Following up on Chris's suggestion to cut up the duck. I haven't roasted a whole duck in ages -- since 1993, to be exact, when the New York Times
had a recipe for pan-fried duck. It couldn't be simpler (well, cutting up the duck can be tricky, because the bones are heavy, but it's not impossible if you know how to cut up a chicken) and always gives crisp skin and tender meat. The meat is all well-done, but that's okay with me (and people I've served it to). This method steams the meat and renders the fat gently but thoroughly.
If I want a rare duck breast, I will just cut the breast off the bone and cook as magret, pretty much as Chris describes. But that's a different meal, of only the duck breast. If I want to serve the whole duck, I pan-fry it.
Here's my version:
- Cut your duck(s) into quarters. Season the pieces (just S&P, or herbes de Provence, or Chinese five-spice powder, etc.)
- Heat a large heavy covered skillet or two -- you need room to lay out the duck pieces.
- When the skillet is hot, place the duck pieces in it skin side down. Cook uncovered over high heat for about 5 minutes. Warning: it will spatter all over the stove top. :eek:
- Lift the duck pieces to dislodge them, then return them to the skillet skin side down. Add the duck neck(s) and gizzard(s), if using, cover the pan, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 15 minutes. The skin will be very dark.
- Dislodge the pieces again. I usually turn the pieces over at this point, although the original doesn't. Reduce the heat to very low, cover, and cook for 25 minutes.
- Add the heart(s) and liver(s), if using, cover, and cook for 5 minutes.
- Uncover, pour out the fat (there will be a LOT), turn the duck pieces skin side down again, and raise the heat to medium. Cook until the skin is crisped again.
- If you want to make a pan sauce, keep the duck warm in a low oven. Pour off any remaining fat from the pan. Add water, wine, or duck stock and scrape up the browned bits. Boil until everything is dissolved and reduced a bit. (I've also added dried cherries here for a fruited sauce.)
You can save the fat and use it for cooking -- since it was rendered over low heat, it shouldn't be scorched.
Mark Bittman ("The Minimalist") had a version of this five years later, but I don't much like it. He uses higher heat and a shorter cooking time, and I found the duck wasn't cooked sufficiently. (He credits Paula Peck for the original, in a cookbook from 1961, but says her cooking time of 1 hour is too long. I disagree. :lol: ) Also, with the higher heat, the fat can burn, and then you can't use it later.