Incredibly Simple Roast Duck


Die Hard (and to a lesser extent Die Hard 2) is pretty much the best movie to watch on Christmas Eve, don’t you think? I mean, it’s set during the holidays and who doesn’t love a Christmas themed action movie? I know my family and I do and we watch it almost every Christmas. Maybe not the most traditional tradition, but it’s become our thing. Some other rituals include:

  • Every Christmas Eve I read The Night Before Christmas, and of course, SantaLand Diaries from David Sedaris with my mom.
  • One of my oldest and closest friends and I go to three or four malls to finish (and sometimes start) our Christmas shopping on 12/24.
  • For the past few years Christmas Eve dinner has been sushi and champagne.
  • No matter how late I go to sleep on Christmas Eve I will likely wake up around 6 am on Christmas Day… and force everyone else to wake up so we can open presents (the only morning I’m a “morning person”).
  • Christmas mornings (although all mornings, really) are incomplete without bacon and at least one cookie.
  • And lastly, one of my favorite traditions is that our Christmas Day dinner changes every year…

Sometimes it’s turkey, others it’s roast beef or prime rib, maybe one year it will be a ham or lamb. Whatever my family decides to make it’s guaranteed to be delicious, but just not the same from year to year.

Wanting to experiment with proteins I haven’t had on Christmas Day (or cooked at all) I decided to test out a duck recipe. I adore duck and whether it’s fries fried in duck fat, a crispy skinned breast, or duck confit, I’ll eat it all. The problem with cooking duck was to first find a recipe. I like how duck can really hold up to strong flavors or sauces but I was unsure if I even wanted to make a glaze or go with a simply roasted duck. After following the guide from NY Times to roast my turkey on Thanksgiving (which turned out perfectly), I decided their simple, straightforward approach to duck should have equally good results… and it did!


Roasted Duck

From NY Times

  • 1 duck, approximately 5 pounds (neck and giblets removed from cavity)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon pepper
  • One lemon, zested and cut into 8ths
  • A small handful of assorted herbs (I used thyme, rosemary, and sage)
  • Several cloves of garlic, smashed (you don’t even need to peel them, just smash)

Using paper towels, pat duck dry. Trim excess fat and skin (you can save the fat and render it to use as you might use bacon grease). Using a knife, cut small slits into the skin of the duck (although try to avoid slicing into the flesh). This allows the fat to render.

Mix together salt, pepper, and lemon zest in a small bowl (you can really add other spices [like coriander] but I wanted to keep mine simple) and cover duck in mixture. Refrigerate uncovered for a few hours (ideally 24+ although less is fine).

Before baking, bring duck to room temperature and fill cavity with desired herbs, garlic cloves, and sliced lemon. Place breast side down in a roasting rack placed in a roasting pan

Bake 30 minutes in a preheated 450 degree oven.

Reduce heat to 350 and bake an additional 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and flip over so breast is now up.

Bake an additional hour and a half, or until duck has reached 175-180 degrees.

I served mine as I would serve a turkey, with the legs sliced off, breast meat cut into thick slices, and thigh meat shredded. I think this makes for an appealing presentation and also makes the duck (or any bird) easy to eat.

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