Roasted Duck with Root Vegetables

Duck with root vegetables

Although the consumption of duck in the United States has risen by some 35% over the past two decades it lags far behind that of chicken. Roughly 24 million ducks are eaten here annually compared with more than eight billion chickens. Price accounts for part of that: duck costs two to three times what chicken does. But perhaps the main reason we eat less duck than many other countries is misinformation. Many people think that duck is difficult to prepare and high in fat: the first is untrue, the second true but with a caveat. Yes, duck, being a water bird and thus needing a layer of insulation, has more fat than chicken. But like with chicken, the fat is subcutaneous meaning that the meat itself is quite lean. And duck fat, much prized in France and elsewhere as a cooking fat, is about halfway between olive oil and butter in composition. Duck fat contains 50.5% monounsaturated fats, 35.7% saturated fats, and 13.7% polyunsaturated fats compared to olive oil with 75% monounsaturated, 13% saturated, and 12% polyunsaturated and butter with 21% monounsaturated, 51% saturated, and 3% polyunsaturated. Duck is no harder to cook than chicken but must be handled a bit differently to manage that fat. Most recipes for roasting duck call for pricking the skin and letting the fat collect in the roasting pan. But there is a better way: steaming or poaching the duck to render out the fat before roasting it. Not only does this result in a lean bird with crispy skin but the cooking liquid yields a delicious broth for making gravy and mildly flavored fat perfect for roasting root vegetables. For those I use potatoes, beets, carrots, turnips, or parsnips depending on what I have on hand. You can also add some halved Brussels sprouts.

(Recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef (NY: Hyperion, 1999), 124-125)

Ingredients

 

Duck

About 2 kilograms

About 4 pounds

White wine or water

250 milliliters

1 cup

Dried thyme

5 milliliters

1 teaspoon

Dried parsley

5 milliliters

1 teaspoon

Dried savory, optional

5 milliliters

1 teaspoon

Assorted root vegetables, cubed

About 1 kilogram

About 1 pound

Flour

About 30 milliliters

About 2 Tablespoons

Salt and pepper

To taste

To taste

Method

Preheat oven to 220°C (425°F).

If present, remove the giblets from the duck and set aside for another use. Pat the bird dry and season inside and out with salt and pepper. Truss if desired. Put a rack into the bottom of a large Dutch oven and pour in the wine. Place the duck on the rack and sprinkle on the dried herbs. Bring the liquid to a boil on the top of the stove, cover, and place in the oven.

If your duck does not fit in your Dutch oven, put it on a rack in a roasting pan, adjust the amount of liquid as needed, and cover tightly with aluminum foil.

Prepare a roasting pan with a rack for the duck and a suitable sheet pan for the vegetables. After an hour, remove the pot from the oven and transfer the duck to the rack in the roasting pan, leaving as much fat and juice as possible behind in the Dutch oven. Pour the cooking liquid and fat into grease separator or a measuring cup. When the fat has risen to the top, separate it from the broth and set both aside.

Reduce oven temperature to 190°C (375°F). Arrange the oven racks so that one is at the lowest level and another is two levels above it. Place the roasting pan with the duck onto the top rack.

If you are using beets, you might wish to parboil them for about 15 or 20 minutes and let cool.

Put the vegetables into a large bowl and toss with some of the duck fat. Season with salt and pepper. Spread on the sheet pan in a single layer. Place the pan onto the lower oven rack.

The duck and vegetables should be done in about 40 minutes. Check that the temperature of the duck measured in the thigh is 80°C (175°F) and that the vegetables are tender. Remove the duck from the oven and cover loosely with foil. You can leave the vegetables in the turned-off oven while you make the gravy.

Put 30 milliliters (2 Tablespoons) of the duck fat into a sauce pan. Stir in the flour to make a smooth roux. Strain the broth and add it a bit at a time to the roux while whisking vigorously until it comes to a boil. Keep adding broth until the gravy is the consistency you prefer. If you do not have enough broth, use water or stock.

Arrange the vegetables on a serving platter and place duck on top of them. Serve with the gravy.

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