Roast duck with orange, soy and gin­ger

SERVES 4-6

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

Ducks – 2 x 2kg (or 1.8kg with­out giblets)

Smooth-skinned or­anges – 2 medi­um­sized, skin only, finely pared with a veg­etable peeler

Fresh gin­ger – 50g, cut into coins

Star anise – 4

Cold wa­ter – 500ml

Soy sauce – 5 x 15ml ta­ble­spoons (75ml)

Honey – 2 x 15ml ta­ble­spoons

1 Take the ducks out of the fridge. Re­move and dis­card the giblets, if the ducks have come with them (or, for a cook’s treat, fry the liver in but­ter and deglaze with brandy), then cut off and dis­card the par­son’s nose with a pair of scis­sors and re­move any ex­cess fat around the cav­ity. Leave the ducks to come to room tem­per­a­ture. Lightly prick the skin all over with a cock­tail stick.

2 Pre­heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan. Once it’s hot, pour wa­ter from a freshly boiled ket­tle into a deep roast­ing tin, to come about 1cm up the sides, and place a rack on top. Sit the ducks on it, breast-side up, and cook in the oven for 1½ hours.

Then take the tin care­fully out of the oven and, again, prick the ducks as­sid­u­ously: you will see the fat bub­bling and run­ning out. Us­ing oven gloves for ease, re­move the ducks – pour­ing any liq­uid col­lected in the cav­i­ties into the tin be­low – to a cou­ple of bak­ing sheets, or sim­i­lar, and leave to cool be­fore trans­fer­ring to the fridge (within 2 hours), where they can stay, prefer­ably un­cov­ered, for a day or two. Once it’s cooled down a lit­tle, care­fully pour the liq­uid from the roast­ing tin into a large, heat­proof jug and leave to cool, then re­frig­er­ate. When the fat’s cold and so­lid­i­fied, re­move (dis­card­ing the wa­ter un­der­neath) and store in the fridge to roast with at a later date.

3 About 2 hours be­fore you want to roast your ducks, take them out of the fridge and sit them, breast-side up, on top of a wire rack sit­ting over a deep roast­ing tin, to come to room tem­per­a­ture; they re­ally mustn’t have any chill about them. As soon as the ducks are out of the fridge, drop the finely pared orange peel into a small saucepan. Add the gin­ger, star anise and cold wa­ter, and bring to the boil. Let it boil for 1 minute, then turn off the heat and leave to steep for 2-3 hours.

4 Pre­heat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan. Lightly prick the duck skin all over with a cock­tail stick, yet again, and if you’re lucky you’ll see a few fatty blis­ters, bub­ble-wrap style, prob­a­bly on the un­der­side: if you do, press on them to push out and re­move lit­tle dots of fat; this is very sat­is­fy­ing work. I know it doesn’t sound at­trac­tive in the con­text of cook­ing, but I have to say it: it is just like squeez­ing spots.

5 Trans­fer the ducks to the hot oven and roast for 50-60 min­utes, turn­ing the tin around half­way through, un­til the skin is crisp and bronzed. You will get some stip­pled dark brown patches – that’s fine. Re­move from the oven and let stand for 10 min­utes.

6 Be­fore you carve, fin­ish the sauce. Re­move and dis­card the orange peel, gin­ger and star anise. Add the soy sauce, put the pan back on the heat and bring to the boil, then switch off the heat and stir in the honey to dis­solve it. Pour into a warmed gravy boat or jug.

7 Carve the breast thinly and re­move the meat from the legs or leave them whole, as wished, then ar­range on a warmed plate, along with any crisp skin that’s left on the bird. Spoon a lit­tle of the orange, soy and gin­ger sauce just over the meat. Serve ab­so­lutely im­me­di­ately.

The essence of a per­fect roast duck is crisp skin and ten­der meat. All too of­ten, the former comes at the cost of the lat­ter. I have been as­sured that the pla­tonic ideal of a roast duck can be achieved by blanch­ing it in boil­ing wa­ter three times; sus­pend­ing it for a cou­ple of days on a coat hanger to dry; in­sert­ing a straw un­der the skin and blow­ing through it so that the skin puffs up and away from the flesh; then hang­ing it ver­ti­cally in the oven to roast. That’s never go­ing to work for me. But I have a method that does. It is a two-stage process, but don’t let that put you off, as both stages are very low ef­fort. In fact, it’s a de­vel­op­ment and sim­pli­fi­ca­tion of a recipe from [my book] How To Eat, in which the duck was poached, cooled, then roasted. There’s noth­ing wrong at all with that method, but it oc­curred to me that the same glo­ri­ous ef­fect could be achieved by steam­ing the duck in the oven, which does away with the need to get a duck in and out of a pan of bub­bling wa­ter. The ini­tial steam-roast­ing works in the same way, though: the meat cooks gen­tly and stays ten­der, and the ex­cess fat un­der the skin drips away, which makes the skin it­self crisp up more dur­ing its sec­ond-stage roast­ing. (It also means that the oven won’t get as smoky as it does with any reg­u­lar roast­ing method.) De­spite the Asian-spiced sauce – more of an anoint­ing liq­uid, re­ally – this isn’t in any way a Pek­ing roast duck, with its lac­quer cara­pace, but a per­fect, plain roast duck with won­der­ful, wafery crisp skin and del­i­cate shards of “quack­ling”. You don’t need to add any­thing to the duck as it roasts, as meat and sauce de­liver all the flavour needed. I say “duck”, but we’re ac­tu­ally talk­ing ducks here, as you can’t get enough for more than two or three peo­ple out of one.

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