Glazed roast duck

This is the best duck I have made to date. It came out beautifully brown, with five-spice, honey and other brown flavours with meat juicy and flavourful. A success, which I hope to repeat every time I want to roast a whole duck. It was the first time I decided to steam the duck simply because it reduced the overall cooking time to 1 hour 45minutes, which is better than the usual 2 1/2- 3 hours it usually took me to slow roast a duck.

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Here’s the recipe:

time to make 2½ hours, out of which 30 min is prep the night before

1 whole duck (4 to 5 pound)
1 tablespoon Chinese five spice powder
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
5 slices fresh ginger (I went a bit crazy there as one can never have enough ginger)
4 cloves garlic (ditto)
1/2 bunch green onions (didn’t use these, forgot)
1 tangerine, peel cut in big strips
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup soy sauce

To reduce the fat and produce a crispy skin, begin by trimming the excess fat from the neck and body. Rinse the duck, inside and out, and pat dry thoroughly with paper towels. Combine the Chinese five-spice, sugar, and salt in a small bowl. Rub the spice mixture all over the duck, inside and out. Salt and five-spice powder makes a fragrant dry marinade, which draws some of the moisture from the duck so that the spices penetrate. I left the duck rest overnight in a larder so it was a bit air-dried as well.

When ready to rock and roast, stuff the duck cavity with the aromatics: the ginger, garlic, green onions, and tangerine peel. Fold the wing tips back under the duck and tie the legs together with kitchen string. Poke the duck breast a few times, piercing the skin. Place a roasting pan on the stovetop over 2 burners and fill with 2-inches of water, turn the heat to medium. Set a V-rack insert inside the pan and lay the duck on the rack, breast-side up. Cover tightly with aluminium foil. Steam the duck for 45 minutes, checking the water level periodically. Seems obvious but when doing this, make sure you don’t get burnt by the escaping steam. Steaming the duck first melts away some of the fat and shrinks the skin.

In a small saucepan combine the vinegar, honey, and soy sauce over low heat. Bring to a boil and simmer and stir for 15 minutes until sauce thickens. The duck will be lacquered with the sweet glaze, which caramelizes during roasting, making the skin crisp and brown.

Preheat the oven to 190C. Take the foil off the duck, remove the rack with the duck and pour out the water and all the fat that has rendered out. Put the rack with the duck back inside the roasting pan. Baste the duck with the vinegar mixture, until all the skin is completely coated in the glaze. Stick the whole thing in the oven.

Roast the duck for 1 hour, basting periodically with any remaining glaze to set in a deep mahogany colour. Tent the breast with some foil if it gets too dark. I didn’t need to do this as the duck was rather large so it could take the heat. The legs will wiggle easily when it’s done or the usual test – when pierce clear juices will run – works too.

I left it stand for a few minutes while waiting for the sweet potatoes to finish roasting for a mash. Carve and serve.

The duck was served with sweet potato mash and brussel sprouts with garlic and parmesan. Oh and a decent, if not extravagant, bottle of French red.
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Photos courtesy of Alec Muffett. Many thanks!

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Roast duck dinner

Last weekend I decided to roast a (german) duck I had in the freezer (and to free up the space for another one!). I still had some red cabbage, parsnips and pears in the larder from the Christmas break, so I bought some brussels sprouts for a partial re-enactment of the highly succcessful Christmas dinner. Here are some photos of the lavish affair:

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I used Delia’s roast duck recipe which worked really well, even in my thermostat-busted oven. I took it out almost an hour before it was due according to the recipe and the duck was cooked to perfection – crispy skin but juicy meat. Will test in new oven and report on timing again.

Ingredients

1 oven -ready duck weighing 2.25kg (5lb) to 2.7kg (6lb)
salt flakes
freshly milled black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 220ºC, 425ºF gas mark 7. Prepare the duck by wiping it as dry as possible with kitchen paper. Then, using a small skewer, prick the fatty bits of the skin, particularly between the legs and the breast. Now either place it on the roasting rack in the tin or make a rack yourself by crumpling the kitchen foil and placing it in the bottom of the roasting tin. Season with salt flakes and freshly milled black pepper, using quite a lot of salt, as this encourages crunchiness. Now place the tin on a highish shelf of the pre-heated oven.

