Growing up, Christmas always meant amazing home-cooked food. From the early morning breakfast (Magic Marshmallow Crescent Puffs, FTW!) all the way to the array of post-dinner cookies, it was day of continuous culinary delights. I still feel the same way today. Christmas is just not the same for me without a delicious home-cooked spread.
Ham was the tradition when I was a kid. In recent years, I dabbled in turkey. This year, I’m thinking duck.
Until recently, I’d only ever had duck at restaurants, hearing that it’s difficult to prepare at home. I was misinformed. To be sure, you can make it as complicated as you like, but a simple roast duck is delicious without all that craziness involving hair dryers and boiling pots of water. There may be an extra step or two involved, but when you carve into that melt-in-your-mouth bird, you will feel it’s well worth it.
I followed a video recipe from the New York Times. It was low-maintenance, and the outcome was crispy, flavorful and Christmas feast-worthy for sure.
SIMPLEST ROAST DUCK (original recipe from the New York Times)
4 – 6 pound duck
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
Aromatics of your choice: orange zest, toasted coriander, ground pepper, rosemary, garlic, onions, shallots, etc.
Fingerling potatoes, for an easy side dish
24 to 48 hours before you plan to serve the duck, trim off excess fat and skin around neck and tail areas. (This can be saved to render duck fat later). With a paring knife, prick the duck skin all over, sliding the knife between the skin and the flesh. This will release the fat so it will render while the duck roasts, making the skin nice and crispy. You don’t want to directly prick the flesh, as that will dry it out.
Season the duck, inside and out, with kosher salt and whatever aromatics you’d like to use. I used chopped fresh rosemary, garlic, and ground pepper. Put the duck in the fridge, uncovered, so that the skin can dry out a bit for the next 24 – 48 hours.
When you’re ready to roast the duck, preheat the oven to 450° F. Add more seasonings to the cavity. I used crushed garlic, sprigs of rosemary, and onion slices. Place in roasting pan, breast side down. If desired, toss the fingerling potatoes in the pan along the sides, to cook in the duck fat. Roast for 30 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 350° F, and roast for another 30 minutes. Flip the duck over in the roasting pan, so that it’s breast-side up. If desired, use a turkey baster to suction up some of the fat in the bottom of the pan, to prevent it from smoking. Put the duck back in the oven for another 1 – 2 hours.
To check for done-ness, you can wiggle the legs of the duck. They should feel loose. A meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh should register at least 175° F.