If roasting a whole duck sounds intimidating, do not fear. This is one of the easiest recipes I’ve made in a long time. There are only 7 ingredients, and you can even omit the apple, and basting liquid, which would leave you with 3 ingredients if you don’t count salt.
Backstory: A few weeks ago we went to Warzawa restaurant here in Santa Monica with three friends of ours, two of whom are a married couple of eastern european origin — he is Polish; she has Romanian and Serbian roots. Everybody except me ordered the half roasted duck, which was reputed to be the star of the menu. The only duck I have ever eaten is the little Peking duck dim sum sandwiches at Yank Sing in San Francisco, a fairly safe way to get your duck . . . that is, a tiny piece of duck in a tasty little package. But as my dining companions were digging into their duck so adamantly that the dinner conversation completely halted, I decided I had to try the real thing, and boy was it delicious. I was a little intrigued as to how the chef achieved such a crispy exterior to the duck, as it tasted to me like it may have been lightly floured and deep fried after being roasted! Anyhow, after the dinner, my husband lamented that he got a very small half duck in comparison to the other diners, with very little meat. So I vowed to make a whole duck for him so he could have ample meat.
As I was researching roast duck on the internet and in my cookbooks, I found that in order to achieve a crisp skin, duck is often dried in the refrigerator uncovered, or hanging upside down in a “cool drafty place,” or with a hair dryer. I opted for the refrigerator method. The cooking technique involves roasting the duck first at 450 degrees, then pricking the skin, then finishing for an hour at 350 degrees.
I must say that the duck turned out to be very delicious, even if not as shatteringly crisp as at the restaurant. The skin was crispy and the meat was uber-moist and flavorful. I will need to beg the chef for his secret tips but in the meantime, this recipe is a winner . . . and as a bonus you get a boatload of beautiful duck fat which is God’s gift to potatoes. Trust me on this one!
For this recipe I purchased a disposable “foil” roasting pan so that I didn’t have to mess with cleaning a roasting pan full of duck drippings. If your budget permits, this is a good move. Roasting the duck will produce a lot of smoke in the initial 30 minutes of high heat cooking, and plenty of splattering, but on the upside your kitchen will smell divine.
Serves 4 to 6