Every once in awhile I get emails out of the blue, on account of being Somebody with a Blog, asking if they can send me free things and I can review their product and – of course – write an amazing, glowing review here in this space so all 19 of my readers (that’s you!) will immediately drop what they’re doing and go buy a life’s supply.
I’ll admit, even just that is kind of cool – although 98% of the time the product they want to send me is some highly processed new super food stuff that I’ve never heard of, which I can tell you off the bat is just not for me. In these cases, it really never gets much farther than that initial contact. But I recently got my first contact that was actually something worth following through on.
The contact was from a representative from POM Wonderful (it’s pomegranate juice, but yes that’s the full name of the company). He wanted to send me a case of their main product – bottles of 100% pomegranate juice. I’ve had this stuff before, and it’s good. I’m a pretty big fan of pomegranates in general. So I was already inclined to accept the offer. Reading through the email, the second thing I noticed was that there wasn’t even any caveat for some sort of reciprocation. I mean, obviously the tacit implication is that I’m then going to go ahead and write about it here, but there was no quid-pro-quo deal explicitly necessary for them to send me some product. This might seem like a small detail but it made an impression on me.
So – naturally – here I am writing about it. I like POM Wonderful pomegranate juice. I liked it before I got the free stuff (a case worth, not too shabby) – and I still like it after. I tend to use it for mixed drinks, a LOT. It’s great with some vodka and a bit of seltzer. But it’s also pretty great for cooking with, too. I thought for awhile about what my dish would be to showcase it, and I felt like a nice crispy roast duck would make a perfect delivery vehicle for it.
Since I’ve never talked about duck here and some people find it intimidating, I thought I’d do a little step by step for my roasting process. Two of the best things about roast duck are – 1) the crispy skin, and 2) the fat you can save. This method works great for both.
|ESTIMATED CALORIC INFO
||1 breast w/ glaze
|Calories from Protein
|Calories from Fat
|Calories from Carbs
Prep time: 20 minutes (or a couple hours if you include the thawing/bringing-to-room-temp of a frozen duck)
Cook time: 3.5 hours
- 1 whole duck, fresh or frozen
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- pomegranate molasses (can usually be found in the Middle Eastern/ethnic foods section of a grocery store – if need be, sub in regular molasses but tread lightly with it)
1. If frozen, move the duck to the fridge for a good 24 hours before the day you want to cook it. On the day of, take it out of the fridge about 90 minutes before you are ready to start roasting it. The roasting will take about 3 hours, so be sure to plan accordingly.
2. As the duck is coming to room temperature, dress it up with some olive oil, salt, and pepper. Remove any giblets from inside the cavity and save with the heart for stock, save the liver for paté (quick paté recipe coming soon for bonus points!).
3. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees fahrenheit.
4. Cut the neck skin and fat from the body and reserve. You can render this while the bird is roasting to get the most amount of fat out of this as possible. More details follow.
5. Make diagonal cuts in the skin of the duck all across the breast side and the back. Do not cut all the way into the flesh, just cut through the skin and the fat. This will make it easier for the fat to drip out into the roasting pan when you’re cooking it. Use the image below as a guideline. Make sure you have a sharp knife.
6. Next you want to truss the duck with some twine. You can truss a duck the same way you would a chicken – it’s pretty easy. Snip yourself a nice long piece of twine (you can always cut off extra if it’s too long, but you can’t add more), and start with the duck breast side up. Place the duck down on the halfway point of the twine, and wrap once around the wings (the top half of the following image). Then wrap one more time around the legs and knot in front of the cavity (the bottom half of the following image).
7. When it’s ready to go in the oven, place it in a roasting pan with something to raise it off the base of the pan. This is critical for keeping the skin crispy and for reserving as much fat as possible. It should look something like this:
8. Just before it goes in the oven, brush it with pomegranate molasses and poke it all over to make small holes in the skin for fat to drip out. Then roast for 1 hour at 300, breast side up, and it will look a bit like this…
While it’s roasting for the first hour, you can prep and start reducing the pomegranate glaze.
- 1 cup pomegranate juice
- 1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
- 2 serrano chiles, diced with seeds removed
- 1 minced garlic clove
1. Add all the ingredients together and then pulse in a blender until smooth.
2. Put in a small sauce pan over low-medium heat and reduce until desired thickness is reached.
NOTE – you still have about 2:30 hours left to go before the duck will be ready, so be aware of this as you are reducing the glaze. Either keep it on very low heat and make it a nice long process, or wait a little while before starting the heat. I’d leave yourself at least an hour to reduce it, though. If it gets too thick, just add a little more pomegranate juice.
