Thursday, December 25, 2008

Roast Duck for Christmas

Madame and I stayed with my sister, brother-in-law and nephews for Christmas this year. We decided to have duck as the main course meat and then the usual raft of roasted potatoes, roast parsnips, sugar snap peas, carrots and braised red cabbage to cut through the duck's richness.

During our visit to London earlier, we had bought a pair of ducks from the local butcher (Lidgate), so we were assured of some nice birds.

#1 nephew and I made brandy butter and a cranberry relish using bitter orange marmalade and Ribena (an English blackcurrant drink) the night before.

On THE DAY, there was quite a complicated timetable of vegetable and duck prep starting at 09:00 for a 1pm lunch. While others were at Church, I was busy preparing the ducks, peeling onions, potatoes, parsnips, carrots, apples and chopping cabbage, while making sure that the ovens came on at the right times, the Christmas Pudding was properly cooking, my dad was getting his coffee. Somewhere in all of this I had to shower as well.

Most of the dishes were commonplace, but the duck was a new experience for me. Ducks are very fatty and require a lot of cooking time.

Roast Duck
Ingredients (To serve 8)
2 Good sized fresh ducks (about 4 1/2 lbs each)
4 Cups boiling water
Salt/Pepper to taste

For 24 hours prior to cooking leave the ducks uncovered in the refrigerator. This helps the skin dry out and crisp up.

4 hours prior to serving remove the ducks from the refrigerator and allow them to come to room temperature.

Trim wing ends from the ducks. Prick the skin on the breast side of the ducks all over with a roasting fork. Just pierce the skin, do not go deeply into the flesh.

Remove the giblets and rinse the ducks thoroughly, inside and out.

Put ducks on a rack in a pan and pour the boiling water over the ducks allowing the water to collect in the bottom of the pan.

Dry the ducks thoroughly and cover the skin and inside the cavity liberally with salt and pepper. Put the ducks breast side up on the rack and roast in a preheated 425F (210C) oven for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, rotate the ducks so they are breast down and roast for a further 40 minutes. After the second 40 minutes rotate a second time so the breast is up again. Roast for another 40 minutes - or until the ducks are done. You can tell that they are done because the leg joint will loosen and any juices will run clear/yellow with no traces of blood.

Remove from the oven, allow to rest for at least 20 minutes, under a foil tent. When rested, quarter the ducks and serve on a bed of braised red cabbage, garnished with some rosemary stalks and thyme sprigs.

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