Roast Duck is one of my absolute favorites, but it is not easy to get it right. If you concentrate on achieving moist meat, the skin might not crisp up. If you concentrate on crisping up the skin, you risk drying out the breast meat. Still, the desired result is so wonderful that I’ve spent 25 years trying to figure out how to get it done dependably and easily. I’ve tried very high heat, very low heat, and a mixture of the two. I’ve tried everything including air drying the duck for several days as the Chinese do when they make Peking duck. Most of these methods are probably too much work for the home cook. The method I use here works well and is not too scary.
Making a sauce for your delicious duck can also be an ordeal. When I was still working in restaurants, I’d start by slow-roasting my ducks. I’d then cool and quarter them and remove all the big bones. Next I’d turn the bones into a dark rich sauce and chill the duck until service. Finally, I’d crisp the duck, skin-side down, in a skillet and serve it with the sauce. But again, this is too much work for the home cook. So I started thinking about Thanksgiving and the bird of honor and about how to make a turkey gravy without the benefit of turkey stock. I use the wings and whatever neck, gizzards, etc., accompany the bird, and while the turkey itself is roasting in the oven, my stock is coming together in a pot on the stove. I have applied that method to the making of a great duck stock. If you have never before roasted a duck, this recipe may make you a believer.
One 5-pound Long Island (Pekin) duck
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 small carrot, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed with the side of a knife
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 small celery rib, coarsely chopped
2 fresh thyme sprigs or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 bay leaf, preferably Turkish
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 quart chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons drained, bottled green peppercorns
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Remove the neck and giblets from the cavity of the duck and reserve. Cut the wings off the duck and reserve. Rinse the duck under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Using the tip of a sharp paring knife, prick the duck all over, inserting the knife at an angle to pierce just the skin, not the flesh. Season well with salt and pepper. Place on a rack in a shallow roasting pan and roast until browned and crisp, 1 1/4 hours. Remove the roasting pan at 30 minute intervals, drain off the fat, and again prick the skin.
While the duck is roasting, rinse the neck, giblets, and wings and pat dry. Cut the wings and the neck into several pieces. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the neck, giblets, and wings. Cook, stirring often, until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion, carrot, and garlic. Cook until the vegetables are lightly browned and softened, 5 to 8 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high and pour in the wine. Bring to a boil, stirring to pick up any browned bits on the bottom. Boil until almost all of the liquid has evaporated. Add the celery, thyme, black peppercorns, bay leaf, tomato paste, and stock. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface, until the duck is ready to come out of the oven.
When the duck is done, transfer it to a carving board, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes.
While the duck is resting, strain the stock and discard the solids. Measure the liquid. If there is less than 1 cup, add water to measure this amount and pour into a small saucepan. If there is more than 1 cup, return to the saucepan and boil until reduced to this amount.
Bring the liquid back to a simmer over medium-high heat. Combine the flour and butter in a small heatproof bowl and use a fork to work it into a smooth paste. Add a little of the stock to the paste and whisk until smooth. Pour the flour mixture into the saucepan and simmer, whisking, until slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the green peppercorns. Remove the saucepan from the heat, stir in the mustard, and season the sauce with salt and pepper. Cut the duck into serving pieces. Spoon on a small amount of the sauce and serve warm with any remaining sauce on the side.