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Roast Duck with Cracklings

Serves 3 to 4

This is, without a doubt, the best recipe I have ever had for whole roasted duck. It is based on a Julia Child recipe. I halved the amounts, altered a few ingredients, and changed the instructions for brevity and ease of use. Although there are several stages to preparation and quite a bit of time involved, the process is much easier than it appears. The prep work can be done a day in advance, while the roasting and carving can be done several hours ahead of time since everything gets a second heating. The two different final cooking methods for the legs and breast provide a pleasant variation in tastes and textures. For several years after I first made this duck, I served it for my mother's birthday and she loved it. So, if you have never tried to make whole duck, or if you have and are looking for a different presentation, try this recipe. I am certain it will become one of your favorites for special occasions or entertaining. This recipe can easily be doubled.


Initial Preparation: Chop off wing tips of duck. Brown with the neck, gizzard, heart and vegetables in the olive oil in saucepan. (If there is a liver in the giblets, discard or save for another use.) Add enough water to cover and salt to taste. Simmer about 1 hour or until tender. Strain, discarding duck and vegetables. Skim the fat and reserve broth for later use. Meanwhile, remove any visible fat from the cavity openings. Sprinkle inside with sage, thyme, and salt. Add the bay leaf. Prick tiny holes into skin of duck, being careful not to penetrate meat. Truss the duck with cooking twine to pull wings and legs against body. (Can be done one day ahead. Cover and refrigerate duck, as well as the cooled broth.)

Roasting: Preheat oven to 350° F. Place duck breast side up on rack in shallow roasting pan. Roast until breast meat is springy to the touch, about 30-35 minutes. (All of the meat will undergo another stage of cooking, so you do not want the duck to be completely done. The breast meat should be rosy and the leg quarters will be rare.) Remove duck from oven. Peel off skin from breast and thighs. Cut skin into about 1/4-inch strips. Remove leg and thigh sections and separate. Peel off additional skin and remove any visible fat. Brush legs and thighs with mustard. Roll in breadcrumbs and place in a baking dish in one layer. Drizzle with melted duck fat or butter. Remove breast meat from carcass and carve into fairly thin slices. (Can be done several hours ahead and refrigerated along with any remaining duck fat, then brought to room temperature about 30 minutes before final cooking.)

Final Cooking: Preheat oven to 400° F. Place skin strips into a baking dish. Put strips, as well as the legs and thighs into oven. Roast until strips are brown and crispy and legs are tender, about 25 minutes. Remove cracklings with slotted spoon to drain on paper towel. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Keep both dishes warm in turned-off oven. Meanwhile, sauté the shallots or green onions in a skillet lightly oiled with duck fat or butter. Add the breast slices; season with salt and pepper. Add the wine and reserved duck broth. Bring to a simmer and cook until the meat is hot but still rosy. Remove meat; quickly reduce the pan juices over high heat until syrupy.

Presentation: Arrange legs, thighs and cracklings on one platter. Place breast slices on a separate platter, pouring reduced juices over meat. Serve immediately.