Roast Duck with Spiced Pomegranate Sauce
Roast duck is a wonderful choice for a holiday celebration or special occasion. This recipe includes directions for slow-roasting the duck so that the fat is rendered, leaving the skin crispy and golden brown. Total roasting time runs about 3-1/2 hours, so there's plenty of time to prepare side dishes and relax with guests while the duck cooks. The sauce is flavored with pungent spices and complements the duck perfectly, but it would be just as delicious served with roast turkey, goose, chicken or pork.
- 2 whole ducks, about 5-1/2 to 6 pounds each
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- Pinch of allspice and cinnamon
- Spiced Pomegranate Sauce (see recipe below)
- Orange slices and fresh herbs for garnish (optional)
Preheat the oven to 275°F.
Remove the giblets, livers, hearts and necks from the cavities of the ducks and reserve for another use or discard. Trim away any flaps of excess skin around the cavities or necks. Rinse the ducks with cold water and pat dry with paper towels, both inside and out. Season the insides with salt and pepper.
Score the skin on the breast side of the ducks in a cross-hatch pattern with a sharp knife. Make the cuts about 3/4-inch apart and be careful not to slice down into the breast meat. It helps to pull up slightly on the skin with one hand as you slice to be sure you don't cut too deeply. Next, take the tip of your knife and prick the skin all over - breast, legs and back, once again taking care not to pierce the meat below. Rub some salt and pepper all over the outer skin of the ducks. Bend the wing tips under the back and tie the legs together with cotton twine.
Place the ducks, breast side up, and end to end on the rack of a large roasting pan that has been thoroughly coated with nonstick spray. Roast them for 1 hour, then remove from the oven and prick the skins all over with a knife tip again. Carefully turn each duck over, breast side down and return them to the oven for another 45 minutes.
Remove the ducks again and turn them breast side up. Pierce the skin again, this time focusing only on the areas that appear to be rendering their fat more slowly. Return them to the oven for another 45-minute period, then remove and repeat the piercing and turning processes (breast side down again).
Roast for an additional 45 minutes, then remove the ducks and increase the oven temperature to 350°F. Place the soy sauce in a small bowl and add a pinch each of allspice and cinnamon. Turn the ducks breast side up for a final time and brush them with the soy sauce and spice mixture. Return them to the oven for about 20 minutes, so that the skin develops a nice, even golden brown color.
Remove from the oven, tent with foil and allow the ducks to rest for about 10 minutes before carving.
Transfer the carved duck to a serving platter, drizzle with a small amount of the sauce and garnish the platter with fresh orange slices and sprigs of rosemary. Serve the remainder of the sauce on the side.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
- Spiced Pomegranate Sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 small shallot, chopped
- 1-3/4 cups pomegranate juice
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1/4 cup honey
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons water
Combine the allspice, cinnamon, coriander, ground ginger, cayenne, salt and a few grinds of black pepper in a small bowl.
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallot and sauté for about 2 minutes, until soft and fragrant. Add the spice mixture and combine well.
Add the pomegranate juice, orange juice, honey, lemon juice and zest. Simmer gently, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl. Increase the heat on the sauce to medium-high and bring it to a boil. Add the cornstarch-water mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 1-1/2 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to a serving dish.
Makes about 1-3/4 cups
Notes on cooking duck:
Most ducks found in today's supermarkets range in size from about 5-1/2 to 6 pounds. This weight includes the giblets, necks, liver and heart. When you factor in how much fat is rendered from the skin during the cooking process, you'll find that one duck yields only about 4 servings.This recipe includes enough sauce for 2 roast ducks, or about 8 servings. If you choose to make just one duck, you can cut the sauce recipe in half, or freeze the remaining sauce to serve with chicken or roast pork - equally delicious! Cooking time for the ducks remains about the same whether roasting one or two.
We consulted a number of sources for reliable instructions on roasting duck. If you do the same, you'll find a wide variance of time, technique and temperature. We prepared this recipe several times to tweak the temperature and timing for best results. Naturally, all ovens vary, so if you find that you're getting too much browning on some areas of the skin, shield them with foil and rotate your pan in the oven as well. Also, spray your racks well with nonstick spray to make turning the ducks over easier. If you can spray each time you turn the ducks, so much the better. You don't want to have any of that lovely, crispy skin stick to the racks!
We used frozen ducks from Maple Leaf Farms each time we made this dish. While we tend to prefer working with fresh poultry, fresh duck just isn't an option in our area. We're happy to say that it wasn't a problem. We found the duck to be clean, flavorful and easy to work with, so if fresh duck isn't available where you live, pick up a frozen one, just allow one day for it to defrost safely in the refrigerator.