Duck is a rare treat for me. I’m not sure why, but given how infrequently I have it, it just always stays in a special place for me. I had been craving the roast duck with orange sauce I’d prepared a few months ago, so I thought I’d revisit it with a seasonal twist and get started on working with one of those autumn-only fruits: cranberries! So today, Roasted Duck with Spiced Ginger Cranberry Sauce.
And just like my memories of the duck with orange sauce, this was simply amazing. The duck was incredibly rich and the sauce was had a deceptively simple appearance while packing a very, full, well-rounded flavor–fruity, spicy (the cloves and anise give a great finish), and acidic–the perfect compliment to cut through the duck. The tartness of the cranberries was balanced by the sweetness of the wine caramel (yeah, you read it right) beaten into the sauce. If you’re looking for a sexy seasonal meal for a small, special gathering, this is definitely it because this is really tasty. My only complaint is that ducks aren’t big enough, lol!
- ~5.5 lb duckling (with gizzards and all that good stuff)
- vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion
- 1 celery
- 1 carrot
- 4-5 cups chicken stock
- big handful of thyme sprigs
- handful of parsely sprigs
- 1/2 Bay leaf
- 3 navel oranges
- 1 shallot
- big handful of herbs (I used thyme sprigs, rosemary, and sage)
- 3 Tbsp sugar
- 2 Tbsp balsamic
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1-1.25 cup cranberries
- ~1 inch knob ginger
- 2 cups brown duck stock (which you’ll be making as a part of this recipe)
- 2 Tbsp arrowroot (or 3 Tbsp cornstarch)
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 3 cardamom pods
- 5 cloves
- 1 star anise
- fennel seeds
The first step to this dish is to make a rich, brown duck stock (unless you happen to keep that handy in your freezer/pantry). So chop up the onion, celery, carrot, and duck gizzards (which should be roughly 1/2-1 inch sized chunks–include the wing tips, neck–it all adds flavor!).
Then, in a pan, warm up some oil and brown the chopped duck gizzards along with the diced onion, celery, and carrot. Toss this around periodically, browning everything for about 10 minutes or so. Then, add in the chicken stock (from a can is ok!) and herbs (thyme, parsely, Bay leaf), ensuring everything is submerged in liquid (top it off with more stock…or even water if you need to). Season with salt and pepper a bit.
Cover the pot loosely and gently simmer this for about 1.5-2 hours, skimming off the fat/scum periodically. Once time is up, pour the mixture through a strainer and squeeze every last bit of juice out of the zombie vegetables. The stock should have a rich, brown color and a great flavor. If you have more than you need for this recipe, save the extra for another day–you’ll use it!
So now with the stock ready, pat the duck dry inside and out with paper towels. A dry surface will get a better texture when you roast it (otherwise, it will steam and the skin will be rubbery rather than crisp). And since duck is so fatty, you need to prick holes through the skin in a few discrete places to allow some of the fat to render and drip out while it roasts (e.g. behind the wings, thighs, on the back, etc). Tear off any excessive chunks of fat–trust me, you’ll still have plenty in the duck. I put the extra chunks in the bottom of my roasting pan to render it out to save for later.
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Now, sprinkle salt and pepper the outside and inside (the chest cavity) of the duck. Fill the cavity with half of the orange zest, a diced shallot, and a handful of herbs. Set the bird breast side up in a roasting pan and tie the legs together with a bit of string.
Unlike chicken, you don’t want to cook duck all the way to well done so keep an eye on it. After the first 15 minutes of high heat (for browning the breast), drop the oven temperature to 350°F. After another 30-40 minutes have passed, flip the duck over to cook breast-side down (this allows the fat to drip down and baste the breast meat and keep it moist). Then, during the expected last 10-15 minutes of cooking, flip it again to finish off breast-side up and lightly sprinkle some salt on the breast (to crisp the skin).
Anticipate roughly 15-20 minutes of cooking per pound of duck. The duck should finish at an internal temperature of roughly 150-165°F where the juices run just slightly pink (the goal is medium rare meat. This is a good thing–I promise!).
So while the duck roasts, you should get working on the sauce. Grate the ginger and gather the remaining orange zest from earlier.
In a saucepan, mix the red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and sugar and warm this up. After a few minutes, the mixture should thicken and begin to caramelize while the harshness of the vinegar dissipates. Once its thick and syrupy, dissolve the mixture in a small bit of the duck stock you prepared earlier, beating it into the liquid until well mixed.
With the wine caramel thinned out, add the rest of the stock and get the mixture boiling. Once it is, add in the cranberries, ginger, orange peel, and whole spices. After about 10 minutes, the cranberries should have burst and softened up to be more saucy. Let this continue to simmer on low/medium heat.
While the sauce simmers, ideally, the duck is done roasting. Remove it from the oven and let it rest for about 10 minutes before carving into individual servings.
But while you wait, take a gander at that roasting pan. You struck liquid gold–duck fat and browned bits of stuff in there. Carefully pour off and strain the fat, saving it in a sealed jar in your fridge for future cooking (like for sautéing potatoes!)–this is one of the best cooking oils you can cook with (flavor-wise)!
But back to the roasting pan. The brown bits and a small bit of the fat remain. Set the pan on the stovetop over medium/high heat and deglaze the brown bits with the red wine, boiling rapidly and scraping up all of the bits in the pan as best you can. Reduce it down to about 2-3 tablespoons and strain it into the cranberry sauce that you prepared earlier–it adds a great deal of extra punchy flavor.
With the sauce still simmering, fish out the whole spices. Scoop out about 1/4-1/2 cup of the sauce into a bowl and beat in the cornstarch with a whisk until totally integrated. Mix this back into the saucepan with the rest of the sauce and simmer over medium heat for 3-5 minutes so the cornstarch can do its thing and thicken your sauce up a bit.
Finally, you’re good to go. Plate the duck portions, top with a bit of sauce, and dig in. I served with a side of rings of roasted acorn squash. Enjoy!