my duckling ain’t ugly

Ms. Quack has been snoozing her beauty sleep in my freezer #2 for quite a while now. Then one day I decided to wake’r up and give her a little makeover, I’m thinking sort of a tan to give that pasty skin a bit of a warm glow.

Now, you have no I idea. Three years ago I wanted to be a plastic surgeon. Today I scoff at my youthful naivety at the time, and yet the qualities of that little girl are still in me; my eyes, my hands, and my mind. Mostly my mind, I would say, since I’m always feeling chased with a fire lit beneath my bum, that fire being time…or, rather the lack thereof.

So I won’t tell you how long that bird’s been hibernating. And I definitely won’t tell you how many times my mum nagged at me to free the poor thing and cook it already, each time with increasing urgency in tone.

But none of that matters anymore, since it’s all said (yes I do remember doing lots of talk on what I planned to do with the duck) and actually done.

So once I got ’round to the task, it was as easy as sticking a cake in the oven. Just the sticking part, since there’s no rush or anything against gluten formation or the sort. Two hours later, le voila! a magnificent king of the, um…pond! (?)

The skin, from the slow, gentle roasting is thoroughly rendered and as crispy as one can imagine, without any fattiness. The caramelization is deep and sweet. And the sauce (man the french know their sauce!) is so. flippin’. amazing. I threw some mint, from my garden of course, in there to serve, and it worked seamlessly with the brightness of the orange and richness of the duck.


Ingredients for the orange roast duck:

1 organic duck, about 2~2.2 kg (spend the extra for organic, it’s worth it)

4 large, juicy navel oranges

2 cinnamon sticks, each broken in half

1 big handful fresh mint, plus more to serve

95 g soft brown sugar

65 ml each kumquat vinegar and white vinegar OR 125 ml cider vinegar

80 ml whisky

30 g butter

To make the duck, preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Meanwhile, wash the duck under cold water to rinse off any debris and fluid that may have accumulated in the cavity. Shake off any excess water and pat dry thoroughly with a paper towel. Cut an orange in half and rub it all over the duck. Cut the used orange in half again, then stuff it into the cavity of the duck with the mint and cinnamon sticks. Tie up the legs and wings (the legs are pretty straight forward, but if the wings are too intimidating, leave them flailing about, it’s fine). Prick the duck all over with a fork, piercing the skin and into the flesh, so that the fat beneath the skin can drain out effectively for an ultra-crispy skin.

Put the duck on a rack, with the breast side facing down. Put the rack in a shallow roasting pan, and send the whole thin into the oven and roast for 1 hour, turning the duck halfway.

Meanwhile, to make the sauce, zest the remaining three oranges, then juice them, keeping the zest and juice in separate bowls. Pour boiling water over the zest, to cover and let it steep for a minute before draining. Repeat this two more times, then set it aside.

In a saucepan, melt the sugar over medium-high heat. When it becomes caramelized and bubbly, deglaze the pan with the vinegar and let the sharpness boil out a bit before adding the orange juice and whisky. Let it boil for two minutes.

After one hour of roasting, start basting the duck with the sauce every 5~10 minutes for another 1 1/2 hour, until the duck is deeply amber, with a reddish tinge. Turn off the oven, leaving the duck in there to keep warm while you finish the sauce.

Add the reserved zest into the remaining sauce and educe it over high heat, stirring occasionally, until thick and syrupy. Throw in the butter and stir until combined.

Serve the duck with the sauce, with mint leaves and new potatoes simply boiled in well-salted water.


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