Recently Jenean and I got together to make a lot of festive food - and when menu planning for it, we decided we wanted to try roasting a duck! It might be a little late sharing this for you to try this Christmas, but consider it for your next big festive meal. It's very rich, and a real change from the standard rotation our family tends toward (turkey, ham, lasagna, pork roast - all totally wonderful! of course!)... one Christmas our dad tried roasting a goose, and truly no one enjoyed it. But we thought duck was worth a try.
I was on duck duty, and Jenean made a tried-and-true stellar side dish she is known for - a spinach artichoke bread pudding (featuring chunks of brie!). I'll start with the duck roast, and below that Jenean will tell you about the bread pudding.
It turns out to be relatively simple to roast a duck, and because duck is pretty much all dark meat, it's fairly forgiving as far as cooking time goes. I used the advice in this article on martha stewart. The article is very straightforward and helpful, but the only thing that is lame about it is only that it mentions an Orange Marmalade Pan Sauce without any actual recipe anywhere to be found. I improvised one but I wasn't very happy with it - the fond (the brown bits) were too brown and too greasy to be a good basis for a sauce. Next time, I will serve my roast duck with my homemade orange marmalade on the side (like cranberry sauce for turkey), or possibly with a mango chutney, or something similar. The main reason for this is that the duck gives off such an incredible amount of fat during the roasting process that it seems hopeless to me to de-fat it enough to use the browned bits (the fond) to make a not-greasy pan sauce.
Long Island/Peking Duck (5-6 pounds)
a piece of parchment paper about the size of the top surface of the duck
Remove the duck from its packaging, remove giblets and neck, and rinse with cool water inside and out. Dry as thoroughly as possible. If you have time, let the duck air dry, anywhere from an hour to overnight, uncovered in the fridge.
Preheat the oven to 425F. Cut off the wing tips, and throw them in the roasting pan with the neck (or save both to make stock later). With a very sharp knife, cut parallel diagonal slits 1 inch apart through the skin and most of the fat on duck breasts, being sure not to cut into the breast meat. Turn the knife 45 degrees and cut more slits - creating a diamond pattern in the skin which will help the thick layer of fat render off.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper inside and out. Place it on a rack in a deep roasting pan, breast side up. To truss the legs without string, cut a small slits in the skin on each side of the cavity opening, and push the end of each drumstick into the slit on the opposite side. Add about 1 cup of water to the roasting pan to prevent scorching.
Roast for 50 minutes; pull the roasting pan out of the oven and with a wad of paper towels in each hand, pick up the duck and tip it slowly - a lot of liquid will drain out of the cavity of the bird (be careful - it will splatter when it hits the hot duck fat in the roasting pan... use a LOT of paper towels). Once it's fully drained, place the duck back on the rack, put the piece of parchment paper over the breast, and using the wadded paper towels, flip the bird breast side down on the roasting rack.
Roast for 50 minutes. Using wadded paper towels or kitchen tongs, flip the duck so it is again breast side up, and roast for a final 50 minutes, or until deep golden brown.
Let it rest briefly before cutting it up and serving.
[To make the gravy (which I didn't love), I strained off as much of the fat as possible, then added finely chopped onion (would have used shallots if I'd had them). Then I sprinkled in flour and stirred to make a roux with the remaining duck fat. I added a few tablespoons of sherry, a cup of chicken stock, and water enough to make a good pouring consistency, then added orange marmalade I had made. I think regular store bought marmalade might have been better in this situation... I seasoned with salt and pepper. But it wasn't my favorite pan sauce ever.]
Savory Spinach and Artichoke Bread Pudding:
This is an Emeril Lagasse recipe and will satisfy your starch, veggie and cheese craving - I love it and could eat the whole pan myself.
1 loaf day old French bread, cut into 1 inch cubes (you should have 12-14 cups of cubed bread)
2 8.5 oz cans artichoke hearts - quarter and remove and tough outer leaves
2 packages frozen spinach - you can use fresh, but then you have to add the extra step of blanching the spinach, no thanks.
2 cups chopped onions
1 Tbs chopped garlic
1 Tbs plus 2 tsp Italian seasoning
Salt and Pepper
1 lb brie (YES!!)
3 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup minced flat leaf parsley
Begin by heating the olive oil in a large pan and sauteing your onions until they are golden, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, 2 tsp Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. Add the artichokes and saute for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, cream, lemon juice, remaining 1 Tbs of Italian seasoning, 2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper. Add the bread cubes, artichoke and onion mixture, cubed brie, 1/4 cup Parmesan and parsley and stir. The original recipe calls for you to take the rind off the brie - I never do and everything is fine. I happen to like the way it tastes and I would eat it if I was just having the cheese as is so I figure it's fine. It you don't like it for any reason, definitely remove it. Allow the bread to absorb most of the liquid - you may have to let it rest for up to 20 minutes for this to happen.
Pour the bread mixture into a greased 9 x 13 dish. Top with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan and drizzle with olive oil. Bake until the center is firm and the top is golden brown, about 1 hour.