Because duck is so fatty, you need to make a special effort to eliminate some of the fat. This is easy enough if you're pan-roasting breasts or cooking just the legs. It is far more tricky, though, when roasting a whole duck. The best way I know to do it is to simmer the whole duck after poking holes in the skin to allow the fat to escape as it melts. You'll need a large stockpot, and it's a two-part process, but the two parts result in that most luscious of lipids (duck fat) and a wonderful broth you can use for cooking beans or making soup. Try the cranberry coulis recipe as a sauce.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
1 5- to 6-pound duck
1 large yellow onion, peeled, trimmed and quartered
2 large carrots, cut into 1-inch lengths
2 medium stalks of celery, cut into 1-inch lengths
Large handful of flat-leaf parsley with stems
2 bay leaves
2 large cloves garlic
2 tablespoons dried orange zest (you can find dried zest in the spice department)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried, ground rosemary
1 orange, washed and cut into eighths
1 small onion, peeled, trimmed and quartered
2 cloves garlic
Remove giblets from duck cavity and cut off wing tips.
Using a small paring knife, poke holes all over the duck's breast, legs and back. Insert the knife at an angle to avoid penetrating the meat — figure you have 1/4 inch of fat beneath the skin on the breasts and thighs and about 1/8 inch on the legs and back — but insert as deeply as possible without making a cut more than about 1/2 inch long.
Place the duck in a large stockpot, add onion, carrots, celery, neck and wing tips. Add enough water to completely cover duck. Remove duck from pot, add parsley, bay leaves and peppercorns, and place pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, skimming off any scum that forms.
Carefully return duck to pot and bring back to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to a simmer. Place a plate with a heavy can on top of it onto the duck to keep it submerged, and simmer for 45 minutes, removing any additional scum as it forms but allowing fat to accumulate.
Remove duck and pat dry, being careful to avoid tearing skin. Cool to room temperature. At this point, you can move on to roasting, or you can refrigerate the duck on a dish, uncovered, which forces some additional fat out as the skin contracts and produces a crispier skin.
Refrigerate the stock you've made overnight. The fat will rise to the top and you can skim that off and save it frozen for up to a year. The stock can be reduced (concentrated) and used for making gravy (with some of the duck fat) or reserved for other uses (there's no salt in it, and it's simply flavored to keep it flexible for other dishes).
If you refrigerated the bird, remove from fridge and set on the counter for 3 hours. Heat oven to 500 degrees, place an oven rack one level up from the bottom, and heat a roasting pan that can hold a roasting rack. Don't heat the rack.
Mix together orange zest, salt, pepper and rosemary. Sprinkle half the mixture inside duck and half outside, patting to make it stick. Stuff cavity with orange, onion and garlic and roast for 30 minutes (rotate front to back after 15 minutes). Remove from oven and let rest 15 minutes before carving.
Note: Save the duck bones and the back, add them to the reserved duck stock and simmer it for another couple of hours to make a richer stock. Certainly save the fat for other cooking projects.