I don’t often cook a whole duck. It’s easier to buy legs, and that’s what I usually cook at home, a recipe I picked up from the Chez Panisse cookbook, braised duck legs over cabbage. I’ve adapted it over the years – adding spices like ginger, cardamom and fresh turmeric, and getting rid of the sulfurous cabbage. The other day my husband thought we should celebrate and he brought home a whole duck. Whole duck challenges the cook not to overcook the breast (it will not be rare, and you don’t want stringy), while cooking the legs and crisping the skin. Years ago I made Julia Child’s special “Designer Duck” from The Way to Cook, in which you cut up the duck, and roast the legs and wings separately from the breast. It was laborious. Julia may say, “Just go at it,” but most of us don’t carve up raw poultry frequently.
It’s easier to carve meat that’s cooked, so I was happy to see that in Julia and Jacques: Cooking at Home, Julia had adapted the recipe to include an initial roasting of the whole bird.
At 400 degrees for 30 minutes, the duck rendered some of its fat. After letting the duck cool, I carved the bird. I removed the thighs, wings and breasts (which were tender and rosy). Julia’s recipe calls for rolling the thighs and wings in breadcrumbs and mustard, and roasting for 25 minutes more at 400 degrees. I laid them in a duck-fat greased Le Crueset casserole with little Yukon Gold potatoes.
Turnip greens, blanched and sautéed with garlic, were a clean-tasting vegetable to eat with this rich, decadent meal. Julia’s recipe calls for a separate heating of the breasts, which are served with the thighs and wings. I saved the breast preparation for the following night. And that blog will follow.