It was to be a relatively quiet Thanksgiving, with just the two of us plus David’s brother. As such, a turkey seemed like overkill, so we decided to consider the smaller birds (e.g. cornish game hen, duck, capon), finally settling on duck. It’s been quite awhile since we’d had duck, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to try it out again.
from Mastering the Art of French Cooking
5½ lb duck
½ tsp salt
⅛ tsp pepper
1 medium sliced carrot
1 medium sliced onion
1½ to 2 cups duck or beef stock
½ lb pork link sausages
4 or 5 crisp eating apples
1 tbsp sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp sage
¼ tsp salt
2 tbsp cognac
¼ cup port
¼ cup beef stock
To make the stuffing, sauté the sausages in a skillet until they are lightly browned. Drain them. Mash them roughly with a fork in a mixing bowl. Peel, quarter and core the apples. Cut the quarters into 2 or 3 lengthwise segments. Sauté them, a few at a time, in the hot sausage fat in the skillet. They should be very lightly browned, and almost tender, but still retain their shape. Place them on a platter and sprinkle with sugar, cinnamon, sage, salt and cognac.
Pour the fat out of the skillet. Add the wine and stock and boil rapidly untiled liquid has reduced to 2 or 3 tbsp. Pour it over the cooked sausages. When booth apples and sausages have cooled, mix them delicately together. Season the inside of the duck with salt and pepper and stuff loosely in the duck.
Preheat oven to 425 F. Secure the legs, wings and neck skin to the body. Prick the skin around the thighs, back and lower breast. Dry the duck thoroughly. Place the duck breast up in the roasting pan, strew the vegetables around it, and set in the middle of the oven for 15 minutes to brown lightly. Reduce oven to 350 F and turn the duck on its side. Regulate heat so duck is always making cooking noises but fat is not burn in. Remove accumulated fat occasionally. Basting is not necessary. About 30 minutes later, turn the duck on its other side for another 30 minutes. About 15 minutes before the estimated roasting time (in this case, total roasting time is estimated for 1 hr and 45-60 minutes), turn it breast up.
When duck is done, remove from roasting pan. Tilt roasting pan and spoon out all but 1 tbsp of fat. Add stock and boil rapidly, scraping up coagulated roasting juices and crushing the vegetables, until liquid is reduced at least by half. Correct seasoning.
A few notes on preparation: David also included a whole head of garlic and mushrooms in the roasting pan. For the stuffing, we used brandy instead of cognac and only 3 apples (we still had too much to fit into the cavity). David couldn’t actually get the duck to stay on its side, so we did half of the time on its back and half on its breast. It wasn’t making cooking noises right away, so David upped the temperature to 375 F instead of 350 F (resulting in a total cook time of about 1 hr and 15 minutes). For the last 5 minutes, David put the bird under the broiler to crisp up the skin. For the gravy, David strained the vegetables from the roasting pan and actually poured beef stock over them to try and extract more delicious goodness. He added 1 tbsp flour to the gravy to help thicken it and about ½ cup of cream.
David estimated that he cooked the duck to about medium. It was delightfully moist and flavourful. The gravy was outstanding–rich and round. David noted that next time, he would try leaving the vegetables in the gravy and then straining them after in order to get the maximum out of them. The stuffing was fun and tasty, but could’ve used some bread or rice to bring it all together and perhaps some more herbs to punch up the flavour. We served the duck with some deliciously creamy mashed potatoes, green beans, mushrooms and cranberry sauce, which made for a wonderful Thanksgiving meal–just the right amount of food for three of us with a little bit of leftovers.