Bora: Why in the middle I would have a rich favoury foup.
Lazar: Made with Craw-fifh – Good!
Bora: At the top two delicate white Trout just frefh from the river.
Lazar: Good! Excellent! go on go on.
Bora: At the bottom – a roaft Duck.
Lazar: A duck! a fcavenger! an unclean bird! a wading glutton; his bill is a fhovel, and hif body but a dirtcart: away with your Duck – let me have a roast Turkey, plump and full breafted, hif craw full with marrow
Exerpt from The Hotel by Robert Jefson, 1775
Okay, not everyone likes duck, for those that do, the best way to show it off, whether Aylesbury or whatever, is to roast it, seasoned with just salt and pepper. It’s also the most common way to serve duck. I did look at old recipes for it, hoping to find some crazy over-the-top recipe with many embellishments, but, alas, it was not to be: at best, there was a stuffing. Keept it simple, chaps. It did seem very common to scald the bird in boiling water for a few minutes before roasting it, though modern ones don’t seem to (unless, that is, you are making some Chinese crispy duck – that requires a kettle of boiling water to be poured over it and then drying it thoroughly to achieve the crispy skin).
One of the great things about buying duck is that they always come with their giblets, unlike many chickens these days, so put them to good use. I have included a recipe for some nice rich giblet gravy to go with.
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For the roast duck:
salt and pepper
For the gravy:
a tablespoon of oil
the neck and giblets of the duck, chopped
one onion, unpeeled, roughly chopped
one garlic clove, lightly crushed
one carrot, roughly chopped
one stick of celery, roughly chopped
one bay leaf
a few sprigs of thyme
about 6 black peppercorns
splash of red wine
1/2 ounce of butter
1/2 ounce of plain flour
one teaspoon of redcurrant jelly or juice of half an orange (optional)
salt and pepper
First of all, place the duck on a large plate and dry it all over with kitchen paper and keep it in the fridge until it is needed. It is important to take it out of the fridge a few hours before you want to cook it though – when you are following roasting times for any meat, it is assuming the meat starts off at room temperature.
The first thing you need to do is get started on the gravy. Get a pan nice and hot, add the oil, giblets and stock vegetables, when they are good and caramelised, add the herbs and peppercorns.
Pour over a pint of water, cover, bring to a boil and then let it simmer gently for the length of time it takes for you to cook the duck.
Preheat the oven to 220°C (430°F) and calculate the cooking time for your duck: 25 minutes per pound plus an extra 20 minutes. Using a fork or skewer, prick the fatty parts of the duck, i.e. the breast and the area where the legs meet the body. Make sure you prick only the skin – if you stab right through the fat, you’ll lose meat juices, and we don’t want that, now do we?
Season the duck inside and out with salt and pepper, place in a roasting tin with a rack, and pop it in the oven. After 20 minutes, turn down the heat to 180°C (350°F). After the first 45 minutes or so, baste the bird and every 20 minutes thereafter. It is important to do this if you want good, crispy skin. To test if the duck is done, poke a knife or skewer into the thick part of the leg and if the juices are clear, then the duck is ready. I would check it around 20 minutes before the total cooking time. When cooked, remove from the oven and let rest for at least 15 minutes before carving it.
Whilst the duck is having a rest, finish off the gravy: strain the stock through a sieve into a jug. Pour off any fat from the roasting tin and pour the meat juices into the gravy. Don’t you dare throw that fat away! It keeps in the fridge almost indefinitely, and you can use it for roast potatoes (they will be the best roast potatoes you have ever made).Put the roasting tin on the heat and deglaze it with the red wine, making sure you scrape off all the nice burnt bits. Tip that into the gravy too. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and when it begins to foam, stir in the flour and cook for a minute. Now whisk in the gravy and let simmer for about 15 minutes. Finally stir in the jelly or orange juice (or even better, the syrup from some preserved oranges – see this link here for a recipe). Correct the seasoning and pour into a nice gravy boat or jug.
There you go: a delicious, scavenging unclean bird!