmas time we bought a frozen duck, on a whim, just because there it was. Recently I decided to pull it out, and roast it fairly plainly. 

Duck has a reputation for being very fatty, and it certainly has more fat than chicken. I can't say that I have found it all that bad when I have cooked it recently though. I remember my Mom cooking one in the '70's, and the fat just pouring off of it, so perhaps they have bred leaner ducks since then, or feed them differently. I almost would have liked to have had a bit more fat than I got, given how good duck fat is for cooking with.

My duck was actually darker than the photo shows, and yours should be too. That's the trouble with trying to photograph things at night - the light just bounces right off of them. Fortunately, the days are getting longer and my pictures should improve, not to mention my mood!

 2 hours - 15 minutes prep time
3 to 4 servings

a 2 to 2 1/2 kilo (4 1/2 to 5 pounds) duck
1 stalk celery
2 onions

4 cups chicken stock
salt & pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

If your duck is frozen, it must be thawed out completely before you cook it. Allow 3 days for this, in the fridge. Yes, really; 3 days. 

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Remove the neck and giblets from inside the duck. Save them, at least the neck, to make stock with the carcass of the duck once it has been eaten. Meanwhile, stuff the cavity of the duck with the celery stalk, cut in 3 or 4 pieces, and the onions, peeled and cut in halves or quarters.  Slash the skin and fat over the duck at regular intervals, without cutting into the meat. You will need a snug, fairly deep roasting pan with a rack to keep the duck off the bottom. Add enough of the chicken stock to cover the bottom of the pan by about an inch, but not so much the duck will sitting in it. Dry the duck thoroughly with paper towels, and arrange the duck on the rack in the pan, breast side up.Season with salt and pepper.

Roast the duck for 1/2 hour, then lift the pan carefully from the oven. Remove the duck to a plate, and check the level of the stock in the pan. Add more if needed. The idea is that it should never get so low that it disappears, or what it will actually do, solidify and blacken. Return the duck to the pan, this time with the back facing up. Roast for a further half hour.

Remove the duck from the oven again, and check the level of the chicken stock (which will now also be swimming in fat). Once it is topped up again, put the duck back in the pan with the breast side facing up again. Believe it or not, it will do no harm to rub the duck all over with a little butter at this point, to help it brown. Roast for a further half hour to 45 minutes, until the juices run mostly clear when a knife is stuck down to the bones under the thigh.

Remove the duck from the oven and cover loosely with foil - don't let it steam; you want that skin to stay crisp. Let sit for 10 minutes before carving and serving.

Save the vegetables, and all the liquids from the bottom of the pan! Put them in a large soup pot, and once the duck is eaten, add the bones and water to cover. Bring to a simmer and simmer for several hours. Strain, and chill overnight. The next morning, remove the fat and save it for use as a cooking fat. Use the stock to make soup, especially good if there was any leftover duck meat to go into it. Nice with noodles.

Last year at this time I made Bird's Nest Apple Pudding.

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