Holiday meals are a hallmark of the season. The food choices tend to be weightier as people remember them more than every day dinners. Maybe there is a traditional dish you have on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? Maybe you like to change it up every year.
I just asked the question on the Boulder Locavore Facebook Page whether people are planning to serve ham or turkey, which in the U.S. at least tend to be the most traditional main dishes for holiday meals. Though many answered with one or the other, there were a number of other answers too. Pork and gravlax, enchiladas and fajitas, prime rib and even one who claimed hot dogs and then confessed she is a witch and doesn’t do Christmas dinner but will have ham for Yule dinner.
We too have our favorites but my husband actually cooks the holiday dinners and likes to take the opportunity to try something new. I love that and am always game to change things up.
Today I’m sharing a great option for holiday dining: Easy Whole Roast Duck with Chinese Five Spice. Duck seems exotic and as though it would be difficult to make, however it isn’t any harder than roasting a chicken though there are a few unique things about it.
Ducks are smaller than chickens with a leaner, longer frame. They are usually available in a 5-pound weight which with a full dinner will serve 3-4. Having more dark meat and richer meat, smaller portions usually are perfect, again when paired with other side dishes.
Being water fowl, ducks have a thicker skin with more of a fat layer. This is what contributes to the wonderful flavor. Piercing the skin (not the meat) helps the rendered fat drain more easily and removing the rendered fat from the pan during cooking also helps keep oven smoke to a minimum. This can be done by removing the pan and the duck to drain the fat into an auxiliary container (be sure to save it) 1 or 2 times during cooking, or using a bulb baster to remove it from the pan. Trimming extra fat around the neck and cavity before roasting will cut down on the fat rendering too.
Duck fat is a coveted cooking ingredient. A favorite roast potato recipe of mine is to cut up about 8 red new potatoes into bite size pieces, drizzle them with a tablespoons of duck fat, lightly salt and pepper them and bake on a baking sheet at 400 degrees F for 35-40 minutes. They come out with a golden crust and soft inside, with full flavor. They make a great side dish to the duck.
If you have not used Chinese Five Spice, it’s a must at this time of year. It’s a spice blend with an Asian influence: blend of cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise, and Szechwan peppercorns. The blend is perfect with duck and the flavor is not so pronounced that it overwhelms the natural flavor of the roasted duck. With about a 15-minute prep time and 2 hours cooking, duck is a really easy dish to change it up this holiday.
Easy Whole Roast Duck with Chinese Five Spice
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Equip a 13 by 9-inch roasting pan with a roasting rack. Combine the salt, pepper and Chinese five spice in a small bowl; mix together.
- Rinse the duck inside and out and pat is dry with paper towels; remove the neck and organs. Trim any excess fat at the neck and cavity*. With a sharp paring knife or a bamboo skewer, piece the skin of the duck avoiding the meat, in 1-inch spacing. This allows the rendered fat to more easily drain. Also if the tail is still present, remove it by cutting it at the joint next to the duck body.
- Rub the salt-pepper-spice mixture into the duck outside and inside the cavity. Fill the cavity with the orange, shallot and rosemary. Place the duck breast down on the rack and insert into the heated oven for 30 minutes.
- Pour off rendered fat or using a bulb baster, remove as much as possible from the pan (this will help keep the smoke levels down during cooking), or remove duck and pour it out of the pan. Turn the duck over to be breast side up and cook an additional 90 minutes. The skin should be a deep brownish-gold and when the drumstick is pieced the juices should run clear.
- Remove from the oven, tent with foil and allow the duck to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Recipe Notes*Note: This is purely for aesthetics but I trim the skin at the neck leaving a small flap to fold over the exposed bone and secure it with a toothpick to the duck skin on the other side. I do the same with the skin around the cavity (refer to photos); trimming the skin, folding the skin over the cavity and use a toothpick to secure the skin flaps to each other.
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