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Lean Away… or just, Duck

October 30, 2011

After another involuntary breakdown (I swear, this computer…), back with a new recipe!  And as such, one of my favorites: roast duck.  I know a lot of people who disliked duck before they tried mine…  because it’s greasy, gamey – one friend even said it was tasteless!  Well – it can be all of these if prepared improperly.  Here’s how to do it right for a lip-smacking roast bird.

First and foremost, obtain a duckling.  For me it took a while to discover that WinCo Foods occasionally carries frozen ducklings – if you don’t have the chain around you, check with your grocery store or butcher.  Asian markets may also carry duck.  While it’s not the cheapest meat around, it’s about the same price as better beef cuts (pound for pound).

Thaw the duck if frozen, remove the giblets from the cavity, then rinse the whole bird inside and out.  Also, preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  I usually make soup from the neck, heart, and gizzards, and fry the liver in some duck fat for a real treat.  Cut off all the fatty skin from the neck area (kitchen shears can prove really useful here) as well as any “overhanging” excess fat from the butt area.  I usually chop these in one-inch pieces and render them completely for a pork rind-like, tasty snack, then use the leftover fat for the liver.

The duck and accessories

Duck and accessories

Next up is what to put inside the bird.  Slice up about 1/4 of a medium-sized yellow onion, and stuff it all inside the body cavity.  Then, so the onions won’t get lonely, throw in 10-12 large cloves of garlic, cut in halves or thirds.

Rub a little salt and pepper on the outside – no need to go crazy on either of them, about a half tablespoon of salt and a half teaspoon of pepper will do just fine.  Cut 3-4 garlic cloves to long, thin sticks; then with a paring knife, make 3-4 small openings on either side of the breast as well as along both sides of the center bone and on the top part of the breast, and insert a garlic stick along the edge of the knife:


Barding with garlic

Insert a few garlic sticks to the thighs, too.

With a sharp knife, make 3-4 diagonal incisions in both directions on each breast half as well as on each thigh, giving the bird an “argyle sweater”.  These incisions will help drain the rendering fat from the deposits under the skin, so it drips into your pan rather than get absorbed in the meat.


The Argyle Sweater (not the comic)

Finally, place the bird breast side up in a roasting pan.  If you have a rack for it, by all means, use it!  I didn’t have one that fit my pans (or a pan that fit my rack) – this way the skin on the back won’t get so nice and crispy, but it doesn’t change the “noble cuts” (breast and thighs) the least bit.  Off to the oven the duck goes; for about 2-3 hours.  The delicious smell will tell you when to start checking – the internal temperature in the breast and thighs should reach 165 degrees.  Make sure you measure in the meat, and not in the rendering fat under the skin – stick in the thermometer to the center of the meat!  For a crispier skin on the breast, turn up the heat to 350 for the last 15-20 minutes.

Roast Duck

Roast Duck

Serve it with a variety of sides – mashed potatoes, Czech-style steam dumplings, roasted cabbage are all great accompaniments.  And as it’s a very common tavern food in the Czech Republic as well as in Bavaria – don’t forget an ice cold beer!


Enjoy your meal!

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