Sunday, 19 February 2012

Easy Whole Roast Duck with Duck Fat Roasted Potatoes

Recently, I was cooking a dinner away from home again and it was whole roasted duck that was on the menu. Although there are any number of different ways in which it possible to roast a duck and so many different ways in which we can prepare a duck for the oven, I decided to go for simple as simple gets. The ingredients used prior to putting the duck in to the oven were the duck itself, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Quite literally, nothing else was used at this stage and the results were so impressive, I don't think I will ever roast a duck again any other way.

If the duck which you are going to roast has been purchased frozen, it is absolutely vital that it be fully and appropriately defrosted prior to being cooked. This should be done by placing the duck (covered) in a large dish on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator. Timescales will vary depending upon the size of the duck and full instructions should be on the packaging. It is important also that you remove the duck from the fridge a few hours before you intend to roast it and allow it to come up to room temperature.

Ingredients for Four People

1 4lb duck
Duck giblets and neck
1 large carrot
1 medium onion
2 sticks of celery
Olive oil
1 pint to 1 1/4 pints of cold water
1 glass of red wine
6 medium russet potatoes, or as desired
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sweetcorn, peas, or other vegetable to serve as an accompaniment


Put your oven on to preheat to an initial 425F/220C. This is the temperature at which the duck will be started cooking before it is reduced after around half an hour to 350F/180C. A duck this size should require a total of about two and a quarter hours' cooking time plus twenty minutes to half an hour to rest.

The neck, wing tips and giblets from this duck were in a vacuum sealed pack in the cavity. Remove them and set aside. Wash the duck under running cold water and carefully pat the outside dry all around with kitchen paper. Lay the duck on a large roasting tray and use a metal skewer to puncture the skin quite a few times on the breasts and thighs. Don't go too deep - you only want to allow the fat to run out and not damage the flesh of the duck. Season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place the roasting tray in to your preheated oven.

Wash the carrot and celery sticks and roughly chop. Peel the onion and quarter it. Add about a tablespoon or so of olive oil to a medium sized stock pot and gently heat before adding the vegetables to sautee for two or three minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the giblets, neck and wing tips of the duck and stir around. I then added one pint of cold water (a British pint, which is equivalent to one and a quarter US pints) and heated to achieve a gentle simmer. Cover and simmer for an hour to an hour and a half, stirring occasionally and of course ensuring your liquid level doesn't get too low. You shouldn't need to but if necessary, you can add a little more boiling water.

The potatoes should be parboiled and cooled before being roasted. Peel them and chop in to large chunks before adding to a large pot of cold water. Bring the water to a boil on a high heat then reduce and simmer for about fifteen minutes until the potatoes are just softening. Drain through a colander, return to the empty pot, cover and set aside to cool.

When the duck has been roasting for about twenty-five minutes to half an hour, reduce the oven temperature to 350F/180C. Baste thereafter every twenty minutes or so.

The stock should be taken off the heat about ten minutes before the duck is due to come out of the oven. Strain it through a fine sieve over a glass or stone bowl. Discard the solids and return the liquid to the empty pot with the glass of red wine. Bring to a moderate simmer and allow to reduce (uncovered this time) by half.

Take your duck from the oven but don't switch the oven off; instead, increase the temperature to 400F/200C. Very carefully, transfer the duck to a large dish (the washed dish in which it defrosted would be ideal) and cover with foil. Leave to rest.

Put the potatoes in to the hot duck fat and very carefully stir them around to evenly coat with a wooden spoon. Put them in to the oven for a total of twenty minutes, carefully stirring again after ten.

When the potatoes are done, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a large plate covered with several slices of kitchen paper to drain, while you attend to the duck.

You could of course carve your duck by cutting fine slices off the breast and thigh but you will get far more out of the duck and keep the meat more moist if you instead chop it in to portions.

Lay the duck on a large chopping board and take either a very sharp large knife or ideally a cleaver. Cut through the skin between each leg/thigh portion and gently pull it outwards and down until you can pop the bone from its socket. Slice through any remaining fat or meat and pull free.

The breast fillets should be removed by starting one at a time on either side of the breastbone (top of the duck) and making slit after slit in one direction only, following the shape of the bones with your cleaver. This is not difficult but do take your time and do not saw back and forwards with the blade. Cut in one direction only, letting the sharpness of your blade do the work rather than applied pressure from you. Otherwise the meat may fray and the final effect will be severely compromised.

When the four main portions of the duck have been removed, there will still be a reasonable amount of meat on the carcass. Cover it while you serve and enjoy your meal and return later to pluck it off by hand. Try refrigerating it in a plastic dish and enjoying duck sandwiches or wraps for lunch the following day.

Serve either a leg and thigh or breast portion per person, along with roast potatoes and the sundry vegetable of choice, all of it drizzled with your delicious duck and red wine gravy.

Note: If you don't want to make gravy in this way - or perhaps the giblets weren't provided with your duck - try serving the duck instead with some delicious, homemade plum sauce.

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