Whole roasted meat on the dining table is a sure showstopper at any Christmas dinner. It usually consists of either turkey or goose, or meat such as leg of lamb, ham, pork belly or knuckle, and lately a turducken — turkey stuffed with duck stuffed with chicken.
Diners of this recent monstrosity have commented how the duck’s flavour reigns supreme compared to the other meats in this frankenbird. But why not just roast a duck for Christmas?
Duck is an obvious choice for Christmas in my family. Although it may not have the grandeur of a turkey at the dining table, roasting two ducks for a large party is equally impressive.
Here’s a shout-out to my good friend Bob Lay who introduced me to this knockout dish. This is an improvised version as I do not have his actual recipe.
The original recipe calls for wild rice — the grain of a swamp grass from the United States. However, it is not easily available in Malaysia so I substituted it with basmati rice which works quite well too.
The most time-consuming task in preparing duck is plucking out feather stubble from the skin. Use a pair of tweezers to pull out the stubs while rubbing the duck in search of them. This can take up to an hour.
Once the outside of the bird is cleaned, ensure all internal organs are removed. Give it a good rinse and dry completely with kitchen towels inside out. Place the bird uncovered on a rack in the refrigerator to dry in the cold air overnight. This helps remove moisture from the skin so it gets crispy when roasted.The next day, pat dry wet spots that have pooled inside the bird and make sure the skin is dry to the touch.
Trim off the feet, head and neck and place into a roasting pan with water and chicken broth. These will cook and reduce into a rich gravy while the duck is being roasted on the rack above. Discard the bishop’s nose (rump) as this makes the dish very gamy.
Duck fat is a prized ingredient among chefs as it imparts an incomparable flavour to a dish.
Reserve big pieces of solid duck fat and cook over low to medium heat until rendered. Bits of crackling after this process is a treat for that extra effort put in.
Use the liquidised duck fat to temper the spices, fry the nuts and rice to make them toasty and fragrant.
I also made a cavity in the rice, added olive oil before sweating the onions and garlic.
Excess oil dripping into the pan during roasting can be skimmed off and saved.
Fill the duck while the stuffing is hot if roasting the bird immediately.
Otherwise, keep them separate in the refrigerator so the filling is not spoiled by the uncooked bird.
When ready to roast, heat up the stuffing. It needs to reach 85°C as quickly as possible to kill harmful bacteria. Do not fill the bird with cold stuffing.
Roast the duck at the highest setting, 250°C in most consumer ovens or 350°C in some higher-end models.
This initial searing, for the first 30 minutes, allows heat to quickly penetrate the bird.
Baste, then slow-roast with a foil tent at 150°C for 90 minutes. Then baste again and brown the skin by bringing the temperature up to 175°C uncovered for the final 30 minutes until crispy.
Remember to rest the duck for at least 30 minutes before scooping out the stuffed rice and carving the bird.
Garnish with cherry tomatoes for a simple but refreshing look to the richly flavoured duck.
Wishing all of our readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Wild rice roast duck
1 duck about 2.2kg
1½ tbsp coarse black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 stick cinnamon
1 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped
1 cup basmati rice, rinsed and drained
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 bulb yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
150g cocktail sausages, diced
5g fresh rosemary, plucked
5g fresh thyme, plucked
15g fresh parsley, chopped
Zest from 1 orange
1 cup chicken broth
1 tsp salt
1 orange (juice)
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup waterGarnish1 cup red cherry tomatoes, halved1 cup yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
Parsley, rosemary and thyme
Clean the duck and wipe dry with kitchen towels before placing on a rack. Leave uncovered in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day, pat dry the bird inside and out. Trim off the feet, head and neck and keep the neck skin intact. Cut and discard the rump.
Season the duck with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Remove big pieces of fat from around the tail and neck cavities and render duck fat over low to medium heat.
Take out the crispy cracklings. Temper cinnamon and cloves until fragrant in the liquid fat. Add hazelnuts and fry until lightly golden. Add rice and toss until dry and fragrant.
Make a space in the centre of the pan and pour olive oil. Add onions, saute until wilted. Then add garlic and sausages and cook until fragrant, followed by the herbs and orange zest. Add one cup chicken broth and toss until the rice has absorbed all the liquid. Finally, add salt to taste.
Scoop rice into the duck, at its tail end, until lightly packed. Seal the cavity with toothpicks and tie with kitchen twine. Repeat with the neck end until the bird is stuffed.
Place duck bones and scraps on the bottom of a roasting pan, then place duck on a rack over it. Pour chicken broth and water into the pan and roast for 30 minutes at 250°C.
Remove from oven and baste the duck with orange juice, pouring the remainder over the bird without leaving orange sacs on the skin.
Loosely tent the duck with foil and continue roasting at 150°C for 90 minutes. Remove foil, baste again with pan drippings. Continue roasting uncovered for 30 minutes at 175°C.
Remove from the oven and rest for 30 minutes before carving.
Next, pour pan juices with bone scraps into a saucepan and scrape roasted bits from roasting pan. Reduce gravy for about 10 to 15 minutes until thickened. Strain gravy with kitchen strainer and skim oil off the top.
Place the duck on a serving dish. Remove kitchen twine and toothpicks using kitchen shears. Garnish the duck with tomatoes and fresh herbs and serve with warm gravy.