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.