Christine McFadden Cookery and Food Writing
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Delectable Duck
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Christine's blog

This is the place to enjoy Christine's food-related musings – from seasonal food and food producers to cooking tools, food markets and gastro-travel. You'll also find some must-try recipes and invaluable tips and techniques.

Delectable Duck

If you’re still contemplating your choice of Christmas meat, and if, like me, you’ll be cooking for just two people, your possible poultry options are a turkey crown (yawn) or perhaps a small goose (very expensive), or a pedigree chicken (expensive). But how about a duck? An average-sized one will feed two generously, there’ll be nuggets for nibbling on Boxing Day, and once stripped, the bones make delectable stock.

People often tell me they are nervous about cooking duck. Perhaps the legendary amount of fat is off-putting, but bear in mind the fat is an advantage – it lubricates the meat and prevents it from drying out. Also worth bearing in mind are speciality breeds such as Barbary and Gressingham. They’re leaner than the traditional Aylesbury duck, so go for these if you are after more meat and less fat.

There are almost limitless ways of cooking duck. Roasting springs to mind first, especially at Christmas. Before cooking be sure to prick the skin all over with a fork, especially the fatty breast and thighs. Put your duck in a colander and douse with a kettleful of boiling water to encourage subcutaneous fat flow. Dry well, then rub with sea salt for extra crispiness.

Roast the duck at 180°C (fan oven) for 40 minutes per kilogram (weighed without giblets) plus 10 minutes extra. Cook in the middle of the oven on a rack over a roasting tin and regularly pour off the fat. Don’t throw this away – once drained and sieved, it can be stored for two or three months in the fridge ready for anointing roast potatoes or adding oomph to French fries or croquettes.

Instead of a whole bird, try duck breasts – they’re easy to cook and make a tasty treat. I love them with turnips as in my recipe for Grilled Duck Breasts with Glazed Turnips. Their slightly bitter and pungent flavour contrasts beautifully with sweet succulent duck meat. Swede would be a good alternative. Another option is Warm Duck Breasts with Peppery Leaves, Radishes and Walnuts – a stylish salad or light meal guaranteed to perk up the taste buds.

Whichever method you choose, remember that duck meat will toughen up if cooked for too long. So don’t worry if it looks pink when you take it out of the oven – the meat will continue to cook as it rests.

Serving size
•  Whole bird: 1.8kg serves 2; 2kg serves 3.
•  Boneless breast: 200g serves 1.


© Christine McFadden, December 2021

 

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