Tired of the same old turkey on the holiday table? This could be the year to switch to duck. It's easy to cook and practically impossible to dry out-it stays moist and reheats well (see Tip). Almost all the fat is under the skin and drips off during cooking. We serve the duck with an incredibly rich-tasting gravy, adding port and dried fruit to a giblet stock for sophistication in seconds.

EatingWell Test Kitchen
Source: EatingWell Magazine, Fall 2004

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Recipe Summary

total:
3 hrs
Servings:
8
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Ingredients

Ducks
Giblet stock & cherry sauce

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • To prepare ducks: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Set aside necks and giblets for sauce. (Reserve livers for another use.) Pull off any fat. Rinse cavities with cold water and pat dry. Sprinkle ducks with salt and pepper inside and out; stuff with garlic cloves and thyme. With a skewer or fork, prick holes in the skin without piercing the flesh. (This allows fat to drain during roasting.) Tuck wing tips under and tie legs together with kitchen string, if desired. Set the ducks, breast-side up, on a rack in a large deep roasting pan.

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  • Roast the ducks until a meat thermometer registers 180 degrees F, the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced with a skewer, and legs move freely, 2 1/4 to 2 3/4 hours. After 1 hour, use a bulb baster to remove fat that has accumulated in the pan. Repeat every 30 minutes.

  • While the ducks roast, prepare stock & sauce: Heat 2 teaspoons oil in large heavy pot (4-quart capacity) over medium-high heat. Pat the necks and giblets dry and add to the pot; cook until browned, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate. Add onion and carrots to the pot; cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 5 to 6 minutes. Add broth, water, tomato paste, garlic, thyme, peppercorns and the reserved necks and giblets; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, partially cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Pour the stock through a strainer into a medium saucepan, pressing on solids to extract maximum flavor. Set aside. (Refrigerate if holding for longer than 1 hour.)

  • When ducks are roasted, transfer to a carving board, cover loosely and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes before carving. Pour any fat and juices from the pan into a glass measuring cup and place in the freezer so the fat will rise to the top. Place the roasting pan over medium heat; add port and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Bring the reserved giblet stock to a simmer over medium heat. Strain the port from the roasting pan into the stock. Skim fat from the chilled pan juices; add the juices to the stock. Add dried cherries (or dried cranberries) and simmer for 1 minute. Add the cornstarch mixture and cook, whisking, until the sauce is slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in vinegar and season with pepper.

  • To carve ducks: Use a sharp knife to separate legs from breasts at joints. Separate thighs from drumsticks at joints. Carve breasts into thin slices. Discard skin. Spoon sauce over each serving.

Tips

Make Ahead Tip: Prepare through Step 4. Let ducks cool. Carve and place in a 9-by-13-inch pan. Top with sauce. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. To reheat, cover with foil and bake at 350°F for 25 to 35 minutes.

Tip: If using frozen ducks, be sure to allow enough time for thawing. Plan on 2 days to thaw ducks in the refrigerator.

Why a Duck?
Almost defying overcooking, duck is a secret choice of seasoned cooks who want to enjoy their guests rather than hovering near the oven. However, while French cooks cherish duck fat, it raises health concerns among North Americans. Curiously, about half the fat in a duck is of the beneficial monounsaturated type. Cooked skinless duck breast is actually leaner than chicken breast without skin and has less than half the saturated fat of pork tenderloin or beef round roast.

Nutrition Facts

252 calories; protein 22.4g 45% DV; carbohydrates 11.3g 4% DV; exchange other carbs 1; dietary fiber 0.5g 2% DV; sugars 6.5g; fat 10g 15% DV; saturated fat 3.5g 18% DV; cholesterol 79.3mg 26% DV; vitamin a iu 393.6IU 8% DV; vitamin c 0.9mg 1% DV; folate 11.2mcg 3% DV; calcium 13.6mg 1% DV; iron 2.8mg 15% DV; magnesium 21.5mg 8% DV; potassium 333.2mg 9% DV; sodium 262.7mg 11% DV; thiamin 0.2mg 24% DV.