Success! With Duck!

Some dear friends of mine, Fred and Linda, were coming into town to spend the night and since both of them really love and appreciate good food, I wanted to have a dinner worthy of the celebration (good friends are not easy to find and when they move away...) I made venison for them the last time they came to town so I looked in my freezer and found some ducks that we stockpiled when they were on sale for $1.29/lb at Harris Teeter and that seemd a good candidate for a celebratory dinner.

Now before I go further, let me say that I have had mixed reults with duck. Duck, if prepared right, can be rich and moist. But if cooked wrong... greasy and stringy. When I took the ducks out of the freezer, I thought my son, the chef, would be here and he would have some good ideas for how best to cook it to help me get closer to the rich and moist end of the spectrum. However, his plans changed and he had to return to Rockville and so I was on my own, and I did what any self-respecting foodie would do... go to the files of the Epicurious recipe files and looked for a highly rated duck recipe!

I found a recipe that looked promising and I had to make some adjustments (it called for dried lavender, which I neither had nor could find) I called my son who was en route back to MD and asked what I could use as a substitution and he informed me that lavender is an aromatic and so rosemary (though less of it) would be an acceptible substitute. This recipe called for you to score the skin and fat (not the flesh) with a knife in order to allow the fat to be rendered and crisp the skin, a new technique that I had never used. I followed the recipe, and the duck was fabulous, the meat was rich and moist and the skin...ah, the skin... This recipe is enough to make one get over fear of duck (AFLAC-phobia) A bonus? You put the liver into the cavity and cook it with the duck, then when the cooking is complete, you remove the liver (the dreaded foie gras) and mash and serve spread on baguette. When I mashed the livers I added a bit of the strained duck fat, and a bit of the cooking juice to make into a moist spread, and it was a hit as well! One warning: there is not a lot of meat on a duck, so if 1 chicken feeds your family, it will take two ducks.

I served the duck with Feta Potatoes (basically, cubed cooked potatoes with butter and chunks of feta), and my pear and dried blueberry with goat cheese salad. For dessert... I cheated- tiramisu from the shelves of Costco, but good nonetheless (and after picking at the duck skin, no one had much appetite left for dessert.

After dinner, Molly (after all, she is the ruler of the universe) made our guests play charades, a game entered into somewhat half-heartedly, but ended in hilarity (thanks Molly!) All in all, a wonderful visit with wonderful friends, and delicious food.

Epicurious-style Roasted Duck with Honey

1 whole duck, rinsed and dried with giblets removed (reserve liver)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme (I used lemon thyme from my garden/cart and I used about twice as much)
1 1/2 tbsp coarse sea salt
1 tbsp black peppercorns
4 tbsp dried lavender (I substituted 3 tbsp fresh rosemary)

1 cup low fat chicken broth
3 tablespoons dry red wine

4 tablespoons honey ( I used clover, but wildflower or orange would be lovely)

Rinse and dry duck thoroughly. Put all the herbs, salt and pepper in a morter and grind until somewhat uniform and well-blended. Rub the ducks inside and out with this mixture and place on a rack in a pan (I use my broiler pan). Cut through the skin and fat layer in a criss-cross pattern (careful not to cut through the meat) on the breast side of the bird. Place reserved liver in cavity. Roast for 2 hours in 330 degree oven. Remove from oven, drain liquid from pan and separate the fat from the meat juices adding juices back to pan with broth and wine. Put ducks in the pan, and baste the skin with the honey. Put back in oven and roast until ducks are a rich brown and the internal temperature is 180 degrees.

Remove liver from cavity, and mash with a bit of the duck fat and some of the meat juices to make a spread. I also removed the little squares of crisp duck skin (they were incredible) and put them on the serving platter with the sliced duck breast and duck legs. I am sure you could make a sauce with the pan juices, but I didn't even find it necessary.

Give this a try, it is a decadent and delicious meal!

P.S. I apologize for no pix. I was so distracted about getting dinner on the table for guests (and delighted that it turned out) that I didn't take any pictures!


Ronnie said…
The last time I tried to make duck my kitchen was almost ablaze from the duck fat. I am encouraged by your success but still fearful.
Well I was really looking forward to a picture ;)

Duck is so versatile and once you learn a good way to cook it the possibilities are endless. You should try making Duck Ham or Duck Prosciutto, real simple but people will be amazed.
Deborah Dowd said…
Ronnie- My broiler pan held all the duck fat from 2 ducks. The trick is making sure you don't spill any getting them out!
CFG- Don't dis my picture taking (in) ability! I have never heard of duck ham or prosciutto, but I'd love to try!
s'kat said…
I love, love, love duck, but have never made it at home. Seriously, it's all delicious rich meat, and then you have all that lovely duck fat left over.

Duck fat potatoes, anyone?
Anonymous said…
The objects of this dinner loved it all!. The duck was just excellent and I can't wait to see what wild meat Deb comes up with next. Guess I'll have to go hunting for wild boar to keep up the tradition.