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Roasted duck makes a tastier alternative to turkey

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Roasting a duck is really no more complicated than roasting a turkey.

The prospect of roasting a duck strikes many a home cook as a mountain too high, but I’m not sure why.

It’s definitely no more complicated than cooking a whole turkey, and tastes far better. Some folks surely suspect that duck is gamy, but that’s true of only some wild ducks. It’s not true of the kind known as Pekin (or Long Island) duck, the domesticated product most widely available at supermarkets.

Other folks shy away because they’ve heard that duck is too fatty and rich. Sure enough, there is a fair amount of fat in duck, but most of it is in and under the skin.

The meat itself actually is quite lean. And — surprise! — duck fat, unlike beef fat and most kinds of poultry fat, boasts some of the same healthy attributes as olive oil.

So this holiday season, why not roast a duck? It’s pretty simple, although you do need to set aside enough time to let the bird cook properly in the oven, just as you would when roasting a turkey.

The goal is a bird with crisp skin and moist meat. The easiest way to make it happen? Roast the duck low and slow, pricking the skin every so often to drain out the fat. (Do be careful, however, not to prick the meat; you don’t want to lose any juices from the meat.)

At the end of the process, the duck is treated to a final crisping in a high-heat oven, then retired for a nice long rest to let the juices redistribute before the bird is carved.

The slow-roasting process provides you with ample time to make a succulent sauce from the bird’s giblets, neck and wings. Those parts are browned in a saucepan along with onions, carrots and garlic, then simmered in red wine and chicken broth, and finally finished with green peppercorns and Dijon mustard. (You’re welcome to lose the peppercorns if they’re too hot for you.)

The end result is a wonderfully tasty duck swimming in a French-style sauce. Fancy! And much more interesting than turkey. Your guests will think you are a culinary genius.

Bistro-Style Slow-Roasted Duck

  • 5 1/2- to 6-pound duck
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • >> Sauce:
  • Duck neck, wings and giblets
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons flour dissolved in 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons drained bottled green peppercorns, packed in brine
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Heat oven to 250 degrees. Remove neck and giblets from cavity of duck, pat dry and reserve. (Save liver for another use, such as sauteing to serve on toast.)

Cut last two joints of wings off and reserve. Remove excess fat from cavity and cut off flap of skin at back. Rinse duck under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

Using tip of a paring knife, prick duck all over, in 1/2-inch intervals, inserting knife at an angle to pierce just the skin, not the flesh. This will allow fat to render out of the meat. Make sure to prick around the leg thigh joint thoroughly, as a lot of fat is stored there.

Season duck well with salt and pepper. Place on rack in roasting pan and roast on middle shelf 3-1/2 hours. After the first and second hour of roasting, reprick the duck skin.

Carefully pour off all the fat at bottom of roasting pan; increase oven temperature to 450 degrees. Return duck to oven and roast 10 minutes. Transfer to a platter, cover with foil and let rest 30 minutes before carving.

While in the duck is roasting, make sauce: Cut neck and wings into 1-1/2-inch pieces. In a large saucepan over medium-high, heat vegetable oil. Add neck, giblets and wings. Cook, stirring often, until golden, 8 to 10 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium and add onion, carrot and garlic. Cook until vegetables are lightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes.

Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine and bring to a boil, stirring to pick up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Boil until most of wine evaporates.

Add celery, thyme, bay leaf, broth and water. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface and adding water to the saucepan if the liquid dips below the bones.

When duck is cooked and resting, strain stock and discard solids. Measure liquid. You should have about 1-1/2 cups. If you have more, boil liquid down. If you have less, add water.

Bring duck stock to boil. Add flour-water mixture in a stream, whisking. Bring mixture back to a boil, then simmer 4 minutes. Stir in peppercorns and mustard, then season sauce with salt and pepper.

Carve duck and serve each portion with some sauce. Serves 4.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 980 calories, 75 g total fat, 25 g saturated fat, 210 mg cholesterol, 850 mg sodium, 10 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 50 g protein.

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