In my family, our Christmas dinner falls on the more non-traditional end of the spectrum. We usually have roast duck, risotto, roasted carrots and parsnips, and, of course, the requisite brussels sprouts. Every year, I create a new sauce to serve with the duck; this is this year's version.
You can prepare the sauce while the duck is roasting or, if time is an issue, you can also prepare the sauce the night before and reheat when you are ready to serve.
I've experimented with many different ways to roast a duck so that the insides are tender, moist, and perfectly done while the skin is crispy. On one notable occasion, I even used a hairdryer to dry out the skin before roasting. This method, adapted from one I saw in Gourmet a long time ago, is much simpler and by far the best way I've tried yet. —littleknitter
Pekin duck, about 5-6 pounds
freshly ground black pepper
Fig, red wine, and thyme sauce
5 1/2 ounces
dried Calimyrna figs
1 1/2 teaspoons
minced fresh thyme
In This Recipe
Preheat the oven to 475˚F.
Pat the duck dry with a kitchen towel. Cut the onion into 4 pieces, then place inside of the duck with the thyme and parsley sprigs. Mix together the salt and pepper, then rub into the duck skin all over.
Place the duck in a roasting pan and roast in the oven at 475˚F for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven heat to 350˚F and roast for a further 1 to 1 1/4 hours until juices run clear if the duck is cut into. Alternately, a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh of the duck will be 170˚F when the duck is fully cooked.
Next, turn the broiler in your oven on and move the oven rack so that the duck is 4 inches away from the flame. Let broil for 3 minutes so that the duck has a crisp, golden brown skin.
Remove the duck from the oven and place on a cutting board to rest for 15 minutes before carving. Serve with the fig, red wine, and thyme sauce.
Fig, red wine, and thyme sauce
Peel and finely mince both the shallot and garlic. In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and add the shallot. Sauté over medium heat until the shallot has softened and gone a bit translucent. Add the garlic to the pan and sauté for an additional minute.
Chop the dried figs into 1/2 inch sized pieces. Add the figs, red wine, chicken broth, and thyme. Bring the mixture to almost a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
As the sauce simmers, periodically lightly mash the figs with a fork - you'll want the sauce to have a slightly chunky consistency, but still be somewhat smooth. Let the sauce simmer until the figs have softened and the liquid has reduced so that you have a somewhat thick sauce. Depending on the width of your pan, this can take 20-40 minutes.
Stir in the remaining two tablespoons of butter and the balsamic vinegar. Taste the sauce and adjust seasonings as desired.
My one party trick is that I have a photographic memory when it comes to food. I can not only remember almost every meal that I have eaten in a restaurant ever, down to each individual ingredient and the way it was presented, but I can do the same thing for everyone else who was eating with me. Totally weird, but fun!
Much to my mother's chagrin, my passion for cooking started early. At the age of 5, I was reading a picture book that described (in basic terms) how to make custard - just eggs, milk, and sugar! I waited until my mother went downstairs to put the laundry in the dryer, then promptly dumped an entire gallon of milk into a bowl and cracked two eggs into it. As I was staring into the bowl, contemplating the raw, runny yolks staring balefully back up at me, I was busted by my mother. Instead of going ballistic (ok, she went a little ballistic), she sighed and said "ok, let's use this to make tapioca," thus teaching me an important lesson in salvaging botched food experiments.