After 20 minutes turn the heat down to gas mark 4. 180ºC / 350ºF / gas mark 4, then basically that’s all you have to do is leave it alone for 2½ hours (or 30 minutes longer for a 2.7 kg bird). During the cooking time, using an oven glove to protect your hands, remove the tin from the oven and drain the fat from the corner of the tin – do this about 3 times (the fat is brilliant for roast potatoes, so don’t throw it away).

When the cooking time is up the duck skin should sound crisp when it is tapped with a knife; if it’s not, pop it back in the oven for a bit longer, then when it’s cooked allow the duck to rest for 5 minutes or so, then divide it into portions: all you need to do is cut the bird in half lengthways (ie, along the length of the breast then either side of the backbone) with a sharp knife, then cut the halves into quarters, leaving any escaped pieces of bone behind. (You may need some help with some kitchen scissors here.) Serve with the sauce poured around so as not to lose the crispness of the skin.

Featured side-dishes:
Red cabbage with apples & juniper berries
Brussels sprouts with parmesan & almonds
Roast parsnips and pears with thyme

Duck legs in red wine & cranberries

This is my all time favourite dish, which I made more times I can count. It’s a reliable and delicious meal, which goes best with sweet potato mustard mash.

Cooking duck joints with liquid can result in a fatty dish, but here the skin of the duck stays just above the surface of the liquid where it browns, while a reduced souce is created around the meat. Dried sour cherries or prunes are good in this too.

Ingredients (serves 4)

4 duck legs
1l (1 3/4 pints) red wine
500ml (18fl oz) chicken stock
2 bay leaves
5cm (2in) cinnamon stick
2 medium onions each cut into 8 wedges
1 head garlic, cloves separated but skin on
4 sprigs thyme
125g (4 1/2oz) dried cranberries (original recipe calls for dried sour cherries but I have never been able to find them or looked hard enough)

Reduce the wine and stock, separately, until each comes to 250ml (9fl oz) of liquid. This can take up to 20 mins so add that time to the actual cooking time. I also use a large saucepan for the wine and smaller for the stock – that way they end up reducing approximately at the same time.
Trim the duck of any raggedy bits of skin and season with salt and pepper. Set a frying-pan on the heat (I always use a non-stick square deep frying pan) and, when it’s so hot that the duck will sizzle when it hits the surface, add the duck, skin-side down. Immediately turn the heat down to medium-low. Cook for about five minutes until the skin is golden brown. The fat from under the skin will melt. Turn the duck over and cook until plae gold on the other side.
Remove the duck, pour the fat off and then deglaze the pan with the reduced wine.

Put the legs in a roomy oven dish, skin-side up, add the wine from the frying-pan, the stock, thyme, bay and cinnamon and tuck in the wedges of onion and the garlic. I use a Japanese earthen casserole pot but a large Le Creuset would work too.

Cover and put in an oven preheated to 150C/300F/gas mark 2. Cook for an hour, then add the dried cranberries, making sure they are underneath the liquid. Cover, return to the oven and cook for a further 40 minutes, then remove the lid and turn the heat up to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Cook for a further 15 minutes. The duck should be tender, with dark golden skin, and the liquid reduced. If you find you are slightly short of liquid add a little water and gently heat. Serve with mashed (sweet) potatoes as mentioned above or potatoes fried in duck fat (render the skin that you trimmed from the duck to get the fat for the potatoes).

And now for a ‘trick’ that I discovered by accident. My oven’s thermostat is shot and I made this dish a few times before I discovered that it overheats by 50-60C. I then made the dish again, adjusting for the difference and monitoring the temperaturely carefully. Strangely enough, the duck was preferred cooked at the higher temperature. So for those who trust my taste and that of my dinner companions, the ‘adjusted’ temperature is 200-220C for 40 minutes, then 10-15 minutes without the lid. The duck is browner, crispier and always find that there is enough sauce in the pot.

Great wine to accompany the meal is any medium to full-bodied red wine, French in particular. Especially nice is one of my favourites, Chapoutier Côtes du Rhône. Bon appetit!