April 23, 2013 Leave your thoughts
After eyeing the whole ducks at our local butcher for months, I finally decided to give cooking one a try. Sure, I’ve heard horror stories, but I was up for a challenge.
Thankfully, I achieved exactly what I wanted: crispy skin and succulent gamy flavor. I think I could’ve eaten the whole bird!
Give yourself plenty of time to roast the duck. I served dinner a little after 6:30 and popped it into the oven a little after 1:30 just to be safe.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and allow your bird to come to room temperature for 1/2 an hour. Rinse off in cold water and pat dry with paper towels, then remove the neck and/or gizzards if present. Cut off the excess fat, particularly around the neck and posterior regions, before seasoning liberally with salt and pepper.
Yes, you are now looking into the butt of a duck carcass. Lovely, eh?
With the neck, I highly recommend making some stock. I threw it in a big pot along with some kaffir lime leaves, a few stalks of lemongrass, and a couple pieces of galanagal (a spice similar to ginger), then simmered in water all day. You can find all three of these spices near the coconut milk at Whole Foods or at a local Asian market.
Back to roasting duck: with a small, sharp knife, make diagonal cuts both ways through the skin without slicing the flesh itself. Proceed to poke the skin dozens of times with the tip of the knife. This may seem a little odd, but it helps to release the massive stores of fat and makes the skin nice and crispy.
To cook, place the duck breast-side up on a rack in a large roasting pan, then cook for one hour.
At this point, remove from the oven, poke all over with the tip of the knife again, and flip over. Roast for another hour, then repeat the same process. Keep going until the legs register at 175 degrees and the breast registers at 160, about 4-4 1/2 hours depending on the size of your duck.
If you feel that too much fat is accumulating in the pan, transfer the rack with the duck to a cutting board and pour the fat into a measuring cup. This stuff is great for cooking with, so don’t throw it out!
When the duck is cooked through, increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees and roast until the skin cooks to your desired crispiness, about 7 to 9 minutes. Take it out of the oven, tent with tinfoil, and let sit for at least a half an hour before carving.
I love duck paired with fruit, so I made a cherry sauce inspired by Ted Allen.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of ghee, then saute 1/2 of an onion until soft, about 7 minutes. Add 3 cloves of minced garlic, 1/2 cup of stock (I used the duck neck liquid I made earlier), 1 cup of frozen cherries, 2 tablespoons of all-fruit cherry preserves, 2 teaspoons of raw honey, and 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let thicken, about 10 to 12 minutes. When you’re ready to eat, stir in 1 tablespoon of grass-fed butter and a squeeze of lemon juice.
As for side dishes, I made balsamic roasted radicchio and a sweet sunchoke puree.
The radicchio is perfect to make while the duck rests. Cut each head into fourths or sixths (depending on how big they are), sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Roast at 400 degrees until brown around the edges, about 15 to 17 minutes.
For the puree, chop up a pound of sunchokes into 1/2-inch cubes. In case you’re unfamiliar with these little knobs of flavor, a sunchoke is a funny looking root that resembles a large fingerling potato. They have a sweet, nutty taste and can be found by the root vegetables at Whole Foods.
In a large, deep pot, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the reserved duck fat (the stuff in the measuring cup) over medium heat. (If the idea totally grosses you out, substitute the same amount of ghee or coconut oil.) Dump in sunchokes, and saute until beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. These stick, so make sure you stir constantly.
At this point, pour in 1 1/2 cups of stock (I used the duck liquid I made), reduce the heat slightly, and bring to a boil. Let bubble until the sunchokes are softened and most of the liquid is gone, about another 10 minutes more.
Finally, put the sunchokes in the bowl of a food processor with 1/2 a banana (yes, a banana), 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 2 teaspoons of garlic powder, 1 teaspoon of paprika, 1 teaspoon of chipotle chile pepper, and a good crack of black pepper, then blend until completely smooth, about 3 minutes. For some extra creaminess, add in 2 tablespoons of grass-fed butter and process for 2 minutes longer. Your puree may not look too appetizing, but I promise, it’ll taste great! If only there was such a thing as cooking glitter…
It was a labor of love, but I did it! Thank goodness I didn’t set the house on fire in the process.
What meat or poultry should I try cooking next? Leave me a comment on Facebook and let me know!