With T-minus 2.5 weeks left until the baby’s due date, my wife and I couldn’t be with family this Christmas. This means that I would have to cook on Christmas for the first time ever. And so, in a nod to A Christmas Story, I thought we’d have Chinese Turkey – aka duck.
I’ve made roast duck before, and is time, I did basically the same thing. Although, the new twist this time is that I now have a roasting rack. Also, I figured out how to avoid accidentally filling the house with smoke.
1. Baptize it: boil some water and then pour it over your thawed duck. The trick is to avoid burning yourself with boiling water. When you put the hot water to the skin, it tightens up like a shrinky dink. You need to do this to help make the skin crispy.
2. Score it: duck has a lot of fat between the skin and muscles, you know, the better to swim in the water with. You need to score the skin to let some of the excess fat render out. Otherwise, you will have greasy duck. Usually, I just poke it with a knife all over. But this time, since it was Christmas, I scored it in a nice diamond pattern.
3. Roast it (low): Set it on a roasting rack and roast at 300 for three hours. You can truss the birds if you want, but I don’t know how to do that. I just tucked the wings behind the bird’s back and then tied the legs together. Also, about two hours into the roasting, I flipped the bird over.
4. Prep it: I peeled 1 bag of carrots, and cut up four medium red potatoes. I also cleaned and chopped up 1 leek. I set these on a small baking sheet to roast later on.
5. Roast it (high): remove the duck from the roasting rack and pan and set on top of the vegetables. Put the duck onto the raw vegetables. Crank up the oven to 450 and roast for another 15-30 minutes. The burst of high heat at the end will crisp up the skin perfectly. And the veggies get to roast with a little of the duck drippings.
Plus, you want to remove the old roasting pan because it’s full of rendered duck fat, which is quite useful if you save it. But, if you leave a pan with rendered duck fat in a 450 degree oven, your house will fill with smoke. I learned this the hard way.
6. Rest it: let the duck rest for about 15 minutes under foil, but keep the veggies roasting. You might want to give them a little toss before sending them back into the oven.
I tried to serve this duck all fancy. I put it on a big serving dish and surrounded it with the roast vegetables. Carving a roast bird is still one of the things I am terrible at, but it looked and tasted so good, neither I nor my wife cared.
The vegetables were roasted perfectly. The potatoes had picked up a nice crispness on the outside, likely due to the help of the duck fat drippings. The carrots were also quite nice, and I have been just loving carrots lately. The leeks were a nice touch too. I love leeks. I just wish they were easier to work with and/or obtain.
The duck was cooked almost perfectly. It was a little on the well-done side, but when it comes to duck, I think that is the better side to err on. For some reason, every time I order duck, it comes out medium or even medium rare. Sure, this gives you a good sense of the essence of duck flesh, but it ends up being a little chewy, which is a difficult poultry texture for most people to appreciate. Plus, the duck ends up being super greasy because the fat hasn’t rented properly. And when it comes to duck, rendering the fat properly is the most important thing.
The thigh meat was certainly the most delicious on this duck. It was moist and tender and wonderfully flavorful. If there were a way to actually barbecue a chicken, and I mean barbecue in the true sense of the word, it would taste like the thigh of this duck. It was like a cross between pulled pork and chicken meat. It was wonderful. And it is the only thing in the universe that makes me wish I knew how to hunt.