Sunday, 4 January 2015

Delicious Roast Duck

In the weeks before the Yule celebrations, I asked my sons what they would like to have for dinner the night of the Solstice. We knew we were having turkey on Christmas Day, but decided we wanted something different for our own meal.

After a bit of discussion, we decided we were going to have a roast duck. Now duck, as you know, is a rather fatty meat, so you can't just stick it in the oven and forget it the way you can a chicken.EVen so, I was pleasantly surprised at what a delicious roast dinner could be made for not a lot of effort.

I think our duck turned out rather well.

Roast duck with duck-fat roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes

To start - preheat your oven to 200c/400f/about Gas Mark 6

The roasting tin

Roasting tray with cooling rack
Because a duck has a lot of fat underneath the skin, you need to be prepared for that before even putting it into the oven. It is recommended that you use a roasting tin with a rack to hold the duck up off the bottom of the pan. 

I don't happen to have a roasting rack, but I do have a wide roasting tray, and a metal cooling rack that just happens to fit perfectly inside. This was ideal for roasting our duck. (I've also used this method for cooking sausages in the oven)

 Preparing the duck

Skin has been pierced with skewer
The next step is to make sure most of the fat underneath the skin can get out. What you don't want is a lot of pressure building up from boiling hot fat under the skin.

To do this, simply poke lots and lots of holes in the skin over the entire surface of the duck. I use a metal skewer for this job, but a small knife would also work.

After this, sprinkle a bit of salt and some ground black pepper over the top, and put it in the oven. I don't cover the duck while roasting, but if I thought it was getting too brown could cover it over with foil.

Roasting time

Very handily, duck takes the same roasting time as other meats. 25 minutes per pound, or per 500 gram, plus 25 minutes. If you prefer duck meat a little rarer, make it 20 minutes per pound/gram plus 20 minutes.

Don't forget to check the weight! If it isn't printed on the packaging,  you can weight it on your kitchen scales.If you don't have a set of kitchen scales, get one. I find that when it comes to getting dry ingredients exact for recipes, a set of scales is much more accurate than measuring cups.

I have both a digital scale and a basic mechanical scale, but tend to use the digital scale more.

While the duck is cooking

Our duck weighed 2.1kg, or about 4.6 pounds, giving me a total roasting time of 125 minutes. (2 hours, give or take)

Because a lot of fat can come out of the duck, you will need to check it about every 30 minutes and drain any accumulated fat out of the tray. Otherwise it will get very hot and begin spitting all over your oven, and possibly on you when you open the door.

I drain the fat by picking the duck up using a large carving fork, then pouring the fat into a waiting bowl. Duck fat is ideal for roasting vegetables, so don't let it go to waste! Keep it in your fridge for roasting root vegetables.

I poured about 2 tablespoons of the fat onto my roasting tray with the quartered potatoes and a roughly cut up sweet potato. This then went into the oven to cook the final 45 minutes.

You'll know the duck is cooked when the juices run clear. After 1:45 minutes, check by pushing a skewer into the meaty portion of a leg or into the breast. If the juices are clear, then the duck is cooked. If they aren't clear, let it cook in the oven another 15 minutes and check it again.

The Giblets

Sometimes duck comes with the giblets tucked up inside the body cavity. No one is ever really quite sure what to do with these, since very few people actually like the liver, heart, and other bits.

I like to place these in a pan of simmering water and cook them for about 30 minutes. The resulting stock can be used to make a gravy, or can be added to a stuffing mix.

Most of the time, I cheat and get my stuffing out of a box. Just replace the required boiling water with boiling stock for a change of flavour. And while you're at it, dice up the cooked giblets and add those to the stuffing as well. This can either be cooked separately in a casserole dish, or can be stuffed into the duck's cavity.

To go with our roast duck dinner, I made roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes, and cooked carrots and green beans to go on the side.

A tart cranberry sauce or an orange sauce would go nicely on the side as well. 

What about leftovers?

This particular duck could easily feed a family of 4, with leftovers for a soup.

I'm feeding a family of 3, so have a bit more in leftovers. But I do love making a soup.

I made a very simple Asian-themed soup using the leftovers from our duck.

Duck Soup 

To start, place the duck carcass and any leftover meat into a large pot along with a quartered onion, a carrot (break it in half), and a couple smasked garlic cloves.  Add a couple bay leaves, a few peppercorns, and a large pinch of salt then cover it over with water.

Bring that up to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and allow it to simmer for as long as you can. The longer the better here to pull as much goodness and flavour out of the bones. I simmered this particular duck for about 5 hours. The resulting stock could have been a satisfying meal all on it's own.

Once it's simmered long enough, take it off the heat and leave it to sit until it has cooled. If you have time, let it sit in the fridge overnight. The next day, if you wish, you can remove any solidified fat from the top. Just stick that in your bowl of reserved duck fat.

Strain the stock, and pull as much meat as possible off the bones. Discard the bones and cooked vegetables. Add the meat back to the stock and bring it back up to a simmer.

Add soya sauce, tasting after each addition until you get the right level of flavour that you want. I use a low sodium soya sauce so had to add quite a bit.

Add in some shredded cabbage, leek, kale, or other leafy green vegetables. Cook another few minutes.

Add in a packet of Chinese rice noodles. Stir and leave to simmer another few minutes.

Taste for seasoning, adding a bit more soya sauce and some black pepper if needed.

Serve hot in deep bowls.