(Reprinted with permission from Basic to Brilliant, Y’all: 150 Refined Southern Recipes and Ways to Dress Them Up for Company by Virginia Willis, copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.)
There is no doubt a well-prepared, well-executed roast duck can be a bit of trouble for not a whole lot of meat. You will notice this recipe serves two to four, not the normal four to six. But, oh my, the flavor is worth every bit of effort.
Serves 2 to 4
1 (4-to-5-pound) whole duck
2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil or rendered duck fat
1 onion, preferably Vidalia, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1½ cups ketchup
½ cup peach jam
2 ripe peaches, cut into ¾-inch chunks
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Pull any loose fat from the duck. Using the tip of a paring knife, make ¼-inch incisions all over the body of the duck. (This will allow for the fat to render during cooking.) Place the duck on a wire rack set over a baking sheet, and refrigerate, uncovered, until dry, at least overnight or up to 3 days.
Place the bay leaves in the cavity of the duck. Set aside to come to room temperature, about 20 minutes. Fill a roasting pan with ¼ inch water and place on the lowest oven rack. (This will create steam and catch fat as it is released from the duck during roasting.) Pat the duck completely dry with paper towels. Season the duck inside and out with salt and pepper.
Position a second rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400°F.
Place the duck, breast side up, directly on the oven rack and roast for about 15 minutes, until it starts to sizzle. Turn the duck onto one side, baste it with any accumulated fat, and roast for 15 minutes more. Turn the bird onto the other side, baste it with accumulated fat, and roast for 15 minutes more. Finally, return the duck to its back and continue roasting, basting often, until dark brown and slightly puffed, about 45 minutes. Total roasting time is about 1½ hours. (I know, cooking directly on the rack is a little dramatic. It is a technique I learned from the chef at Four Seasons in New York, once famous for its crisp roast duck. You can also place the duck on a rack in a roasting pan.)
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, 45 to 60 seconds. Add the ketchup, peach jam, peaches, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper; decrease the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, about 30 minutes.
When the duck is cooked, transfer it to a warmed platter. Cover with foil and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving. (Turn off the oven and allow the roasting pan of water to cool before removing it. Remember the magic fat? Pour the cooled water into a fat separator. Pour off and discard the water, but save the fat.)
Carve the duck and transfer to a warmed serving platter. Serve immediately with the warm barbecue sauce on the side.
Brilliant: Short Recipe
Quick Cucumber Pickle
Old-school barbecue joints almost always serve barbecue with pickles. Change this Basic, but somewhat fancy-pants roast duck to Brilliant by humbling it with a simple quick pickle. Slice 1 English cucumber into ¼-inch-thick slices. Place the slices in a colander set in the sink. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon kosher salt; stir to combine. Let stand for 20 minutes. Rinse, drain, and transfer to a large heatproof bowl. Meanwhile, combine ½ cup apple cider vinegar; ¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar ½ Vidalia onion, thinly sliced; 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced; and ¼ teaspoon mustard seeds in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Decrease the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Pour the hot liquid over the cucumbers; stir to combine. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before serving alongside the duck. Makes about 1½ cups.