This year, I threw convention to the wind. This year, I said “fuck it” to the status quo.
This year, I made duck for Thanksgiving.
Ask any American: this, simply, is not done. Duck on Turkey Day? Impossible. And while Thanksgiving might not mean a lot to the Brits in the audience, I can bet that most of you will be staring down a turkey at some point in the next week. And I can also bet that many of you aren’t thrilled at the idea.
There are a few reasons why duck is just irrefutably, objectively better than turkey. It’s cheaper, for one thing. It actually fits in your oven (even if you roast two at once, as I did on Thanksgiving). It’s faster to cook. And, for god’s sake, it’s 10 times more delicious. And it’s supremely beer-friendly.
Just wait. If you haven’t roasted a duck before, it might seem daunting – somehow more complicated than yer bog-standard roast chicken. But don’t worry: follow the recipe below and you should be well taken care of. If you want to give your duck a bit of extra zing beyond the salt and pepper, you can (read: should) also make a quick glaze. This one is a surprising blend of orange juice, soy, maple and black treacle, with a fiery squirt of sriracha sauce for good measure. It helps make this a proper, truly special occasion duck; one worthy of gracing your Christmas table.
That glaze also means this duck goes extra well with our pairing beer of choice: the delicious Dubbel made by Savour Beer. I hadn’t yet sampled the Windsor-based brewery’s line of “British saison beers” until Jen knowingly pointed me in their direction. This beer is plummy and strong, tickly with Belgian-y esters and beautifully burnished with flavours of extra-dark caramel. Black treacle, even. It’s absolutely drinkable on its own, perfectly seasonal, but with a duck on the side? Man. Who could want anything else for Christmas?
Perfect Roast Duck
Expert advice courtesy of Miranda Ballard of Muddy Boots
1 Gressingham duck, the plumper and fattier the better (at least 2.2-2.4 kilos)
3-4 tbs olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
First, prep your duck. Take it out of any packaging and let it come to room temperature, approximately an hour. Remove any small feather quills that may be left in its skin, and pat dry with kitchen roll (no need to rinse your duck: cold water risks leaving it flabby- skinned, and your oven’s heat is enough to make it safe).
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C. In lieu of scoring your duck’s skin and fat, use a sharp knife to poke small holes in its skin, concentrating on the breast and areas around the thighs. These will let any rendered fat escape, leaving you with crisp skin (!). Season all over, inside and out, with salt and pepper, and massage a bit of olive oil into your duck while you’re at it.
Line a large baking sheet with foil and fit a non-stick rack inside it. Place your duck breast-side up and throw it in the oven. Blast for 20 minutes at 200 degrees before turning the oven down to 170 C. Even after 20 minutes, your duck should be puffed up and spitting and smelling exciting.
Cook for half an hour at 170 C. Remove from the oven and flip the duck so it’s breast- side down (note: this is a good opportunity to *carefully* drain the rendered duck fat from the bottom of your baking sheet, which, by now, has probably accumulated in great quantities). Roast breast-side down for 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and flip back to breast-side up. Roast for 20-30 minutes more, until fully golden and fragrant and wonderful. If making a glaze, follow additional directions below.
Adapted from The Hungry Mouse
2 tbs black treacle (or molasses)
2 tbs orange juice
2 tbs maple syrup
2 tbs dark soy sauce
1 tbs sriracha
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Let cook off for a minute or two and remove from the heat. The glaze should be sticky, and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Remove the duck from the oven and bring the heat back up to 200 C. Drizzle the glaze over the duck and roast for five more minutes, until it’s perfectly tanned. Let it rest for 10-15 minutes, yadda yadda, or just go to town. Pour any unused glaze into a bowl and let guests sauce up their ducks at the table, if they so desire.
Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and all-around lover of tasty things. When she's not cracking open a cold one, she's probably cooking up roasted lamb with hummus. Or chicken laksa. Or pumpkin bread. You can follow her at @clairembullen.