Roast Duck as an Alternative to Thanksgiving Turkey

Roast Duck for ThanksgivingOn average Piedmont Grocery will sell about 1,600 turkeys every Thanksgiving which shouldn’t come as a shock. Turkey is what you have on Thanksgiving, right? For most people, yes. But, there are those out there who do things a little differently.

When our customers come in to pick up their turkeys, it is not uncommon that they pick up a ham or even a prime rib at the same time. Whether they are feeding a big family or just don’t like the taste of turkey, many people opt for an alternative meat on their Thanksgiving table. One popular choice is roast duck.

People have been eating duck for centuries. However,  the popularity of a whole roasted duck, outside of your favorite Chinese restaurant, has waned. Most diners prefer to cook with the whole legs or the breast mainly because they are more manageable portions. It can also be easier to find duck parts in many markets. Plus, you don’t have to deal with defrosting. Also, many home cooks are intimidated by the fact that ducks have a lot of fat.

There are many different breeds of duck on the US market, and they don’t all yield the same results.

White Pekin or Long Island
White Pekin is the most popular breed raised in the US. They are tender and mild and adapt well to a wide range of flavors and cuisines.

The Mallard is a wild duck that is farm-raised on a limited basis. It is smaller and tougher than the Pekin with a stronger flavor and often has very little fat on it.

The Muscovy duck breed boasts large meaty males and smaller females. It has a much stronger flavor than the Pekin and is used most often for its breast meat or the liver is used for Fois Gras.

The Moulard is a cross between the White Pekin and the Muscovy. Moulard ducks are larger and have a gamier flavor than White Pekin. They also have a tendency to be chewy or stringy. The Moulard is mainly raised for it liver for Fois Gras.

Though ducks are considered poultry, you don’t cook them the same way as other birds. Duck breasts are usually served medium-rare which you would never do with a chicken or turkey. They also take a bit more time to cook than a chicken mainly because you need to render the fat on the bird.

Though the fat content of a duck might have you reaching to call your cardiologist, in fact, the fat ends up basting the bird to keep it moist and tasty. The leftover fat can be used to add flavor to other dishes…or to make amazing roasted potatoes.

How to Roast a Duck
If you follow these instructions, you will have a crisp, bronzed bird that is ready for carving. The total roasting time is about 2-1/4 hours, turning the duck twice.

Because of the high-fat content, you will do best to line the bottom of the oven with foil to catch the splatters.

Preheat oven to 425 ºF.

Cut away any fatty deposits and excess skin around neck area and inside the bird’s cavity. You can use shears or a sharp knife. If necessary, also remove the wing tips. Fold the neck skin under the body. Prick the skin all over with a sharp fork. This will help to release the fat while roasting.

Place the duck, breast side up, on a rack in a 13” x 9” x 3” roasting pan. Place the roasting pan in the sink. Pour boiling-hot water over the duck to tighten the skin. Cool the duck, then pour out any water from cavity and discard the water from the pan. Pat the duck dry inside and out.

Season both the inside and outside of the duck by rubbing it with kosher salt and pepper.

Place the duck, breast side up, back on the rack in the pan. Roast for 45 minutes at 425 ºF.

Remove the pan from the oven, and turn the duck over (breast-side down) using two wooden spoons, and roast for 45 minutes more.

Remove the pan from the oven, and turn the duck over (breast-side up) using two wooden spoons, and roast once again for 45 minutes more.

Tilt the duck to drain any more liquid from the cavity into the pan. Reserve the liquid for other dishes such as roasted vegetables.

Transfer the duck to a cutting board, and let stand for 15 minutes before carving.

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