Roasting a duck isn’t much harder than preparing a chicken, and makes for a festive holiday meal.
Cooking duck at home is a classic example of when my quest for perfection undermines the “tasty enough. ”
For years, I strove to create the idealized vision of roast duck that I held in my head. It had to have crackling, burnished skin as crisp as a potato chip, and ruby-hued breast meat as rare as steak and dripping with schmaltz-glossed juices.
The best way to come close to this was through a technique We learned from Ariane Daguin , the founder associated with D’Artagnan , a gourmet food purveyor specializing in sweet. First, I’d roast the particular duck until the breast was a rosy 130 degrees. Then, I’d pull the steaming bird out of the pan and hold it by the drumsticks to lop off its legs, which returned to the oven to finishing cooking while the breast rested.
The technique is brilliant. But it’s not the kind of greasy maneuver I necessarily want to undertake when company is over. After a cocktail, wrestling a hot, slippery five-pound waterfowl in a silk blouse does not make for low-stress entertaining.
Roasting a duck like a poultry, however , is a straightforward affair. And by incorporating a few tweaks, it can result in a bird that is easy to cook and thoroughly delicious — without any unctuous threats lurking.
One thing that differentiates roasting a sweet from cooking a chicken is the duck’s prodigious layer of fat. This body fat needs to render in the oven so it can baste the duck flesh and crisp the skin. There are two classic ways to help this along: pricking the skin or scoring it.
I’ve found that will combining the two works extremely well, giving the particular fat even more opportunities to escape.
Ms. Daguin advises rating the skin inside a tight, crosshatch pattern so you get ¼-inch squares.
“The little squares get very crisp, ” she said, “and the smaller they are, the nicer they taste. ”
Another tip, she added, is to take a cue from the Chinese method of making Peking duck, and dousing your skin with boiling water. This tightens the pores, making the skin easier to cut.
Once roasted, the bird emerges with the skin golden, the meats tender and the fat melted and just waiting to meet any potatoes — a holiday food both prepare and company can rejoice in.
Recipe: Crisp Roast Sweet
And to Drink …
Roast duck plus wine belong together. Which bottle depends on how you serve it. A simple roast sweet is a dish for your best reds. If you’ve got the bottle of good aged Burgundy, like a Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey-St. -Denis or Nuits-St. -George, here’s the perfect opportunity to open it. You could also try restrained, nuanced pinot noirs through elsewhere, or take a different tack, like an aged Pomerol. Really, though, you can’t go wrong with many aged reds, whether Barolo, Bordeaux, Northern Rhône or the equivalent, so long as the particular tannins have lost their youthful resolve. Adding a sauce changes the calculation. If it’s fruity or sweet, a younger, less controlled pinot noir would go great. You might try a red from the Southern Rhône or a German spätlese riesling. With a savory sauce, a Bandol or Beaujolais would be delicious. ERIC ASIMOV