I’ve been cooking a lot of duck lately. It seems to be the new thing – and a good option when you want something special for Thanksgiving but don’t (for some crazy reason) want to cook an entire turkey. I love turkey leftovers, and so roasting a monsterous Big Bird is never a problem around here.
Duck is a little different – it has thicker skin than a chicken or turkey, with a layer of fat underneath. The bonus here is that every duck comes with a free jar of duck fat, which will keep in your fridge indefinitely and make ethereal roasted potatoes or duck fat fries. The trick – to poke the skin with a bamboo skewer in a few places (without piercing the meat underneath – this is easy to do if you just pinch the skin and poke it through) to give the fat a few extra places to escape. Then start roasting the bird, pour off the rendered fat about halfway, at which point you can add herbs, citrus, whatever you want to stuff the duck with, and roll some potatoes or crabapples in the fat in the bottom of the pan to roast for the second half.
Somehow, I missed taking photos of the process. Part of the reason: it was early morning, and still dark.
My first batch of jelly didn’t quite get to the jelling stage when I had to pull it off the stove and leave – and so I set aside a small jar before putting the pot back on the heat to finish cooking. I used it to brush on the duck as it cooked – toward the end, so that the skin had a chance to crisp first, and it didn’t burn. You could do this, or not – and use regular jelly if you do; no need to source some that hasn’t set properly.
Roast Duck with Apple-plum Glaze
The apple-plum glaze makes use of a glut of crabapples in the back yard; alternatively, you could use any bottled apple jelly.
1 3 lb. whole duck
olive or canola oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 orange, quartered
fresh rosemary, thyme and/or sage
whole crabapples (optional)
2 cups crabapples, halved or quartered
1 cup plums, halved, or fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup sugar (approximately)
Preheat the oven to 450F. Pat the duck dry with paper towel and place it in a roasting pan. Poke through the skin-without going into the meat-with a bamboo skewer or the tip of a knife in several places. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. If you like, tuck the orange and herbs into the cavity – otherwise wait for halfway through the roasting time, after you’ve poured off some of the fat for later use. This way it will go unflavoured.
Meanwhile, put the apples and plums into a small pot with 2 cups water and bring to a simmer; cook for 20-30 minutes, until the fruit is very soft. Place a colander over a bowl and strain the fruit into it, pressing down on the solids to get as much out as possible. Transfer to a saucepan, add the sugar and bring to a boil. Cook for about 20 minutes, until thickened. Set aside. (You’ll have more glaze than you need; refrigerate about half for a sweet-tart jelly.)
Roast the duck for 30 minutes, then remove the duck from the oven and pour most of the fat from the pan into a jar (store in the fridge for up to a month). Brush the duck with the glaze, stuff it with the orange and herbs (if you haven’t already), slice the whole crabapples around their middles and add them to the pan if you like, then reduce the heat to 350F and return to the oven to roast for 1 1/2-2 hours, until the legs wiggle in their sockets and a meat thermometer reads at least 175F.
Let rest 15 minutes before carving. Serves 6.