Guess what? It’s getting noticeably cooler here in Virginia, which means it’s just about roasting weather. I love making roast dishes once the temperatures dip, because it’s an easy (and aromatic) way to warm up the kitchen during chilly weather. In truth, I developed this dish a few months ago, when I was working on a particular chapter for my upcoming cookbook, but decided to hold off on sharing this recipe until we had appropriate weather.
Roasting duck can be daunting. I know this because I spent the first 30 years of my life not roasting any ducks, because it seemed like an intimidating bird to cook (although to be fair, I wasn’t roasting much of anything during the first 16 years of my life). Turns out roasting duck is in many ways more appealing than roasting chicken, because a) the whole duck could basically be classified as “dark meat”, which means it is more forgiving if you overcook it, b) duck can be served at a wide range of internal temperatures (135F-165F), depending on how you like it, and c) duck skin is so fatty that you’ll inevitably render a bunch of delicious duck fat to use in other recipes.
For today’s recipe, we’re going to trim the excess skin from the duck (around the neck and cavity), render it separately, and use that fat to roast the vegetables. I like this technique because you can then use the fat that accumulates below the roasted duck for other cooking adventures. My recipe from The Ancestral Table also rendered duck fat to roast the veggies, but the vegetables were placed under the duck as it roasted. This technique required one fewer step, but it is always a challenge to get everything finished at a reasonable time; too often, my duck was ready while the vegetables were still cooking. By separating the two cooking processes, we have more control over the timing of each dish, and makes for a more synergized eating experience.
One last step, which I think is worth mentioning. I have found that it’s worth it to refrigerate the duck overnight, uncovered, so that the duck skin is nice and dry. This technique is used by Chinese restaurants when making Peking Duck, albeit more elaborately (using a bike pump, blanching, and stationary fan), and gives you a layer of crispy duck skin that pulls away easily from the meat.
Roast Duck with Winter Vegetables (Gluten-free, Paleo, Primal, Whole30)
1 (~4 lbs) whole duck
1 lemon, divided
2 tbsp + 2 tsp kosher salt, more to taste
1 lb parsnips, peeled and cut into 2” lengths
1 lb turnips, peeled, and cut into bite-sized chunks
8 whole cloves garlic
1 red onion, quartered
1/2 tsp black pepper
1. Pat the duck dry with paper towels, then trim the excess duck skin from the neck and surrounding its cavity; set the skin aside. Place the duck on a baking sheet lined with a wire rack and stuff its cavity with paper towels to absorb any liquid that accumulates. Refrigerate, uncovered, overnight to dry out the skin surrounding the duck; this will result in a crispier final product.
2. Warm a skillet over medium-low heat, then add the trimmed duck skin. Gently saute until the skin has crisped and the fat has rendered, about 25 minutes. This should render about 1/4 cup fat; set the duck fat aside and enjoy the crispy duck skin with a little salt. This step can be completed the night before or the day of cooking.
3. The following day, preheat your oven to 350F, and arrange the oven racks so that one is in the center, and another near the bottom. Remove the duck from the fridge and place on a cutting board. Remove the wire rack from the baking sheet, then line the bottom of your baking sheet with tin foil; return the wire rack to the sheet, then stick the sheet in the hot oven for a few minutes to get nice and hot. Meanwhile, pat the duck dry with paper towels, and prick it all over with a fork (don’t pierce the meat!). Next, slice the lemon in half and then rub one half of the lemon all over the inside and outside of the duck. Sprinkle the duck liberally with kosher salt, inside and out, a bit more than you would expect to, about 2 tbsp. Place the duck on the hot baking sheet, then place in the oven (on the center rack) and roast for 1 hour.
4. Near the end of the hour, place the duck fat you rendered the day before in a large cast-iron skillet, then place in the oven to warm, about 5 minutes. Add the parsnips, turnips, garlic, and onion to the skillet and toss with the duck fat, black pepper, and remaining 2 tsp kosher salt. Place in the oven, below the duck, and roast for 30 minutes.
5. After 30 minutes, rotate the duck and increase your oven temperature to 450F; continue to roast the duck and vegetables, keeping an eye on them. Remove the duck once the skin is golden and crispy, and it reaches an internal temperature of at least 135F (some pink), but no more than 165F, for another 15 to 40 minutes. Roast the vegetables until they are crispy and brown at the edges, about 30 minutes. If things work out well, the duck will be done about 15 minutes before the vegetables, which will allow you to rest and carve the duck so that it is ready just as the vegetables are finished.
6. Rest the duck for 10 minutes, then carve and serve with the vegetables and the remaining 1/2 lemon, cut into wedges.
** Be sure to save all of the rendered duck fat that will accumulate on your tin-foil-lined baking sheet. Store it in a jar in the fridge for up to two months, and use it to roast vegetables (especially potatoes) or make risotto.
** This recipe is written specifically for farm-raised duck, the kind that is available frozen in most supermarkets. A wild duck will have generally less excess and fatty skin; if using wild duck, consider buying duck fat to use in lieu rendering the excess skin in Step #2.
Note: In the year leading up to my new cookbook’s release, I will be regularly releasing these recipes to 1) maintain a continuing conversation with my readership and 2) give visitors to this site an opportunity to test and provide feedback before editing. For more information on this new approach, read my post here.