Adventures in Holiday Cooking (or, What am I going to do with a duck?!)

I am embarking on a brave new adventure tomorrow – I am roasting a Christmas Eve duck. I won’t lie, this lovely waterfowl has be a bit intimidated because it is nothing like roasting a turkey or chicken. So I am doing the only thing I know how to do when confronted with a new situation, I am researching duck cooking methods and recipes like it is my full time job.  Some of the key things I’ve learned about duck are that it is quite fatty and that it is not a traditional white meat bird, in fact it more closely resembles a beef or venison that a turkey because it is a red meat animal. The first goal of my research has been to figure out how to roast a crispy duck with as little residual grease as possible. Janet Fletcher’s article in SFGate.com is particularly helpful because it included the author’s experience with 3 different cooking techniques. My main take away from this article is that roasting a duck is likely to set off my smoke alarm and splatter my oven with duck fat, so the first thing on my to do list is bring up a fan for blowing smoke out the kitchen window – just in case. This article, combined with some of the cooking tips from Maple Leaf Farms helped me decide on the following cooking plan:

  • Oven temperature at 350°F.
  • Plan on 30 minutes per pound.
  • Roast the duck in a shallow pan, set on a roasting rack so that the fat can drain.
  • For the first hour to hour and a half, roast the bird with the breast down. Score the skin on the breast to further encourage the fat to drain off of the bird.
  • The duck is done with the leg meat reaches an internal temperature of 175°F.

With my cooking techniques outlined, the next step in planning my Christmas Eve meal is deciding how I will approach the unique flavors of duck meat. As this is a family Christmas meal, I have made sure to ask my Mom, the supplier of this feast, what flavors she is thinking about using for the duck. Her only requirement is that the bird be accented with orange. So I plan to roast the duck with a simple poultry seasoning and salt & pepper rub. I will also stuff the duck cavity with half an onion, a whole orange (if it fits), and 2-3 garlic cloves.  About 30 minutes before I expect the duck to be done, I will brush it with an orange and Marsala glaze. If time is on my side, I’m also planning to make a sauce with oranges, ginger, and Marsala wine to be drizzled over the duck when it is sliced and served. I have the greatest confidence that this is going to be awesome, but I also plan on having several chicken breasts defrosted in the fridge, just in case. Check back in throughout the weekend, as I’ll be updating this post with my thoughts, some pictures, and whatever else my mom and I come up with while in the kitchen this Christmas eve. Welcome back everyone!! It’s 2:15 here on Christmas Eve and I have just put the duck in the oven!

I've stuffed the duck with 3/4 of an onion, a whole orange, and 5 small garlic cloves. Its been rubbed down with poultry seasoning and a little sea salt.

I've decided to drop the oven temperature to 325 to start out, hoping to minimize the splatter. The duck is 5.24lbs, so I suspect that it will take about 2.5 hours with the temperature cranked up to 400 degrees in 2 hours.

Update 4:15pm: Orange Marsala glaze made with juice of one fresh orange, 1 tsp garlic powder, about 4 tblsp orange marmalade, and a heavy pour of Marsala.

I put my mom to work drizzling the glaze over the duck while I cranked up the oven temperature to 375.

The duck is back in the oven with a wild rice and mushroom casserole.

Update 5:30: I pulled the duck out of the oven at 4:45. The skin was pretty crispy, but not as crispy as I would have expected. However, everything smelled amazing as I let the bird sit for about 5 minutes before carving it. up.

This is our "normal" Thanksgiving/Christmas platter. Our duck was a bit smaller than our usual Christmas turkey. I quickly transferred him to a smaller platter.

The duck is done, the crab legs are ready, its time to light the candles and enjoy Christmas Eve dinner!

Orange-marsala glazed duck with orange sauce.

Final Verdict

My first duck cooking experience went really well. The duck was tender and flavorful, without being too greasy. I sill say that the skin was not as crispy as I would have liked, so next time I will start my duck at 350°F, instead of the 300°F I started with, this should help with the crispy skin. I will also say, that I made the mistake of not turning the duck over before glazing it. I started cooking it with the breast down, to help drain the fat, but I forgot to flip it with the breast up before glazing it. I’ll be sure to glaze the breast next time.

Research Sources: “Duck Cooking Tips: Discover Duck. “ Maple Leaf Farms. http://www.mapleleaffarms.com/48 Fletcher, Janet. “Bringing duck home/A guide to cooking a bird that’s both crisp and juicy.”  SFGate.com. http://articles.sfgate.com/2006-10-25/food/17316336_1_duck-sugar-and-msg-roast

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4 responses to “Adventures in Holiday Cooking (or, What am I going to do with a duck?!)

  1. May the force be with you… Keep us updated (for better or worse)…

  2. Uncle al said you were doing this. Have fun.

  3. Good luck with your duck…it sounds like it will be delicious. Smart to have chicken breasts waiting just in case you aren’t happy with the duck. Have a wonderful Christmas.

    • Thanks for the positive thoughts Karen, I’m really hoping all goes well. Merry Christmas to you and yours as well, not that it will be hard in that gorgeous kitchen of yours!

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