Lamb and Easter go together, while turkey is a mainstay for Thanksgiving and Christmas. So what does one cook for New Years Day?
I think New Years Day’s spread should feature duck. It may not be the first item to come to mind when you are thinking about the first formal meal of the year, but duck is tasty, regal, and to those that believe it symbolizes happiness and fidelity, it is the ideal way to start the New Year.
I have roasted a duck or two. Though I loved the rich flavours and the juicy texture of the meat, the thick layer of fat had somewhat biased my mind into slotting it into the ‘artery clogging and unhealthy’ category.
My dormant love affair with duck has recently been rekindled. While attending a cooking demonstration hosted by Chef Derek Ingraham, the executive chef of the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, I gained a new appreciation and learned few tricks to cook a perfect duck.
Before revealing chef Ingram’s tips, lets discuss the merits of the duck.
For years duck had a bad rap and a general misconception that it is too fatty and bad for you. However, now gourmet chef are promoting the merits of including duck into your menu repertoire.
Bona Appétit magazine states that duck is No. 6 best foods to eat to stay young.
Three-and-a-half ounces of duck meat has 55 per cent of recommended daily intake of protein, 48 per cent of niacin, and 43 per cent of selenium, explains Chef Ingraham. Niacin rich foods help to fight heart disease while selenium promotes a healthy immune system.
“Even the fat in duck is not bad,” says Ingraham. “It’s high in beneficial unsaturated fats and closer in composition to olive oil than butter.”
According to the National Nutrient Database maintained by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, duck fat contains 62 per cent unsaturated fat and 33 per cent saturated fat. Studies have linked unsaturated fats to lower blood cholesterol levels.
Once you know how to do it, duck isn’t difficult to prepare. The key is to cook off as much of the fat as possible while ending up with a bird that isn’t tough and chewy. Duck skin should be crispy — it seems daunting but this easily accomplished by following chef Ingraham’s three simple tips:
1. Duck has a naturally thick layer of fat over the meat. By scoring the fat in a fine criss-cross pattern, it allows the duck’s fat to drain, which greatly improves the taste and texture of the bird. Just be sure not to cut so deep that you knick the flesh of the duck breast.
2. Cook the duck breast side down in a roaster. This allows the fat to drain through the meat before draining out into the pan.
3. Let the fat ‘render’ or melt away until it’s fairly thin. Cooking the duck slowly so that the fat melts and flavours before the meat cooks.
Duck meat is considered to be white meat, even though it is considerably darker than other poultry meats. The darker colour gives the meat a stronger and richer flavour. This distinct flavour and taste of the duck meat means that it can be cooked with fruits or other sweet and spicy ingredients to give a delicious and exotic-tasting meal.
Chef Ingraham infuses flavours into the duck by first rubbing an Asian inspired sweet orange marinade into the duck meat.
“You don’t want to massage the rub onto the skin but underneath the skin,” he says. “This allows the flavours to infuse into the meat as well as prevents the sweet marinade from burning off while cooking.”
Secondly, to enhance flavour, Ingraham recommends, stuffing the duck cavity with whatever vegetables are in your fridge waiting to be used up.
“While the duck is roasting so are the vegetables. Their juices impart another flavour dimension into the duck meat.”
Food magazines seems to favour tying the legs up with butcher’s twine, Ingraham suggests that it is not necessary to do this. Tying the duck only adds aesthetic appeal. If you want your duck to look better than your mother-in- law’s, then tie the legs.
Ingraham believes tying the duck is more of hindrance to your cooking because it takes longer for the legs to cook, so you have to overcook your breast to get your legs to be cooked through.
Try Chef Ingraham’s roasted duck recipes and you might start quacking the benefits of duck too.
Orange roasted duck
The great alternative to chicken and turkey
1 medium duck
2 ea small oranges
1 ea small carrot
1 ea celery stalk
1/4 ea onion
5 ea sprigs of thyme
1/2 cup orange marmalade
3 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce,
3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350°F . Remove both wingtips at the top joint and reserve. Reserve neck and discard the rest of the giblets. Grate 1/2 teaspoon orange zest and set aside. Whisk marmalade and two tablespoons soy sauce in a small bowl. Loosen the skin over the breast and thigh meat and rub about two tablespoons of the marmalade mixture under the skin. Score the skin in a cross hatch pattern careful not to cut through the skin. Cut up the celery, onion and carrot small dice. Take one orange and cut it in half and ¼ each half. Mix the celery, onions, carrot, thyme and orange together and stuff in the cavity of the duck. Place breast-side down on a rack in the prepared roasting pan.
Roast the duck for 50 minutes. Remove the duck from the oven and carefully pour off the fat. Return the duck to the rack, breast-side up. Continue roasting, brushing every 15 minutes with the marmalade mixture, continue to roast for another hour. Insert an instant-read thermometer into the thigh without touching bone — it needs to register at least 155°F.
Meanwhile, place the reserved wing tips and neck in a medium saucepan, add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the broth is reduced by half. Strain and discard solids; return the broth to the pan. Squeeze the juice from the reserved orange into a small bowl; add cornstarch and whisk until smooth. Stir the juice mixture, reserved zest and brown sugar into the broth; cook over medium heat, stirring, until thickened, approximately three minutes. Stir in the remaining one tablespoon of soy sauce. Once the duck is removed from the oven let rest for 15 minutes, this will help keep all the juices inside. Next transfer the duck to a cutting board, and carving.
Serve with the sauce on the side.