Roasted duck is a true delicacy. A deep, warming flavour, fat and delicious, easier to prepare than most believe it to be. Not exactly a classic diet food, more a treat and comfort food. But it’s exactly the type of food for a cold, stormy winter evening like today. Also I was able to grab a top quality bird at my local supermarket, a feat already worth a celebration in itself.
- 1 good quality whole duck of about 2kg. Go for broke, a cheap bird won’t make you happy. Try to get a duck that had a good life before it’s final trip to the butcher.
- 2 onions
- 2 apples
- 1 organic orange or clementine if you want a christmasy touch
- 1 medium sized red cabbage
- a few sticks of celery (not a must, I just happened to have them and was pleased with the result here)
This is an easy roast, but it needs a little extra love from you, so don’t try to rush it. Take your time. It looks like a lot of work, but it really isn’t. Just trust me.
- Take the bird out of the fridge, remove it from its packaging, pat it dry with a paper towel and allow to take room temperature for at least an hour. While you are at it, make sure all the feathers have been removed.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. We use a rather low temperature for extra juicy results.
- Peel the onions and chop them, with the other vegetables and fruits except the orange, into rough pieces. They will roast together with the duck, so don’t cut them too fine, unless you want mash. Put everything into a large roasting pan.
- Make a spice blend of your own liking. Use quite a lot of salt and pepper, the rest is up to you. I used dried ginger, allspice and fennel mashed with pestle and mortar into a rough rub. Make a little more than you would use for a bird of this size, you can store it up or use it to season the red cabbage.
- Rub the duck with a little olive oil and the spice blend. Don’t forget the cavity! Also cut the orange into quarters and stuff it into the cavity. Don’t overload the bird, the air should be able to circulate.
- Put the roasting pan with the veggies into the oven, add a splash of water, and place the duck on a cooking grate above the veggies. Roast for two hours. If your bird is much larger than 2kg, you will have to add a little time, but don’t make the mistake of overcooking it.
- Remove everything from the oven, cover the duck with tin foil and a kitchen towel and let it rest at least thirty minutes. This is crucial!
- In the meantime you take care of the red cabbage. If your duck was very fatty, remove any excess fat from the tray. Keep it for later use, this is pure gold. You can use a tablespoon of flour to thicken the cabbage. Just sieve it into the roasting pan, stir, and let it cook over medium heat until it thickens up. Season to taste. This is the perfect time to add the orange from the duck cavity. It is soft and drenched with duck juices, so don’t throw it away.
Carve the bird and don’t mind too much about making it pretty. This is comfort food, not a carving competition. I remove the wings and legs by twisting them out of their joint. Rustic and easy. Then I look for the breast bone in the middle of the duck breast and make a deep cut down to the bone next to it. Just follow the ribs and take the breast off. Repeat on the other side.
After your feast, the fun part begins: pulling every bit of flesh from the bones. This is job for rolled up sleeves and an apron. Keep the bones, you can freeze them and use them for a delicious soup stock later!
You could upgrade the duck to goose, you just have to adjust the cooking time. Probably three hours are more than enough. Or you could take a step back and roast a chicken. In any case, I cordially recommend Jamie Olivers roasting guide when in doubt.
The spices you use can make a big difference. The duck really doesn’t need more than salt and pepper to be delicious, and if you are a purist, this will already make you happy. Use rosemary for mediterrean vibes. I can see cinnamon or ras-el-hanout for an oriental touch.
Don’t feel forced to use red cabbage. You could just use root vegetables as if you would make roasted vegetables. Or some nice potatoes for possibly the best roasted potatoes known to mankind. As long you are able to find them, it would be an excellent idea to use prickly pears. Or maybe kale, dark green, almost black, with loads of garlic.
Have you ever tried to roast a bird? How did you prepare it and how was it? I am looking for inspiration from you in the comment section below, dear readers! And if you did like my recipe and want someone to cook it, why not share it? 😉