9. Pull the roast out of the oven, and flip the bird – CAREFULLY – so that it is now breast side down. Prod the sides of it gently for the fat to drip out into the pan. Roast for another 1 hour at 300 degrees fahrenheit.
While the duck is roasting for the second hour, you can make some easy duck liver paté on the stove top using the liver which you set aside at the outside – if you roll that way, that is. And I definitely do.
- duck liver
- 1 tbsp duck fat
- 2 small shallots, diced
- 2 small garlic cloves, grated
- herbs – I recommend thyme, fennel, basil
- 1 tsp cognac
1. Put the duck fat into a skillet over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until it’s good and warmed up, then throw in the diced shallots.
2. Sweat the shallots in the fat for just another few minutes, and add in the garlic, herbs, and duck liver.
3. Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes, flip, and cook for another 3 until the liver is well browned.
4. Remove liver, herbs, and shallots from the pan and throw them into a blender with the cognac. Pulse until smooth.
5. Put into a jar with a lid or covered bowl and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight. Spread it on some nice toast to serve.
The paté will keep in your fridge for about 3 to 4 days, but it probably won’t last that long anyway.
10. After the duck has roasted for the second hour, take it back out of the oven and crank the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Prod again to get those fat drippings out of the duck and into your pan.
11. Flip it back to breast side up, and put it back in the oven for about 50 minutes.
While it’s roasting for this final hour, take the skin and fat from the neck that you reserved earlier and render it to get a little more duck fat out of it.
1. Pour just a little bit of water into a skillet – about enough so the bottom is covered but not much more.
2. Bring the water up to a low simmer while cutting the skin into small pieces.
3. Drop the skin into the simmering water for about 5-7 minutes or so. The water will evaporate out will the fat gets rendered.
4. Remove the skin from the skillet and discard. Carefully pour the fat out of the skillet into a measuring cup or mason jar.
12. For the final ten minutes of roasting, raise the oven temperature up to 425 degrees fahrenheit, and then take your roast out of the oven. Prod it one final time all over to release the fat into the pan.
13. Move the rack out of the pan, again – CAREFULLY – and set aside on a plate or carving block. Using a baster or spoon, carefully lift up one corner of the pan so that all the fat and drippings run down into the corner. Use the baster or spoon to move the fat into your measuring cup or mason jar that you’ve set aside from when you rendered the neck fat earlier.
Yummy duck fat…
You can see here that the burnt gristle pretty much falls to the bottom once the fat has had a minute to settle in a container. You can use a strainer to pour the fat through to remove that stuff, but if you just put it into the fridge as is the fat on top will congeal and it will be pretty well separated anyway. Note that when it goes into the fridge for a couple hours, it will turn into a white, semi-hardened substance, not unlike butterfat. This is normal and it doesn’t mean it’s gone bad or anything. When you take it back out to cook with it and it comes to room temperature, it will return to it’s more oily state.
More on what to do with the duck fat at the bottom of this post.
14. Now that the duck is out of the oven, let it rest for a good 20 minutes or so before carving into it. It should be thoroughly cooked, but if you’re a paranoid thermometer type then you can check to make sure that spot between the thigh and the body (this is the last spot to cook) has reached 165 degrees fahrenheit.
15. Give a nice final brush all over with the glaze, then carve and serve. You may also want to plate the meal with a little of the glaze spread out on the plate, but be warned that the glaze is fairly sweet.
16. As always, when roasting a bird be sure to save all the bones and the carcass to make some stock the following day. Duck stock is fantastic, can be made exactly the same way as any chicken or turkey stock, and not doing so should be a crime.
So what can you do with all that duck fat you saved? A better question is: what CAN’T you do? Duck fat is seriously a wonder drug of cooking. You can make nearly anything 10x better just by cooking with duck fat instead of oil, or instead of butter. Even better, duck fat is actually healthier for you than butter in quite a few ways. Duck fat contains more linoleic acid and less polyunsaturated fats than most other fats, making it more like olive oil than anything else.
Here are a few of my favorite uses:
- any kind of potato dish – fried, roasted, mashed, baked – will be excellent with duck fat
- caramelized onions
- deep fried won-tons or dumplings
- popcorn – with artisanal salt
- mix it with half butter for biscuits
- any kind of savory pie crust, like shepherd’s pie or chicken pot pie
- scrambled eggs with scallions
- rub for any other kind of bird roast – chicken, turkey, quail, etc.
- hamburgers: a bit mixed into the meat, or smeared onto a toasted bun, or both!
There’s no end to what you can do with it. Be creative. Anything you could cook with oil or with butter, you can cook with duck fat. As a general rule, if you’re worried then stick to savory – anything savory cooked with duck fat will be exceptional. But don’t forget – rules are made to be broken.