Crisp skin, tender meat, never dry, not too huge, self-basting, spiced and glazed - whole roast duck with a rub-a-duck spice rub!
Poultry roasts are the best
Roast birds are everyone's favourites. I believe a roast chicken to have been the most common request for last supper on death row and it’s not surprising: it brings thoughts of Sunday lunches, family and home cooking.
Roast turkey means very obviously Christmas though it’s a relatively recent roast. Turkeys only arrived in Europe in the 16th century and it took them another two hundred years to become fashionable at Christmas.
Roasting a goose is a much older tradition, going back to ancient Roman times where geese were not only eaten but also revered as fierce animals that once saved Rome from a Gallic invasion. It is a noble bird and a noble roast.
Unlike in Dickens’ times, when all the poorest families could afford was a goose, it is now as expensive per pound as turkey but with less feeding capacity.
Roast game birds are a delicacy and I think they are less trendy on Christmas Day only because of their size. Costwise, you’ll be much better off roasting half a dozen partridges, mallards, pheasants or a mix instead of one turkey or a goose.
As usual, sharper flavours and more bones means more noses turned up at a game roast, which is a shame.
Roast duck for Christmas dinner
But there is an all-round pleaser in the Christmas poultry world: duck.
Whole roast duck is a fantastic alternative to turkey when there are only a few of you sitting down to Christmas lunch. You can’t go wrong with duck: it doesn’t go as dry as a turkey might, even if it ends up forgotten about for ten minutes too long, on account of pre-lunch bellinis.
Duck is fatty, which is wonderful as it makes it virtually self-basting. Your potatoes can happily sit underneath the roasting rack and crispen into nicest roasties.
Duck is also a patient bird and can wait for the sprouts and carrots to cook without getting cold. And the best part: you can skip the carving faff and just chop it with poultry shears into portions, bones and all.
Duck comes in many guises
Duck is probably my favourite meat and it’s so versatile: thinly sliced breast cooked rare, tender confit legs, cassoulet with chunks of the bird amongst beans, aromatic crispy duck in Chinese pancakes and of course duck à l’orange.
You can even cure a raw duck breast at home to a sort of prosciutto.
What’s the best spice rub for duck?
This recipe makes for a wonderful bird: cooked through but not overdone, succulent and flavoursome thanks to the honey and the spices, and very tender.
The spice rub is swiped off Tom Kerridge’s recipe from Delicious magazine. It is the perfect balance of tinglingly spicy Sichuan pepper, vibrant ginger and paprika, and some five spice, just to be sure the Asian flavours come through.
When you season the duck, make sure you rub and massage the spices well into the skin, not neglecting the legs, the wings and the back. You got to rub that duck good!
Tom also recommends brining the duck but I skip it because I find it redundant for what is, without bringing, succulent and juicy meat.
Oven roasting times for duck
Even though, as mentioned above, it is a forgiving bird, you don’t want to dry it to a crisp. The method is similar to roasting beef or lamb: kickstart the roasting for 20 minutes at the highest setting of your oven.
Then turn the temperature down to 180C and continue roasting the duck for about 40 minutes, halfway through which time it should be basted with the honey glaze.
Of course, adjust the second period of cooking time (at lower temperature) if you have a larger beast. The best timing after the initial blast at high temperature should be roughly 20 minutes per kilogram.
More roast poultry recipes
Here he comes: roast turkey! I suggest brining it before roasting which will stop it from drying out.
If the whole bird is too much for you in every sense, consider stuffed turkey roll prepared from boneless breast fillet and homemade stuffing.
Game makes a lovely roast as long as it’s not overcooked. Here’s roast partridge recipe, and the one for roast pheasant that includes brining.
More duck recipes
Most people will prefer cooking just the breast fillets – and that’s absolutely fine. Try oven roasted duck fillet with blueberry sauce, or the one with pineapple.
You can stir fry duck fillet too, as in sweet and sour duck with duck scratchings (it’s a thing!).
The combination of searing and stir frying in five spice duck is a really good way with duck as well.
And if you like prosciutto, you could cure your own duck charcuterie!