Let’s talk turkey. Actually let’s talk about something else this Christmas. Let’s talk turkey alternatives.
This is a first for Crash Test Kitchen. We’ve never done a Christmas episode before. So we thought we’d focus on two of the basic elements you want on your table: crispy roast potatoes and a lovely bird.
But instead of turkey, we’ve chosen duck.
Now I know people are very attached to turkey as the symbolic festive centrepiece. In our case we don’t have vast amounts of turkey experience – being originally from Australia, where it’s not really eaten much. What with it being summer down under, Christmas lunch is often a cold cuts and/or barbecue affair.
Lately we’ve become big fans of roast duck, so we thought we’d nominate it as your Christmas bird of choice. The great thing is that if you use our method, you’ll get enough lovely duck fat to baste your potatoes for roasting. Nothing short of goose fat produces potatoes anywhere near as good.
Of course a duck isn’t as meaty as a turkey, but we reckon it’s a simple enough matter to cook two of them, which should give you enough flesh for up to 10 people.
Goose seems to be getting popular here in the UK, but we haven’t got our head around cooking one yet. So think of duck as a stepping stone. Maybe next year we’ll do a goose.
As devised by Waz based on Joy of Cooking
1 duck approx 2kg/4lb, giblets removed
Good roasting potatoes, peeled, enough for everyone
Greens of choice, cooked to your liking
Salt and pepper
We haven’t written up the recipe for giblet broth and gravy yet. In the meantime you can find a recipe here – essentially it’s the one we used.
- Preheat oven to 125 degrees C (approx 250 F).
- Get a toothpick or other precision skewer and prick the duck’s skin all over but NOT STICKING THE SKEWER STRAIGHT IN – go almost parallel with the skin, through it and into the fat but not the flesh. This will let the fat drain out during cooking, which is crucial. Remove any fat around the duck’s openings – this may already have been done.
- Rub the duck all over with good salt. Then lay it in a baking tray breasts-down. Yes, breasts-down.
- Give the duck 3 hours in the oven, checking every hour or so that the fat is still draining OK (if not, re-prick).
- When the duck’s had 2 hours, boil your peeled potatoes until they are easily forkable apart, then drain them.
- After the duck’s had 3 hours, drain off the fat into a heat-safe container: preferably one of those jugs used to separate fat and juices, and preferably see-through. Turn the oven up to 180 C (350 F). Return the duck to the pan, breasts UPWARDS this time, and pop it back in the oven for 45 minutes.
- Separate the fat and juices, reserving both. Use your special jug, or get a turkey baster and suck the juices from under the fat. Or just pour off the fat carefully.
- Get your potatoes in an oven tray that’s deep enough and drizzle the fat over them. Shake them around to coat. If you’re out of trays or oven space, you may have to fit them in with the duck. Rough them up with two forks as shown in the video. Put the potatoes in the oven.
- Once the duck’s had its last 45 minutes, get it out – it should be looking brown and crisp. Check for the usual signs of uncookedness (highly unlikely unless you’ve messed up the temperatures). Cover the duck with foil and rest it on a plate. Give the potatoes more time if they don’t look golden-brown enough for you.
- Get your greens going – they won’t take long. Braised cabbage is our suggestion – sliced and briefly done in butter, salt, pepper and half a cup of stock (duck broth if you’ve made it).
- Carve up the duck to your liking – look at all that lovely rich meat. It’s nice to separate off the joints, and remove the breasts whole then slice them up retaining a bit of skin on each slice. Adorn each plate with a selection of cuts. Add the lovely golden-brown potatoes and your greens.